A Night at the Opera
Some say this is the best film the Marx Brothers made. I wouldn’t argue with them, though my own personal favorite is Duck Soup. In fact, I prefer all the earlier, Paramount movies. Opera is wonderful, no question, but suffers from the same problem all the Marx MGM movies did, which was Irving Thalberg’s insistence that the movies have an actual plot, and that the boys be striving to do good for some loser tenor and his loser girlfriend. Here Allan Jones basically reprises his role in A Day at the Races. He’s there as the love interest to a woman the Marx Brothers are helping out, and to sing a few sappy songs. When he croons “Alone” I feel like Groucho who, arriving at the opera house, asks the doorman if the opera is over. When told there are still a few minutes left, he berates the driver of the carriage and tells him to go around the block again. He almost had to see some of the opera! I’d as soon have gone once more around the block myself. To me, these musical interludes simply distract from the madness I came to see, the schticks and routines Groucho, Chico, and Harpo perfected on the stage. Unless, as in Duck Soup, the brothers themselves are doing the numbers. This complaint aside, though, it is a comic masterpiece, and would have been even if all it had going for it was the famous stateroom-stuffing scene. And it has much more than that.