A Night At The Opera: Review
Thanks to the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival I had the opportunity to see the Marx Brother’s comedy classic, A Night at the Opera, for the very first time ever on the big screen at the Hollywood Chinese Cineplex. The night’s main attraction, An American in Paris was playing next door at Grauman’s grand Chinese Theatre, but the packed audience in my theater was just as enthusiastic to watch the timeless comedy.
A Night at the Opera was only the sixth film for the Marx Brothers, their very first after leaving Paramount for MGM, and their first without brother Zeppo (there’s even a fifth brother Gummo who never appeared in any of the brothers’ films). And although the film’s plot centers around a pair of European Opera singers debuting in New York most of the story has hardly anything to do with the title at all.
In fact, the films most identifiable scene, considered one of the funniest of all time, is the famous state room scene where more than a dozen people cram into a ridiculously small room aboard an ocean liner, only to come tumbling out when frequent co-star, Margaret Dumont unsuspectingly opens the door. It is indeed a highly anticipated moment in the film that pays off fully, but my favorite bit is the one where Chico and Groucho argue over a standard contract (depicted in the still above) and whether or not it should contain a sanity clause, because, as Chico points out, there ain’t no Santy Claus. Get it? You have to hear how Chico delivers the line it just kills me every time!
And although the humor never reaches above the juvenile level of this kind of word play, A Night at the Opera is considered one of the funniest films of all time, and I’m inclined to agree. The audience surrounding me certainly did, particularly Danny, the retired cop from Boston who sat next to me at the festival’s opening night screening. Based on his continuous laughter and the rest of the audience’s reactions the film is as humorous and appealing as any comedy today if not more so! I can‘t remember the last time I went to a modern film that had more laughs. Although there are a few moments that drag from the necessity of continuing the actual story, A Night at the Opera is a film worthy of its acclaim and status as a comedy for all ages, through out the ages.
Andy Marx (Groucho’s grandson) was present after having walked the festival’s red carpet earlier, and he told a story that exemplifies the comedy team’s mass appeal. He spoke fondly of his grandfather and recounted the many fans his grandfather accumulated from all walks of life. His fondest memory involved the time he discovered a discarded print of A Night at the Opera in his grandfather’s garage. Ever the raconteur Groucho used the rare print time and again to get some very famous fans to come visit him.
Andy recalled, “I was up at the house when I got out of college and there was all this film and archive material. And you have to remember this was in the days when this stuff you couldn’t get on video, and I found a print of A Night at the Opera in some closet. Literally, every night Groucho would have somebody different over to the house. Jack Nicholson I remember, he came for dinner and he sat and watched A Night at the Opera in 1974”.
And that’s my point entirely; A Night at the Opera is the kind of film that possesses the qualities of a timeless comedy that will continue to draw a variety of devoted fans, regardless of the number of years that go by. Thank you TCM Classic Film Festival for bringing it to my attention for the first time. After experiencing the Marx Brothers the way they were intended to be seen, in a darkened theater with a bunch of other movie goers, I’m sure it wont be my last.