A Night at the Opera (1935) Review

Directors: Sam Wood and Edmund Goulding

Genre(s): Comedy, Musical

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

A Night at the Opera was the first Marx Brothers film released after they found themselves under contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (previously, they made movies for Paramount Pictures). This is also the first flick starring the brothers to not feature Zeppo Marx, who quit the acting business after Duck Soup (1933). The story’s about Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx), Fiorello (Chico Marx), and Tomasso (Harpo Marx) trying to set up two star-crossed opera singer lovers, Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle) and Riccardo Barone (Allan Jones), for success.

Much has been made of the Marxes move over to MGM. This transition, along with Hollywood Production Code starting to be enforced, is often said to have had a negative impact on the group’s comedy. The flick is a bit slower and more sentimental than previous outings from the brothers, but this is still a solid movie. While many of the Marx Brothers’ post-Paramount works are criticized, A Night at the Opera is generally singled out as the best of the Marx features from this time period.

While the musical numbers do greatly reduce the speed of the pacing, the humor here is still laugh-worthy. The movie really comes alive during the opera sequence in the third act when things really start to get out-of-hand. One aspect of A Night at the Opera that I found interesting was the long segment on the ocean-liner crossing the Atlantic. The Marx Brothers already did a film almost entirely set aboard one of these ships (Monkey Business [1931]), so I found it odd that they would revisit this setting so quickly.

If you think that you’re going to miss Zeppo, don’t worry too much. Allan Jones plays the ultimate Zeppo-wannabe here. Anyway, the jokes here may not be quite as – er – anarchic (a word you’re required to use by federal law when describing the Marxes’ sense of humor) as they were in previous movies starring the brothers, but they still hold up well, especially the contract scenes. It’s no Duck Soup, but A Night at the Opera is still a must-see for Marx Brothers fans.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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