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A Night at the Opera (1935)

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

The setting is appropriate for the Marx Brothers' most popular movie, a farce pitched to such grandiose comic heights it's almost operatic. As ever, Groucho plays a scheming wise guy who, when he isn't busy hustling dowager Margaret Dumont, teams with foils/accomplices Chico and Harpo to take the piss out of a pompous opera impresario (the great Sig Rumann) and an imperious tenor (Walter Woolf King). The reason for all the shenanigans--to get comely singing lovebirds Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle to center stage--barely matters amid the clatter and chatter of classic Marxism, a blizzard of sight gags (including the still dizzyingly funny stateroom scene), barely contained destruction (courtesy force-of-nature Harpo), and absurdist repartee. (Chico, nervous about bluffing his way through a speech: "What'll I say?" Groucho: "Tell 'em you're not here." Chico: "Suppose they don't believe me?" Groucho: "They'll believe you when you start talking.") While not as brisk or brilliantly anarchic as the brothers' 1933 masterpiece Duck Soup (the one great Marx outing to dispense with the superfluous love story and musical interludes), Opera is a blissful aria of sublime ridiculousness.

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