A Night at the Opera

Critics Consensus

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97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 37

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,246
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A Night at the Opera Photos

Movie Info

Although some purists hold out for Duck Soup (1933), many Marx Brothers fans consider A Night at the Opera the team's best film. Immediately after the credits roll, we are introduced to Groucho Marx as penny-ante promoter Otis B. Driftwood. After a sumptuous dinner with a beautiful blonde at a fancy Milan restaurant, Driftwood tries to cadge another free meal from his wealthy patroness, Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). The dignified dowager complains that Driftwood had promised to get her into high society, but has done nothing so far. Otis B. counters by introducing Mrs. C to pompous opera entrepreneur Gottleib (Sig Rumann); all Mrs. Claypool has to do is invest several hundred thousand dollars in Gottleib's opera company, and her entree into society is in the bag. Contingent upon this plan is Driftwood's signing of Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), a self-important tenor. Backstage at the opera, Driftwood meets Fiorello (Chico Marx), who poses as a manager and offers to sell Driftwood the "world's greatest tenor"-not Lassparri, as Driftwood assumes, but Fiorello's pal Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones). Instantly the two sharpsters try to draw up a contract ("The party of the first part shall hereafter be known as the party of the first part..."), which they proceed to tear up piece by piece whenever coming across a clause that displeases them (Driftwood: "That's a sanity clause"; Fiorello: "You no foola me. There ain't no Sanity Claus"). Having lost Lassparri to Gottleib, Driftwood sails back to America with Mrs. Claypool and the opera company. Gottleib arranges for Driftwood to get the tiniest, least accessible stateroom on the ship. Unpacking his trunk, Driftwood discovers that he's got to share his postage-stamp quarters with Ricardo Baroni, who has stowed away because he's in love with the opera troupe's leading lady Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). Also hiding out in Driftwood's trunk is Fiorello, who's come along because he's still Ricardo's manager, and the wacky Tomasso (Harpo Marx), Lassparri's former dresser, who has come along for the hell of it. Anxious to arrange a tete-a-tete with Mrs. Claypool in his stateroom, Otis finds out that his unwelcome guests won't leave until they're fed ("Do you have any stewed prunes? Well, give them some black coffee, that'll sober 'em up"). After ordering a huge dinner, Otis and his new friends are crowded even farther by a steady stream of intruders, including an engineer and his assistant, a cleaning lady, a manicurist, a girl looking for her Aunt Minnie, and a dozen waiters. The celebrated "stateroom scene" comes to a rollicking conclusion when Mrs. Claypool has the misfortune of opening the door. On the last night of the voyage, Fiorello, Tomasso and Ricardo sneak out of their stateroom to enjoy an impromptu ethnic festival in steerage. Ricardo sings, Fiorello "shoots the keys" on the piano, and Tomasso plays the film's theme song Alone on the harp. The stowaways are caught and thrown in the brig, but with Driftwood's help they escape. To avoid recapture, the stowaways don heavy beards and pose as three famed Russian aviators. After making a shambles of a public reception, the three reprobates hide out in Driftwood's New York apartment, where everyone conspires to drive an investigating detective (Robert Emmet O'Connor) crazy. Driftwood is fired from the opera company for associating with the stowaways, while Rosa is dismissed for refusing Lassparri's affections. In order to restore Rosa's job and put the deserving Ricardo in Lassparri's place during the opening performance of La Traviata, Driftwood, Fiorello and Tomasso concoct a scheme that will reduce the opera to comic chaos. The actual night at the opera in A Night at the Opera must be seen to be believed, but the spirit of the scene can be summed up by Gottleib's anguished cry "A battleship in Il Trovatore!" Opera was the Marx Brothers' first film for MGM, and they dearly coveted a hit after the disappointing box-office showing of their final Paramount films. With the blessing of MGM production chief Irving Thalberg, the Marxes went on the road with their brilliant writing staff (including George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Al Boasberg) to test their comedy material before live audiences. As a result of this careful preplanning, Night at the Opera was a smash-hit gigglefest, grossing over $3 million and putting the Marxes back on top in the hearts and minds of filmgoers everywhere.

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Cast

Groucho Marx
as Otis B. Driftwood
Harpo Marx
as Tomasso
Chico Marx
as Fiorello
Allan Jones
as Riccardo Baroni
Margaret Dumont
as Mrs. Claypool
Sig Rumann
as Herman Gottlieb
Edward Keane
as Captain
Robert E. O'Connor
as Detective Henderson
Gino Corrado
as Steward
Al Bridge
as Immigration Inspector
Billy Gilbert
as Engineer's Assistant/Peasant
Samuel Marx
as Extra on Ship and at Dock
Claude Payton
as Police Captain
Olga Dane
as Azucena
James J. Wolf
as Ferrando
Rodolfo Hoyos Jr.
as Count di Luna
Jonathan Hale
as Stage Manager
Selmar Jackson
as Committee
Otto H. Fries
as Elevator Man
William Gould
as Captain of Police
Leo White
as Aviator
Jay Eaton
as Aviator
Rolfe Sedan
as Aviator
Wilbur Mack
as Committee
George Irving
as Committee
George Guhl
as Policeman
Harry Tyler
as Sign Painter
Selmer Jackson
as Committee
Alan Bridge
as Immigration Inspector
Harry Allen
as Doorman
Jack Lipson
as Engineer's Assistant
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Critic Reviews for A Night at the Opera

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (6)

  • The backstage finish, with Harpo doing a Tarzan on the fly ropes, contains more action than the Marxes usually go in for, but it relieves the strictly verbal comedy and provides a sock exit.

    Jun 26, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Never was a director more aptly named than Sam Wood: his movies are redwood forests of unrelieved monotony.

    Jun 26, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The loudest and funniest screen comedy of the Winter season.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The Brothers get to perform some of their most irresistible routines.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It is impossible to explain why that is so funny; their sheer irreverence, exuberance and verbal comic genius are marvelous.

    Jul 11, 2002 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Guaranteed to have you giggling from one end of the musical scale to the other.

    Jul 1, 2002 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Jamie Russell

    BBC.com
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for A Night at the Opera

  • Apr 15, 2018
    It is true that this film is more uneven when compared to Duck Soup, stopping many times for musical numbers that hinder the comedy a bit (although I do love seeing Chico and Harpo at the piano), but even so there are a lot of hilarious moments here that make it pretty delicious as well.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 27, 2012
    The only Marx Brothers film I have seen up to date is "Duck Soup," a very witty and sprawlingly messy film where a viewer immediately gets the appeal of the humor of the Marx Brothers, where it's more or less a barrage of absurd yet witty jokes constantly bombarding you in the hopes that, hey, some of them'll hit! But, I never expected the second film of theirs I would see, "A Night at the Opera," to not only be a funny ride but a thrilling and emotionally involving one as well. It's like an excellent Buster Keaton flick; in fact, the last movie I've seen with so much charm, thrill, wit, timing, action, and romance was Keaton's "The General" or "Steamboat Bill Jr." Even though the film has the Marx trademark of ridiculous witty jokes constantly thrown at you (I try to say that in the best light possible,) they somehow managed to work in a romance that's touching enough for the ending to be emotionally satisfying, even if said romance felt a bit forced at first. In addition, the extremely blunt and crude editing gives the film an unintentional gritty realism that makes the array of stunts in the film's climax surprisingly heart-pounding, where you simultaneously want to laugh yet, as was with my reaction, are legitimately concerned for the well-being of the actors. Throw in two or three skits that are genuinely extremely funny and by the end of the film your throat will be sore from the laughter and excitement. There's even a very sincere and slowed down musical instrument scene on a boat, involving Chico and Harpo, that's so solemn and tender that you can't help but be surprised at realizing the amount of heart this film has (surely an influential moment as well, even having homage paid to it by greats like Fellini in "E la nave va.") All in all, "A Night of the Opera" is a thoroughly entertaining film, and an impressively layered one as well, that's much better than your average comedy flick.
    Edward S Super Reviewer
  • Aug 02, 2012
    The Marx's Brothers are for sure one of the best comedians ever, and A Night At The Opera is a terrific prove of that.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 07, 2012
    Like Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers are wacky and hilarious in A Night at the Opera. The whole crew is back again, Groucho, Chico and Harpo, all back to their usual wacky characters. Although it's not as complex and interesting as Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera never fails to entertain the viewer. Like any other Marx Brothers movie, there is endless charm, not only in the characters and their actions, but in the dialouge also. Although it's not as good as their most critically aclaimed film (Duck Soup), A Night at the Opera is a classic comedy that should go down as one of the funniest films of all time. Favorite Scene: Everybody in a Room scene.
    Anthony L Super Reviewer

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