Plot: Well, I’m not entirely sure. Hijinks? See, this is a Marx Brothers movie, and I had two problems as I watched. Problem 1: I was so far behind on work that I tried to do some tasks while watching. Problem 2: Marx Brothers movies can move at a quick pace that require full attention and multiple viewings. But here’s what I think happened: The Marx Brothers are in Italy. They somehow become involved in the life of an opera singer. They go to New York and muscle their way into a production of Il Travatore.
Best Moment: There’s a good 10ish minutes of Chico Marx playing the piano while immigrant children watch, fascinated. Harpo follows him by playing the harp. These two scenes are mesmerizing. Also fun: when the opera’s pit orchestra starts playing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” instead of Verdi. And the opera singing. All the musical numbers were thoroughly enjoyable.
Worst Moment: Not a moment I can pinpoint, but I don’t like that I couldn’t follow a clear plot line. Maybe I need to watch it again? The jokes are just so fast in this film that I had a hard time keeping up. Then again, if I was around in 1935 and everything around me was bleak, I’m sure a film like this would’ve been a welcome escape…
Fun Facts: This film ranks #85 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies.
But it’s the stateroom scene that has had the most impact on American Popular Culture. According to the Wikipedias: Cyndi Lauper, Sting, Animaniacs, Seinfeld, Suite Life of Zack and Cody all paid homage to this gag of cramming too many people in too small a space.
Recommendation: I think everyone should see at least one Marx Brothers movie. I’ve seen three now: Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and now A Night at the Opera. Culturally, I’m glad I watched them. But I couldn’t really tell you what any of them are about, other than providing a medium to watch Groucho’s wordplay, Chico’s musicianship, and Harpo’s pratfalls. And they are each worthwhile to see. So if you haven’t seen a Marx Brothers film, you should. I might watch this one again, if for no other reason than to try and nail down a three sentence plot summary.