A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera

Synopsis of Movie

“That’s what they call a sanity clause.”
“You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!”

Designed as a comeback vehicle for the Marx Brothers, A Night at the Opera did that and more, putting 1935 audiences in stitches and entertaining comedy fans ever since. After the commercial failure of 1933’s Duck Soup (now considered a comic masterpiece), the Marx Brothers parted ways with their studio, Paramount, and signed with the legendary Irving Thalberg at MGM. With Thalberg’s blessing, and with a script by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, the Marx Brothers did what they did best: they took their act on the road.

Each comic bit was tested in front of a live audience, as Groucho, Chico and Harpo (Zeppo had moved on to other business) performed excerpts from the script on stage. Kaufman and Ryskind toured with the Brothers as well, rewriting on a nightly basis. Finally, after each gag had been honed to perfection, the cameras rolled and A Night at the Opera came to life.

Groucho plays Otis P. Driftwood, a flim-flam man (surprise) trying to turn wealthy Mrs. Claypool (Marx Brothers regular Margaret Dumont) into a high-society gal in Milan, Italy. Driftwood’s latest bright idea is to have Mrs. Claypool make a $200,000 investment in the New York Opera Company, headed by stuffy Herman Gottlieb. With Claypool’s cash, Gottlieb hires arrogant Italian tenor Rodolpho Lassparri, who has his eye on lovely soprano Rosa Castaldi. Rosa, however, prefers the company of the handsome Riccardo Baroni, a member of the show’s chorus.

Thinking Riccardo is Lassparri, Driftwood negotiates a contract with the lad, working through his manager, Fiorello (Chico), in the famous “The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part” exchange. Driftwood sets sail for New York with Claypool, Gottlieb, Rosa, Lassparri and a trio of stowaways: Fiorello, Riccardo, and Lassparri’s recently fired dresser, Tomasso (Harpo). The three stowaways turn up in Driftwood’s tiny room, soon joined by a procession of crew members in the classic “stateroom scene.” After more madcap misadventures and a few musical numbers, the gang arrives in New York, where Driftwood, Fiorello and Tomasso manage to infuriate the police, ruin the opera and save the day, all in one chaotic night.

A Night at the Opera may not always read like good comedy, but the Marx Brothers’ brand of lunacy rarely does. It has to be seen and heard to be appreciated, and A Night at the Opera certainly got its fare share of viewings. The movie was a tremendous hit at the time, and it has endured as one of the Brothers’ greatest films and an all-time comedy classic.

Movie Release History

1935 - A Night at the Opera

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Otis P. Driftwood   Groucho Marx
Fiorello  Chico Marx
Tomasso   Harpo Marx
Rosa Castaldi   Kitty Carlisle
Ricardo Baroni  Allan Jones
Rudolpho Lassparri  Walter Woolf King
Herman Gottlieb  Sig Rumann
Mrs. Claypool   Margaret Dumont
Captain   Edward Keane
Detective Henderson   Robert Emmett O'Connor
Steward   Gino Corrado
Mayor  Purnell Pratt
Engineer  Frank Yaconelli
Engineer's Assistant/Peasant   Billy Gilbert
Extra on Ship and at Dock Sam Marx
Police Captain   Claude Payton
Dancers Rita and Rubins
Ruiz  Luther Hoobyar
Count di Luna   Rodolfo Hoyos
Azucena  Olga Dane
Ferrando   James J. Wolf
Maid   Inez Palange
Stage Manager  Jonathan Hale
Elevator Operator  Otto Fries
Police Captain  William Gould
Aviator  Jay Eaton
Aviator   Rolfe Sedan
Aviator   Leo White
Committee Member  George Irving
Committee Member  Selmer Jackson
Committee Member  Wilbur Mack
Committee Member  Phillips Smalley
Policeman  George Guhl
Sign Painter   Harry Tyler
Immigration Inspector Alan Bridge
Doorman  Harry Allen
Louisa  Lorraine Bridges
Engineer's Assistant  Jack 'Tiny' Lipson
Bit Part  Marion Bell
Singer in Chorus  Bill Days
Unknown Stanley Blystone

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