A Night at the OperaAFI Rank: #85 (10th anniversary ranking)
Year Released: 1935
Director: Sam Wood
Actors: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
This classic comedy was left off of the first AFI Top 100 Film listing, but when they revoted ten years later they put the comedy on the list at spot #85. Enough people must have complained about it not making the list the first time! This is definitely a movie that stands the test of time.
Groucho, Chico, and Harpo are at their humorous best as they deal with tiny staterooms on a cruise, poke fun at everyone around them, and make beautiful music. As much as many people think of them as "only" comedians, A Night at the Opera showcases their musical talents. Harpo is a wonderful harpist (and that's where his name comes from). He's also talented at the piano. Chico has good fingers on the piano as well.
Long before Titanic, the Marx brothers were playing up the differences between upper class and lower class on a cruise ship. Where the upper class is sitting quietly and elegant tables, the lower class is singing, dancing, and having a delightful time. They've got their Chianti-in-a-basket and mounds of spaghetti. Grocho and his crew clearly adore the down-to-earth Italians and poke fun at the black-suited opera goers in later scenes.
While there are two main female characters in the movie, they're really there to be either the "silly rich woman" or the "innocent heroine". They barely get to talk. But that's fairly typical for most movies of this age.
Many movies age and fade over time. The Marx Brothers show that good comedy can remain entertaining for decades. And it's a shame that legal contracts are, if anything, even far worse than they were in the times of the Marx Brothers! To think the jokes they would make about our MODERN contracts :).
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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100