ANATO1935

A Night at the Opera (Una notte all’Opera) – USA 1935

Directed by: Sam Wood.

Starring: Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx; Kitty Carlisle; Allan Jones; Margaret Dumont; Sig Ruman.

You can’t go to the Opera tonight? Are the tickets sold out?

Don’t worry  the Marx Brothers will cheer you up!

The 7 December in Milan is celebrated Saint Ambrose, the patron of the town. This day Milanese people make their Christmas tree (if they want), goes to the “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” Christmas fair (it’s milanese dialect and it  means “So nice! So nice!”) to buy their gifts or only for a walk, and if they particularly love the Opera (and this year this must be true cause they have to face the five-hours-long Wagner’s Lohengrin) or if they are wealthy and just wants to show their expensive outfits off, they go to the Teatro Alla Scala (one of the world’s most famous Opera Houses) to attend the Opera season opening with the town and the Country’s authorities. And by tradition in front of the Theatre some demonstration takes place…

A Night at the Opera (film)

A Night at the Opera (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Milan or not the Italian town where “A night at the Opera”, one of the most famous Marx Brothers’ film,starts? Who knows, we can’t be sure today because the opening scene of this film released for the first time in 1935, a superimposed title saying “Italy – Where they sign all day and go to the opera all nights” (?!?!!?) and Italian common people singing  the opera, was cut an unfortunately lost during  WWII  to remove all the references to Italy. This way we immediately find Groucho, here Otis B. Driftwood, in one of his favourite occupation, driving mad poor Margaret Dumont, the charming lady who has been the ideal straight (who)man for Groucho in 7 movies from “The Coconuts” (1929) to “The big store” (1941) and here is Mrs Claypool  a rich widow (for a change) who has the crazy idea that Mr. Driftwood could help her break into the High Society in New York signing up the famous Italian tenor Lasparri for the next Opera season.  But the film is not entirely about that and we will also see Groucho and his inseparable companions Chico (who’s here Fiorello a penniless musician/manager) and Harpo (Tommaso, Lasparri’s ill-treated assistant) acting like “fairy godmother’s trio” (between a gang and another) to help to young singers, Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) and Ricardo (Allan Jones), in fulfilling their love dream singing and living together in New York.

The contract scene between Chico and Groucho

The contract scene between Chico and Groucho (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Night at the Opera marked a new era for Marx Brothers. It’s the first film without Zeppo (his part, the young romantic guy, it’s played by Allan Jones here and in the following “A day at the races”) and the first they made for MGM after their contract with Paramount ended. The young producer Irving Thalberg, the unlucky  “Boy wonder” (he died only two years later aged 37), brought them to Metro and made their films and their characters a little less anarchic than they were before, insisting that their films should have a stronger structure, a plot to which insert the comic numbers that the Brothers should try out on the road on a Vaudeville stage before filming began. Also the usual musical number with Chico and the piano and Harpo at the harp became the occasion to add a choreographed dance in pure MGM style. This recipe, this comedy containing at least a couple of the most famous scenes in the Marx Brothers career the so called “Contract scene” and “Stateroom scene” (click the words in red to watch them ), worked and made of “A night at the Opera”a hit that is now a classic, the funniest way to spend some time at the Opera.

Many other things may happen at the Opera, click the titles and you’ll see:

Camille – USA 1936 Directed by: George Cukor. Starring: Greta Garbo; Robert Taylor; Lionel Barrymore; Henry Daniell; Laura Hope Crews.

Citizen Kane – USA 1941 Directed by: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles; Joseph Cotten; Dorothy Comingore.

Senso – ITA 1954 Directed by: Luchino Visconti. Starring: Alida Valli; Farley Granger; Massimo Girotti.

Beautiful but Dangerous – 1955 Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard. Starring: Gina Lollobrigida; Vittorio Gassman

Love in the afternoon – USA 1957 Directed by: Billy Wilder. Starring: Gary Cooper; Audrey Hepburn; Maurice Chevalier.

Moonstruck – USA 1987 Directed by: Norman Jewison. Starring: Cher; Nicholas Cage; Danny Aiello; Olympia Dukakis; Vincent Gardenia.

Dangerous Liaisons – USA 1988 Directed by: Stephen Frears. Starring: Glenn Close; John Malkovich; Uma Thurman; Michelle Pfeiffer; Keanu Reeves.

Pretty woman – USA 1990 Directed by: Garry Marshall. Starring: Julia Roberts; Richard Gere.

But if you don’t like Opera and prefer instead pop-rock, there’s an album you may like:

QueenA night at the Opera (1975)

 pellicola

Non potete andare all’Opera stasera? I biglietti sono tutti esauriti?

Niente paura, ci pensano i Fratelli Marx a tirarvi su!

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, by night

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, by night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Il 7 Dicembre a Milano si celebra Sant’Ambrogio, il patrono della città. In questa giornata i milanesi fanno l’albero di Natale (se ne hanno voglia), vanno alla Fiera degli Oh Bej Oh Bej (per i non milanesi: che belli, che belli!) per comperare i regali o per fare una passeggiata, e se sono particolarmente amanti dell’Opera (e quest’anno deve proprio essere così perché li attendono le cinque ore del Lohengrin di Wagner) o se sono particolarmente ricchi e vogliono pavoneggiarsi nei loro abiti costosi, vanno al Teatro Alla Scala per assistere alla Prima della stagione operistica insieme alle autorità cittadine e ai rappresentanti dello Stato. È anche tradizione che di fronte al teatro si svolgano delle manifestazioni di protesta

Ma è proprio Milano oppure no la città italiana in cui inizia “Una notte all’Opera” uno dei più famosi film dei Fratelli Marx? Non possiamo esserne sicuri perché la scena iniziale di questo film del 1935, in cui una sovrascritta diceva più o meno “Italia – dove si canta tutto il giorno e si va all’Opera tutte le sere” (?!?!!?) e tanta gente comune cantava l’opera per le strade, fu tagliata e persa per sempre durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale per eliminare ogni riferimento all’Italia. In questo modo oggi il film inizia con Groucho, qui Otis B. Driftwood, impegnato in una delle sue attività preferite, far diventare matta la povera Margaret Dumont, l’attrice che fu la sua spalla ideale in sette film da “Noci di cocco” (1929) fino a “Il bazar delle follie” (1941) e che qui interpreta Mrs Claypool una ricca vedova (tanto per cambiare) che ha la folle idea che Driftwood sia la persona giusta a cui rivolgersi per riuscire ad essere introdotta nell’Alta Società Newyorchese ingaggiando il famoso tenore italiano Lasparri (Walter King) per la stagione operistica. Ma il film non parla esclusivamente di questo e infatti potremo vedere Groucho insieme agli inseparabili Chico (qui Fiorello, uno squattrinato musicista/manager di talenti) e Harpo (Tommaso, l’assistente maltrattato del tenore Lasparri)  agire come un trio di “fate madrine” per aiutare (tra una gag e l’altra) due giovani cantanti innamorati, Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) e Ricardo (Allan Jones), a coronare il loro sogno di cantare e vivere insieme a New York.

English: Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg.

Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Una notte all’Opera” ha segnato un momento si svolta nella carriera dei Fratelli Marx. È il loro primo film senza Zeppo (la sua parte, quella del giovane romantico, è interpretata qui come nel sucessivo “Un giorno alle corse” da Allan Jones) ed è il primo realizzato per la MGM dopo la fine del contratto con Paramount. Il giovane produttore Irving Thalberg, lo sfortunato “ragazzo delle meraviglie”  (morirà due anni dopo, a soli 37 anni), li aveva voluti alla Metro ed aveva reso i loro film  e i loro personaggi un po’ meno anarchici rispetto al passato, insistendo sul fatto che fosse necessaria una trama più precisa capace di collegare i vari numeri comici che il trio avrebbe preparato e provato sul campo in spettacoli dal vivo nei teatri di vaudeville prima dell’inizio delle riprese. Anche il solito numero musicale con Chico al piano e Harpo all’arpa diventò l’occasione per inserire nel film un balletto coreografato in puro stile MGM. Questa ricetta, questa commedia che contiene almeno un paio di scene tra le più famose mai girate dai Fratelli Marx come le cosiddette “Scena del contratto” e “Scena della cabina” (potete vederle cliccando sulle parole in rosso),  funzionò e fece di “Una notte all’Opera” un successo commerciale che ancora oggi è considerato un classico della commedia, il modo più divertente per passare una serata all’Opera.

Molte  altre cose possono succedere all’Opera, cliccate i titoli dei film e vedrete:

Margherita Gautier – USA 1936 Directed by: George Cukor. Starring: Greta Garbo; Robert Taylor; Lionell Barrymore; Henry Daniell; Laura Hope Crews.

Quarto Potere – USA 1941 Directed by: Orson Welles. Starrimg: Orson Welles; Joseph Cotten; Dorothy Comingore.

Senso – ITA 1954 Directed by: Luchino Visconti. Starring: Alida Valli; Farley Granger; Massimo Girotti.

La donna più bella del mondo – 1955 Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard. Starring: Gina Lollobrigida; Vittorio Gassman

Arianna – USA 1957 Directed by: Bily Wilder. Starring: Gary Cooper; Audrey Hepburn; Maurice Chevalier.

Stregata dalla Luna – USA 1987 Directed by: Norman Jewison. Starring: Cher; Nicholas Cage; Danny Aiello; Olympia Dukakis; Vincent Gardenia.

Le Relazioni Pericolose – USA 1988 Directed by: Stephen Frears. Starring: Glenn Close; John Malkovich; Uma Thurman; Michelle Pfeiffer; Keanu Reeves.

Pretty woman – USA 1990 Directed by: Garry Marshall. Starring: Julia Roberts; Richard Gere.

Ma se non vi piace l’Opera e preferite invece  il pop-rock c’è anche un album che potrebbe piacervi:

QueenA night at the Opera (1975)

About Ella V

I love old movies, rock music, books, art... I'm intrested in politics. I adore cats. I knit...

One response »

  1. By far and without a doubt my favorite Marx Brothers film, and like your headline states, I go to this when I need to be cheered up. My favorite scene: when Harpo knocks the jerk tenor Lassparri unconscious with a mallet, then Groucho and Chico prop their feet up on his inert form and pretend they’re at a bar.

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