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A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera(1935)

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The opening title card for the film reads, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents the Marx Bros. Groucho Chico Harpo." As the Marx Bros. names are introduced, music from the Ruggerio Leoncavallo opera I Pagliacci (The Clowns) is heard on the the soundtrack. This was the first film that the Marx Bros. made without brother Zeppo, who last appeared in the 1933 Paramount film Duck Soup (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1141). Some reviews erroneously credit the assistant direction to "George" Selander, instead of Lesley Selander. An Hollywood Reporter news items noted that at one time the Marx Bros. insisted that Selander be fired because they objected to his disciplinary actions on the set. The same news item indicates that considerable reshooting was being required because a change in the picture's make-up men resulted in the "wrong" set of beards being used by the Marx. Bros. (in the sequence in which they impersonate aviators). Other news items include Robert Graves, Purnell Pratt and George Brent in the cast, however, they were not in the released film. Ann Demetrio, Egon Breecher and Kay English are also included in the cast in production news items, but their appearance in the released film cannot be confirmed.
       According to a July 9, 1935 news item, New York's Metropolitan Opera House chorus was to be recorded for selections from Pagliacci and the Giuseppe Verdi opera Il Trovatore. This was the first of the Marx Bros. films made at M-G-M. According to modern sources, M-G-M production head Irving Thalberg personally signed the brothers when their contract with Paramount was completed. Modern sources note that many of the "gags" in the film had been used by the brothers in earlier acts, and the Motion Picture Herald review notes that some of the material was "tried out in tours up and down the 'Coast' first." A Hollywood Reporter news item also mentions the tryouts of material and notes that the Marx Bros. frequently tested sketches and gags before reworking them for their films. The film's presskit notes that this film marked the first time that Harpo did not wear his characteristic red wig on screen. According to other press information, M-G-M sponsored a Marx Bros. "Look-Alike" contest simultaneous to the film's release. In its review of the film, the New York Times called the picture "The Marxist assault on grand opera." The song "Alone" was one of the most popular songs of the year, toping sales charts for several weeks after its release. The 1992 film Brain Donars credited A Night at the Opera as its source, but many of the situations and most of the dialogue of the in the earlier film was not included in the latter.