A Day at the Races


1h 51m 1937
A Day at the Races

Brief Synopsis

A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl's sanitarium.

Photos & Videos

A Day at the Races - Lobby Card Set
A Day at the Races - Movie Posters
A Day at the Races - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 11, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

When Tony, an employee at the financially troubled Standish sanitarium, discovers that Judy Standish, the head of the sanitarium, is in danger of losing the institution to banker Morgan, he decides to seek a large donation from wealthy patient Mrs. Upjohn. Judy and Tony are about to ask Mrs. Upjohn for a contribution, when they overhear her complaining about her care and planning to leave the sanitarium and return to her old physician, Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush, in Florida. The quick-thinking Tony prevents Mrs. Upjohn's departure by lying to her and telling her that Hackenbush has just been hired by the sanitarium. When Judy discovers that her sweetheart, singer Gil Stewart, has spent his entire life savings of $1,500 on a horse instead of voice lessons, she spurns him. Soon after his arrival, Dr. Hackenbush, a horse doctor who has fooled Mrs. Upjohn into believing that he is a real doctor, is appointed Chief of Staff of the sanitarium. At a nearby racetrack, Stuffy, a jockey who rides a horse named Hi-Hat for Morgan, is fired when he wins a race that he was supposed to throw. Stuffy is then induced by Tony to ride the horse for Gil, its new owner, but Gil cannot produce enough money to pay for the horse's feed. Tony raises the feed money by duping Hackenbush into buying a tip on a race and then suckering him into buying a stack of books that he claims are necessary to decipher the tip. Back at the sanitarium, Whitmore, the business manager who is working with Morgan to get the institution out of Judy's hands, tries to call the Florida Medical Board to get Hackenbush's references. His efforts are temporarily thwarted, however, by Hackenbush's clever pranks. Following Tony's attempt to admit Stuffy into the sanitarium as a patient, so that he can spy on Whitmore, Tony learns that Hackenbush is really a horse doctor. Later, Tony tries to repair Gil and Judy's broken relationship by having Gil secretly admitted as a patient. The scheme fails, however, when Judy discovers the ruse and throws him out. The situation for the Standish sanitarium looks hopeless until Gil offers to help by singing at a water carnival, which he hopes will land him a contract. Chaos ensues when Tony and Stuffy arrive at the carnival and Stuffy destroys a piano, turns it into a harp, and then gives a concert. He and Tony then take over the carnival orchestra and lead the sheriff on a wild chase. When Tony and Stuffy learn that Whitmore has devised a plan to get Hackenbush fired by arranging to have Mrs. Upjohn discover him in a compromising position with vamp Cokey Flo, they try to warn the horse doctor. Posing first as house detectives and then as paperhangers, Tony and Stuffy try, but fail, to signal Hackenbush to stay away from Flo. Finally, in an act of desperation, Tony and Stuffy paste Flo to the wall to prevent her from causing Hackenbush's dismissal. When Whitmore tries to remove Hackenbush by bringing in Dr. Steinberg to prove that he is a fraud, Hackenbush creates a diversion by informing Mrs. Upjohn that she has "double blood pressure." Worried, Mrs. Upjohn demands an immediate examination, which Hackenbush bungles completely. When the sheriff arrives with a warrant for Hackenbush's arrest, Tony, Stuffy, Gil and Hackenbush escape and hide in Hi-Hat's stable. Judy soon discovers them and tells Gil that she loves him more than the sanitarium and that she wants to be included in his plans. Morgan eventually finds Hackenbush and his friends, and as he is about to have them arrested, Hi-Hat runs for the racetrack and inadvertently enters the next race. Hi-Hat wins the race when Tony and others spur the horse on by showing it a picture of Morgan, who abused the horse in the past. The sanitarium's mortgage is paid with money won from the race, and Gil gets to keep his sweetheart.

Photo Collections

A Day at the Races - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from A Day at the Races (1937). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
A Day at the Races - Movie Posters
Here is a group of movie posters for A Day at the Races (1937), starring the Marx Brothers.
A Day at the Races - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken during production of A Day at the Races (1937), starring the Marx Brothers.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 11, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Award Nominations

Best Dance Direction

1938

Articles

A Day at the Races


Before A Night at the Opera (1935) had even hit the theaters, writers were already at work on a script for MGM's second Marx Brothers film. But it would take half a dozen writers over a year and a half and eighteen different scripts before Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, would give A Day at the Races (1937) the go-ahead. Scriptwriter George Seaton recalls the process they went through, "Mr. Thalberg was most kind and he would say, 'I think this script is a good one fellas. Now I'll tell you what to do: Start over again.' He would instruct us to 'save this scene' or 'save this character' and we worked and we worked."

In the final version of A Day at the Races, Groucho, Harpo, and Chico rush to save the Standish Sanitarium from bankruptcy. Unless the hospital's owner, Judy Standish (played by Maureen O'Sullivan, best known as Jane in the Tarzan films), can pay the mortgage, she will have to sell it to Mr. Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille). Morgan owns the local racetrack and wants to turn the hospital into a casino. Groucho plays Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush, a veterinarian who poses as a medical doctor to try to get money for the hospital from the wealthy Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont). Harpo plays a jockey and Chico is a racing tipster; both are friends of Judy's. Author Juliette Friedgen states, "As in all of the Marx Brothers films, the gags in A Day at the Races are the most important things, not the believability of the plot."

A Day at the Races faced a few legal problems. The original name for Groucho's character was Dr. Quackenbush. Everyone agreed it was a ridiculous name for a doctor, but then they discovered thirty-seven actual Dr. Quackenbushes in the United States. Since most of them were eager to sue if their name was used, Groucho's character was changed to Hackenbush. At first Groucho was disappointed in the name change, but he grew to love Hackenbush so much that he even signed it to letters.

Another lawsuit actually made it to court. A woman once sent Groucho a note asking, "Wouldn't it be funny if you three nuts ran a hospital?" Since the plot of A Day at the Races has Groucho running a hospital, the woman sued MGM for plagiarism. The scriptwriters had to testify and go through all eighteen scripts explaining the evolution of the story.

As with A Night at the Opera, the Marx Brothers followed Thalberg's suggestion and went on a cross-country road show in support of A Day at the Races. This gave the brothers the opportunity to see how audiences would react to comedy sequences they were planning for the film. Each week the writers focused on a different scene by changing the wording to see what got the best reaction from the audience. George Seaton said, "by the time we got back to the studio after six or eight weeks on the road we could take an average and know exactly how many seconds a laugh would last. In this way, Sam Wood in directing or editing could cut to a reaction shot until a laugh died down so that the audience wouldn't miss the next line."

Less than two weeks after filming began on A Day at the Races, 37-year-old Irving Thalberg died of pneumonia. According to Joe Adamson in Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo; A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World, "It was a big blow not only to the Day at the Races company, not only to the whole Irving Thalberg production unit, not only to the entire MGM studio, but to everybody who had ever had anything to do with making a movie. Hollywood was full of people who either respected him professionally or felt very close to him personally, or both." Thalberg had already approved the story for A Day at the Races before his death, but many believe the film didn't live up to A Night at the Opera because Thalberg wasn't there to make daily decisions during filming. Years later, Groucho admitted, "After Thalberg's death, my interest in the movies waned...The fun had gone out of filmmaking." Even without Thalberg's presence, A Day at the Races earned four million dollars at the box office, a record for the Marx Brothers.

Director: Sam Wood
Producer: Sam Wood, Lawrence Weingarten, Irving Thalberg
Screenplay: Robert Pirosh, George Seaton, George Oppenheimer
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Walter Jurmann, Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Groucho Marx (Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush), Chico Marx (Tony), Harpo Marx (Stuffy), Allan Jones (Gil Stewart), Maureen O'Sullivan (Judy Standish), Margaret Dumont (Emily Upjohn), Douglass Dumbrille (Morgan).
BW-110m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Deborah Looney

A Day At The Races

A Day at the Races

Before A Night at the Opera (1935) had even hit the theaters, writers were already at work on a script for MGM's second Marx Brothers film. But it would take half a dozen writers over a year and a half and eighteen different scripts before Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, would give A Day at the Races (1937) the go-ahead. Scriptwriter George Seaton recalls the process they went through, "Mr. Thalberg was most kind and he would say, 'I think this script is a good one fellas. Now I'll tell you what to do: Start over again.' He would instruct us to 'save this scene' or 'save this character' and we worked and we worked." In the final version of A Day at the Races, Groucho, Harpo, and Chico rush to save the Standish Sanitarium from bankruptcy. Unless the hospital's owner, Judy Standish (played by Maureen O'Sullivan, best known as Jane in the Tarzan films), can pay the mortgage, she will have to sell it to Mr. Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille). Morgan owns the local racetrack and wants to turn the hospital into a casino. Groucho plays Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush, a veterinarian who poses as a medical doctor to try to get money for the hospital from the wealthy Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont). Harpo plays a jockey and Chico is a racing tipster; both are friends of Judy's. Author Juliette Friedgen states, "As in all of the Marx Brothers films, the gags in A Day at the Races are the most important things, not the believability of the plot." A Day at the Races faced a few legal problems. The original name for Groucho's character was Dr. Quackenbush. Everyone agreed it was a ridiculous name for a doctor, but then they discovered thirty-seven actual Dr. Quackenbushes in the United States. Since most of them were eager to sue if their name was used, Groucho's character was changed to Hackenbush. At first Groucho was disappointed in the name change, but he grew to love Hackenbush so much that he even signed it to letters. Another lawsuit actually made it to court. A woman once sent Groucho a note asking, "Wouldn't it be funny if you three nuts ran a hospital?" Since the plot of A Day at the Races has Groucho running a hospital, the woman sued MGM for plagiarism. The scriptwriters had to testify and go through all eighteen scripts explaining the evolution of the story. As with A Night at the Opera, the Marx Brothers followed Thalberg's suggestion and went on a cross-country road show in support of A Day at the Races. This gave the brothers the opportunity to see how audiences would react to comedy sequences they were planning for the film. Each week the writers focused on a different scene by changing the wording to see what got the best reaction from the audience. George Seaton said, "by the time we got back to the studio after six or eight weeks on the road we could take an average and know exactly how many seconds a laugh would last. In this way, Sam Wood in directing or editing could cut to a reaction shot until a laugh died down so that the audience wouldn't miss the next line." Less than two weeks after filming began on A Day at the Races, 37-year-old Irving Thalberg died of pneumonia. According to Joe Adamson in Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo; A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World, "It was a big blow not only to the Day at the Races company, not only to the whole Irving Thalberg production unit, not only to the entire MGM studio, but to everybody who had ever had anything to do with making a movie. Hollywood was full of people who either respected him professionally or felt very close to him personally, or both." Thalberg had already approved the story for A Day at the Races before his death, but many believe the film didn't live up to A Night at the Opera because Thalberg wasn't there to make daily decisions during filming. Years later, Groucho admitted, "After Thalberg's death, my interest in the movies waned...The fun had gone out of filmmaking." Even without Thalberg's presence, A Day at the Races earned four million dollars at the box office, a record for the Marx Brothers. Director: Sam Wood Producer: Sam Wood, Lawrence Weingarten, Irving Thalberg Screenplay: Robert Pirosh, George Seaton, George Oppenheimer Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Walter Jurmann, Bronislau Kaper Cast: Groucho Marx (Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush), Chico Marx (Tony), Harpo Marx (Stuffy), Allan Jones (Gil Stewart), Maureen O'Sullivan (Judy Standish), Margaret Dumont (Emily Upjohn), Douglass Dumbrille (Morgan). BW-110m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Deborah Looney

The Marx Brothers Collection (Review) - The Marx Brothers Collection on DVD


The first thing that should be said about Warner Home Video's new DVD release The Marx Brothers Collection is that the seven films in the 5-disc set do not comprise the best Marx Brothers movies. Such a set would have to include Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Animal Crackers, and Monkey Business, all of which were produced by Paramount in the early 1930s. Still, the fact that this set marks the debut DVD appearance of A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937), and also comes packed with a plethora of fun extras, makes it a collection worth having. (The other titles here are Room Service (1938), At the Circus (1939), Go West (1940), The Big Store (1941), and A Night in Casablanca (1946).)

What does unite these seven pictures is that they were produced by MGM. Duck Soup (1933), while regarded by many as the best Marx Brothers movie of them all (or at least tied for that distinction with A Night at the Opera), was a notable flop upon release with the public and critics alike, and Paramount decided to throw in the towel.

Chico (pronounced "Chicko," not "Cheeko") Marx, who was very social in Hollywood, played a weekly bridge game with Irving Thalberg, and he told the legendary head of MGM production that the Brothers had been dropped by Paramount. Thalberg agreed to take them on with the provision that they allow him to reshape the structures of their films, for he felt that their Paramount pictures had been too zany and silly, and not focused enough narratively. Having the Brothers create comic mischief around another story altogether involving other major actors, Thalberg decided, would allow the audience to become more emotionally invested. The three Brothers agreed, and the first two films that resulted, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, were smash hits and instant comedy classics. (Zeppo, the "4th" Marx Brother, left the screen after Duck Soup to become the manager for the other three.)

Another big reason for this success was that Thalberg allowed the Marx Brothers to test the material on the road in traveling stage shows. Their first two Paramount films had been based on stage hits, and the team therefore knew from all those live performances what the perfect timing was for each joke and bit of business. Testing the new film's major sequences in the same way seemed like a wise idea, and the Marx Brothers ended up tweaking gags for every performance until they had honed them to perfection. They even timed pauses and audience laughter with a stopwatch.

Ironically, the most famous scene in the movie (and one of the most famous comedy scenes of all time, for that matter) didn't work on stage and was almost cut out entirely. This was the stateroom scene in which Groucho's room fills with an impossible number of people and things, leading to a brilliant payoff. (One exchange: a manicurist shows up and asks Groucho, "Do you want your nails long or short?" "You better make them short. It's getting kind of crowded in here.") Of course, the conceit of the scene is cinematic and difficult to convey on a stage. Thalberg astutely realized this and kept the scene in.

Another interesting tidbit is that the movie was trimmed by three minutes for a 1940s rerelease. The offending material was all the references to Italy, including an opening musical sequence that sets the stage in Rome. During WWII, the studio did not want to portray Italy in a positive light. Unfortunately, the trims were not saved, and the edited version is the one that has been around ever since.

With the success of A Night at the Opera, Thalberg immediately announced two more films and began work on A Day at the Races. It had the same kind of plot as Opera, many of the same supporting players, and it did equally well. (Horse doctor Groucho gives a horse a pill and says, "Take one of these every half mile and call me if there's any change.") Groucho, in fact, thought these two films were the Marx Brothers' best. Both were directed by Sam Wood, with whom Groucho had frequent run-ins. After one argument, Wood sighed, "You can't make an actor out of clay," to which Groucho replied, "Or a director out of Wood."

Unfortunately, Thalberg died during production of pneumonia, at age 37, and suddenly the Marx Brothers' driving force was gone. Louis B. Mayer took over supervision of the series but never gave the Marx Brothers the same level of respect and care that Thalberg had given them. Their next films were essentially B pictures, although they had some notable guest stars like Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, and Tony Martin. They all have their moments, especially A Night in Casablanca, but for the most part they lack the luster and magic of the first two MGM films.

Several of them also feature Margaret Dumont, in the role she was born to play, as the object of Groucho's antics. She really was in every way a member of the team, having performed with the Brothers since their Broadway days before their first movie.

Much more information is supplied by Leonard Maltin on his excellent commentary track for A Night at the Opera. The Day at the Races DVD includes commentary from Glenn Mitchell but it is comparatively sporadic and rather dry. Other extras in the 5-disc set include 4 very amusing trailers, 9 live-action shorts, 8 cartoons, 2 radio promos, 2 audio outtakes (including Tony Martin's nice rendition of "Where There's Music" from The Big Store), and a clip of Groucho's 1961 appearance on a television talk show. There are also 2 new documentaries on the Marx Brothers which feature interviews with Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, and TCM's own Robert Osbourne, among others. In short, there is enough information here to satisfy the vast majority of fans, and it is presented in attractively packaged cases and nicely-designed menus. The print quality is quite good throughout.

Since these pictures were literally and painstakingly designed for large audiences and the laughs that would come from them, they do lose something when viewed alone in a living room, where the laughter between gags won't last as long as with a big audience. They're still funny, but the effect is a tad diminished. So gather a group around a large television, make some popcorn, turn off the lights, and let these movies work the way they were meant to.

For more information about The Marx Brothers Collection, visit Warner Video. To order The Marx Brothers Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeremy Arnold

The Marx Brothers Collection (Review) - The Marx Brothers Collection on DVD

The first thing that should be said about Warner Home Video's new DVD release The Marx Brothers Collection is that the seven films in the 5-disc set do not comprise the best Marx Brothers movies. Such a set would have to include Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Animal Crackers, and Monkey Business, all of which were produced by Paramount in the early 1930s. Still, the fact that this set marks the debut DVD appearance of A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937), and also comes packed with a plethora of fun extras, makes it a collection worth having. (The other titles here are Room Service (1938), At the Circus (1939), Go West (1940), The Big Store (1941), and A Night in Casablanca (1946).) What does unite these seven pictures is that they were produced by MGM. Duck Soup (1933), while regarded by many as the best Marx Brothers movie of them all (or at least tied for that distinction with A Night at the Opera), was a notable flop upon release with the public and critics alike, and Paramount decided to throw in the towel. Chico (pronounced "Chicko," not "Cheeko") Marx, who was very social in Hollywood, played a weekly bridge game with Irving Thalberg, and he told the legendary head of MGM production that the Brothers had been dropped by Paramount. Thalberg agreed to take them on with the provision that they allow him to reshape the structures of their films, for he felt that their Paramount pictures had been too zany and silly, and not focused enough narratively. Having the Brothers create comic mischief around another story altogether involving other major actors, Thalberg decided, would allow the audience to become more emotionally invested. The three Brothers agreed, and the first two films that resulted, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, were smash hits and instant comedy classics. (Zeppo, the "4th" Marx Brother, left the screen after Duck Soup to become the manager for the other three.) Another big reason for this success was that Thalberg allowed the Marx Brothers to test the material on the road in traveling stage shows. Their first two Paramount films had been based on stage hits, and the team therefore knew from all those live performances what the perfect timing was for each joke and bit of business. Testing the new film's major sequences in the same way seemed like a wise idea, and the Marx Brothers ended up tweaking gags for every performance until they had honed them to perfection. They even timed pauses and audience laughter with a stopwatch. Ironically, the most famous scene in the movie (and one of the most famous comedy scenes of all time, for that matter) didn't work on stage and was almost cut out entirely. This was the stateroom scene in which Groucho's room fills with an impossible number of people and things, leading to a brilliant payoff. (One exchange: a manicurist shows up and asks Groucho, "Do you want your nails long or short?" "You better make them short. It's getting kind of crowded in here.") Of course, the conceit of the scene is cinematic and difficult to convey on a stage. Thalberg astutely realized this and kept the scene in. Another interesting tidbit is that the movie was trimmed by three minutes for a 1940s rerelease. The offending material was all the references to Italy, including an opening musical sequence that sets the stage in Rome. During WWII, the studio did not want to portray Italy in a positive light. Unfortunately, the trims were not saved, and the edited version is the one that has been around ever since. With the success of A Night at the Opera, Thalberg immediately announced two more films and began work on A Day at the Races. It had the same kind of plot as Opera, many of the same supporting players, and it did equally well. (Horse doctor Groucho gives a horse a pill and says, "Take one of these every half mile and call me if there's any change.") Groucho, in fact, thought these two films were the Marx Brothers' best. Both were directed by Sam Wood, with whom Groucho had frequent run-ins. After one argument, Wood sighed, "You can't make an actor out of clay," to which Groucho replied, "Or a director out of Wood." Unfortunately, Thalberg died during production of pneumonia, at age 37, and suddenly the Marx Brothers' driving force was gone. Louis B. Mayer took over supervision of the series but never gave the Marx Brothers the same level of respect and care that Thalberg had given them. Their next films were essentially B pictures, although they had some notable guest stars like Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, and Tony Martin. They all have their moments, especially A Night in Casablanca, but for the most part they lack the luster and magic of the first two MGM films. Several of them also feature Margaret Dumont, in the role she was born to play, as the object of Groucho's antics. She really was in every way a member of the team, having performed with the Brothers since their Broadway days before their first movie. Much more information is supplied by Leonard Maltin on his excellent commentary track for A Night at the Opera. The Day at the Races DVD includes commentary from Glenn Mitchell but it is comparatively sporadic and rather dry. Other extras in the 5-disc set include 4 very amusing trailers, 9 live-action shorts, 8 cartoons, 2 radio promos, 2 audio outtakes (including Tony Martin's nice rendition of "Where There's Music" from The Big Store), and a clip of Groucho's 1961 appearance on a television talk show. There are also 2 new documentaries on the Marx Brothers which feature interviews with Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, and TCM's own Robert Osbourne, among others. In short, there is enough information here to satisfy the vast majority of fans, and it is presented in attractively packaged cases and nicely-designed menus. The print quality is quite good throughout. Since these pictures were literally and painstakingly designed for large audiences and the laughs that would come from them, they do lose something when viewed alone in a living room, where the laughter between gags won't last as long as with a big audience. They're still funny, but the effect is a tad diminished. So gather a group around a large television, make some popcorn, turn off the lights, and let these movies work the way they were meant to. For more information about The Marx Brothers Collection, visit Warner Video. To order The Marx Brothers Collection, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Either he's dead or my watch has stopped.
- Dr. Hackenbush
Hackenbush
- Whitmore
WHO?
- Dr. Hackenbush
Dr.Hugo z Hackenbush
- Whitmore
WHO?
- Dr. Hackenbush
H-A-C-K-E-N-B-U-S-H HACKENBUSH
- Whitmore
If I hold you any closer, I'll be in back of you.
- Dr. Hackenbush
Oh, well, uh, to begin with I took four years at Vassar.
- Dr. Hackenbush
Vassar? But that's a girls' college.
- Mrs. Upjohn
I found that out the third year. I'd 've been there yet, but I went out for the swimming team.
- Dr. Hackenbush
Just a minute, Mrs Upjohn. That looks like a horse pill to me.
- Whitmore
Oh, you've taken them before.
- Dr. Hackenbush
Are you sure, Doctor, you haven't made a mistake?
- Whitmore
You have nothing to worry about. The last patient I gave one of those to won the Kentucky Derby.
- Dr. Hackenbush
May I examine this, please? Do you actually give those to your patients? Isn't it awfully large for a pill?
- Whitmore
Well, it was too small for a basketball, and I didn't know what to do with it. Say, you're awfully large for a pill yourself.
- Dr. Hackenbush

Trivia

During the making of this film, MGM executive Irving Thalberg died. He was instrumental in bringing the brothers back to greatness in 1935 with A Night At The Opera and was the brothers main supporter at MGM.

Notes

According to Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items, production on this film was temporarily halted on September 14, 1936 following the death of producer Irving Thalberg. Filming did not fully resume until 21 Dec, after which the production incurred many delays due to illness, bad weather and accidents. January 1937 Hollywood Reporter news items note that Harpo suffered an injured shoulder after he was thrown from a Shetland pony, and that a late January flu epidemic broke out on the set, reportedly forcing the makeup man to wear a mask to prevent the spreading of germs. Following Thalberg's death, his brother-in-law, Lawrence Weingarten, took over as producer, and Max Siegel was made associate producer. A Day at the Races was Weingarten's first assignment for M-G-M.
       A biography of the Marx Bros. indicates that an early treatment of the story by Robert Pirosh, George Seaton and George Oppenheimer bore the title Peace and Quiet. An early Hollywood Reporter production chart credited George S. Kaufman, George Seaton, Robert Pirosh and Al Boasberg with the screenplay. According to a telegram sent from AMPAS secretary Donald Gledhill to M-G-M, dated February 17, 1937, Boasberg protested the studio's decision to place his credit with those of Pirosh and Seaton's for original story and screenplay. Boasberg insisted that "since the picture is a musical picture of an unusual category," the credits should be separated to read: "original story and screen play by Pirosh and Seaton" and "comedy scenes constructed by Al Boasberg." Boasberg threatened to go on national radio and expose the credit disagreement if M-G-M did not comply with his demand. According to modern sources, in response to the threat, the studio decided to omit Boasberg's name from the film credits altogether, and list him only in the Academy Bulletin. Final word, however, came from Boasberg's attorney, who requested that his client's name not appear anywhere in connection with the film. On May 14, 1937, Daily Variety published an open letter from Boasberg to Sam Wood, which read: "Thank you, Sam Wood, for your clever direction of my comedy scenes and dialogue in the forthcoming M-G-M picture A Day at the Races." The letter was signed "Al Boasberg (under contract to Jack Benny)." Boasberg died of a sudden heart attack on June 18, 1937, one week after the film was released. Modern sources also relate that Kaufman requested that his name not be included in the screenplay credits because he was only involved in doctoring the script and took no writing assignments.
       Prior to the start of production, and following two years of development and eighteen drafts of the script, the film's gags were tested on audiences during a six-week period when it was taken on the road for 140 stage performances. The stage production toured as Scenes from a Day at the Races, and of the six hundred comedy situations prepared for the Marx Bros., only seventy-five of the highest rated jokes (as tallied from audience reaction cards) were approved for the film. Modern sources also note that the Marx Bros. studied their dialogue and delivery techniques by having vaudeville actors Harry Lash, Bobbie Dooley and John "Skins" Miller demonstrate how they would act out their scenes. The Marx Bros. biography also notes that Harry Stockwell and Lorraine Bridges were originally set for the parts played by Allan Jones and Maureen O'Sullivan. A Day at the Races marked the film debut of actress Dorothy Dandridge. A Hollywood Reporter pre-release news item notes that Danny Montrose, a former jockey, was hired as a technical advisor and was set for a part in the film, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined. Actor John Miljan was reportedly tested for a role, but he did not appear in the released film.
       The song "All God's Children Got Rhythm" is also known as "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm." According to the Variety review, the water carnival sequence was filmed in light brown sepia, and the ballet scene was shot with a blue tint. Filming of the horse race scenes took place at the Santa Anita racetrack in California. A biography of Groucho Marx lists Al Shenberg as assistant director. Approximately five thousand black performers auditioned for parts in the black musical sequences, according to modern sources.
       The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that in November 1936 the PCA urged M-G-M to remove a number of details from the script, including a scene in which Groucho imitates a "pansy"; a scene with an "offensive shot" of underwear on a clothesline; a choking scene; a shot of a nurse disrobed; and the showing of hypodermic needles. The MPAA/PCA file also notes that the film was banned by censors in the Republic of Latvia, which called the film "worthless," and that Austria deleted scenes of a "fat man dancing with Ivie as well as other negro couples dancing in fast jazz rhythm." According to a Marx Bros. biography, the black musical sequences were deleted from some American television broadcasts of the film because they were deemed racist.
       Two plagiarism lawsuits followed the release of the film. The first suit, as reported in Hollywood Reporter on August 25, 1937, was filed by Henry Barsha and David Weissman, who claimed that the film was taken from their story "High Fever," which had been submitted to and rejected by M-G-M. The second suit was filed by playwright Philip Clancy, who alleged that the picture plagiarized his play Nuts to You. Although Hollywood Reporter reported that Clancy's suit was dismissed by a New York court on March 28, 1938, a July Motion Picture Daily news item noted that a judge later agreed to hear Clancy's appeal. Information on the outcome of both suits has not been found. Another legal entanglement arose before the film began production over the use of the name "Quackenbush" for the character played by Groucho. Modern sources claim that thirty-seven real-life doctors named Quackenbush threatened to sue the studio if it used that name for a character portraying a horse doctor. Despite Groucho's protests, the studio changed his name to "Hackenbush."
       Dave Gould was nominated for an Academy Award for his dance direction of the musical number "All God's Children Got Rhythm."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1937

Released in USA on video.

Re-released in Paris August 29, 1990.

Released in United States 1937