The University of Iowa University of Iowa

The Trunk Movie Club: A Night at the Opera

As the Marx Brothers’ first picture with MGM after their move from Paramount, the brothers show they did not miss a step from their followup to the classic Duck Soup, as Night at the Opera delivers a wonderfully funny show that is probably their most accessible for all ages and all time periods from then to now.


The story follows the mischievous Marx Brothers as they turn the New York Opera company upside down to stick it to the snobbish management keeping their friend Ricardo from starring alongside his lovely girlfriend, Rosa, in her New York opera debut.

The Marx Brothers and Allan Jones in A Night at the Opera
From Warner Brothers

Madcap comedy rules each and every second of this underdog story from the beginning where the audience gets a classic Groucho flirting with Margaret Dumont scene, to the famous “state room” scene on the cruise to New York, to, of course, the climax in the opera house. It’s a wonderful showcase of each of the Brothers’ comedic strengths: Groucho and his sly and sharp lines, and the slapstick hi-jinks of Chico and Harpo.

Chico and Groucho working on a contract deal


The brothers are as funny as ever, befitting of movies where the main attraction is seeing what they’ll do next onscreen. A Night at the Opera has a fine blend of humor and heart. Sure, they have their signature moments of comedy like Groucho’s wise anchor routine with his quips and liners, and Chico and Harpo’s slapstick antics punctuated by Chico’s humorously overdone Italian accent and Harpo letting his hilariously expressive face do the talking. But that doesn’t mean the movie is short of sweet moments as well, like Groucho delivering a love letter to a homesick lady and Chico and Harpo putting on a show for the lower class passengers of a cruise liner.

Harpo putting on a show for the kids

In addition, the music is nothing to sneeze at as well. The audience is treated to the big orchestral swells to the sweet singing from the lovebirds Ricardo and Rosa, and on top of that are treated to the always entertaining piano playing by Chico and harp strumming by Harpo.


A Night at the Opera is not a film that is very ground breaking, mind blowing or even all that thoughtful, minus the sweeter scenes. But it does deliver a very entertaining experience and is a very fine way to spend an hour and a half.


If you want to see more classic Marx Brothers comedy, check out A Day at the Races, Duck Soup, and Horse Feathers.