AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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A Night at the Opera
Director: Sam Wood (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Nov 1935
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 8 Nov 1935
Production Date:   14 Jun--13 Aug 1935; retakes began 19 Aug 1935
Duration (in mins):   90
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Groucho Marx (Otis B. Driftwood)  
    Chico Marx (Fiorello)  
    Harpo Marx (Tomasso)  
    Kitty Carlisle (Rosa [O`Flynn])  
    Allan Jones (Ricardo [Barone])  
    Walter King ([Rudolfo] Lassparri)  
    Siegfried Rumann ([Herman] Gottlieb)  
    Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool)  
    Edward Keane (Captain)  
    Robert Emmet O'Connor (Henderson)  
    Lorraine Bridges (Louisa)  
    Claude Payton (Police captain)  
    Rita and Rubin (Dancers)  
    Luther Hoobvner (Ruiz)  
    Rodolfo Hoyos (Count di Luna)  
    Olga Dane (Azucena in Il Trovatore)  
    Jonathan Hale (Stage manager)  
    Otto Fries (Elevator man)  
    William Gould (Captain of police)  
    Leo White (Aviator)  
    Jay Eaton (Aviator)  
    Rolfe Sedan (Aviator)  
    William "Billy" Gilbert (Orchestra leader)  
    Wilbur Mack (Committee member)  
    Phillips Smalley (Committee member)  
    Selmer Jackson (Committee member)  
    George Irving (Committee member)  
    George Guhl (Policeman)  
    Harry Tyler (Sign painter)  
    Fred Malatesta (Stage hand)  
    Gennaro Curci (Doorman)  
    Harry Allen (Doorman)  
    Edna Bonnett (Maid)  
    Ines Palange (Maid)  
    Harry "Zoop" Welsh (Steward)  
    Alan Bridge (Immigration inspector)  
    James Wolfe (Soloist in Il Trovatore)  
    Rodolfo Hoyos (Soloist in Il Trovatore)  
    Ludovico Tomarchio (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Henry Avila (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Roone Carrere (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Enrico Martinelli (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Antonio Filauri (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    A. Capreoli (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Manuel Emanuel (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Ettore Campana (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Nina Campana (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    J. Artizoni (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Alexander Giglio (Bit in Pagliacci)  
    Tandy McKenzie (Tenor in "Questa o quella")  
    Fanchon and Marco (Dance team)  
    Stanley Blystone    
    Earl Seaman    

Summary: In Milan, wealthy Mrs. Claypool has hired Otis B. Driftwood to help her enter society, but he merely helps himself to her money. He does introduce her to opera impresario Herman Gottlieb, however, who convinces her to hire tenor Rudolfo Lassparri for his New York opera company. Lassparri is a cad who beats his dresser Tomasso, and tries to captivate Rosa, a soprano who only loves chorus singer Ricardo Barone. Rosa also has an offer to go to America and is sad to leave Ricardo, until she learns that he is stowing away with Tomasso and his old friend Fiorello, who has a mutilated contract with Driftwood for Ricardo's services. They stay in Driftwood's room, which is crowded with one occupant, but bulges to overflowing as the stowaways, assorted maids, waiters, repairmen, and a woman looking for her Aunt Minnie, wander in. When they dock in New York, the stowaways unsuccessfully pose as a trio of bearded aviators, then hide in Driftwood's hotel to avoid deportation. Meanwhile, although Rosa and Lassparri are set to perform Il Trovatore , Lassparri refuses to sing with her because she rejects his amorous advances. Driftwood, Tomasso and Fiorello have a plan, though, and turn the performance into chaos. Tomasso crosses bows with the conductor, the music to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is substituted for the opera's score, and Driftwood sells peanuts in the aisles. When Detective Henderson arrives with the police looking for the stowaways, the stage is a shambles, but the day is saved when Lassparri refuses to perform any longer and Ricardo takes his place, with Rosa by his side. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Sam Wood (Dir)
  Lesley Selander (Asst dir)
Producer: Irving Thalberg (Exec prod)
Writer: George S. Kaufman (Scr)
  Morrie Ryskind (Scr)
  James Kevin McGuinness (Story)
  Al Boasberg (Addl dial)
Photography: Merritt B. Gerstad (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Ben Carré (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: William LeVanway (Film ed)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Paul Lamkoff (Vocal coach)
  Paul Taylor (Vocal coach for chorus)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Chester Hale (Dances by)
Stand In: Enrico Ricardi (Whistling double for Harpo Marx)
Country: United States

Songs: "Alone," music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed; "Così-Cosà," music by Bronislaw Kaper and Walter Jurmann, lyrics by Ned Washington; "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," music by Albert von Tilzer, lyrics by Jack Norworth; selections from the operas Il trovatore , music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Salvatore Cammarano and I pagliacci , music and libretto by Ruggiero Leoncavallo.
Composer: Bronislaw Kaper
  Albert von Tilzer
  Nacio Herb Brown
  Salvatore Cammarano
  Arthur Freed
  Walter Jurmann
  Ruggiero Leoncavallo
  Jack Norworth
  Giuseppe Verdi
  Ned Washington

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 29/10/1935 dd/mm/yyyy LP5926 Yes

PCA NO: 1613
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Fortune hunters
  New York City
  Opera singers
  Romance
  Stowaways
 
Subjects (Minor): Air pilots
  Cads
  Deportation
  Italian Americans
  Maids
  Milan (Italy)
  I pagliacci (Opera)
  Ships
  Staterooms
  Il trovatore (Opera)

Note: 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 HR 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 9 Jul 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 MPH review notes that some of the material was "tried out in tours up and down the 'Coast' first." A HR 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 NYT 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. A Night at the Opera was ranked 85th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   14 Oct 35   p. 3.
Film Daily   17 Oct 35   p. 4
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jun 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jun 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jun 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jun 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jul 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jul 35   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 35   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Aug 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Aug 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Oct 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Oct 35   p. 5.
Motion Picture Daily   15 Oct 35   p. 8, 10
Motion Picture Herald   26 Oct 35   p. 72.
Motion Picture Herald   28 Oct 35   p. 345.
New York Times   7 Dec 35   p. 22
Variety   11 Dec 35   p. 19.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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