The Movies-to-Watch List: A Night at the Opera (1935)

Old comedies are sometimes tricky. Hell, new comedies are sometimes tricky. Comedy depends so much on timing and delivery, and if you have a director or editor who doesn’t get that, even a hilarious bit can fall flat. And with movies, you’re depending on the style of all three of those (the comedy, the direction, the editing) to not have gone past their sell-by date. Often times you’re (or at least I’m) left with the sense of, “Okay, I can see why this might have been funny back then, but not so much now.”

This is why I was wary of A Night at the Opera. And it turned out my fears were in vain. This is a greatly funny movie, with a large percentage of the gags still landing just right. And the famous “stateroom scene” (which, to be honest, I didn’t know was famous until I read about the movie after seeing it) is still hilarious.

This was my first Marx Brothers movie and I want to see more. Supposedly the ones before this are looser and more just the Brothers screwing around with people for no good reason, but I still want to check them out.

As with so many of the older movies I’ve been watching, it’s also fun to finally understand how much it was being referenced by other things. Bugs Bunny is the most obvious one, but there were a lot of other bits I was finally able to realize were being paid homage to (or, y’know, being ripped off).

One reference in particular I was glad to finally see the source of was the Jonathan Richman song, “When Harpo Played His Harp”. Now I’ve seen Harpo play his harp and it was in fact a dream, it was. I also saw Chico shoot the keys, and it did please me.

A Night at the Opera has really held up, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes comedies. Or opera. There’s actually quite a bit of opera.

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