Movie Review – A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera (1935)
Written by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Al Boasberg, and James Kevin McGuinness
Directed by Irving Thalberg

With this film, many changes happened to the Marx Brothers going forward. It was their first picture at MGM, having left Paramount on reasonably bad terms. Their contract expired, and they had no interest in renewing it with Paramount. Zeppo left the pictures and joined brother Gummo in working on the business side of things, forming a talent agency that would take on clients like Jack Benny and Lana Turner. Irving Thalberg played cards with Chico and worked as a producer at MGM. During their games, he began discussing the Brothers make a move to MGM but had some terms and conditions.

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Movie Review – Duck Soup

Duck Soup (1933)
Written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, and Nat Perrin
Directed by Leo McCarey

Duck Soup is arguably the Marx Brother’s masterpiece. It is their last pre-code movie meaning it’s their last chance to push the boundaries of content in cinema. Duck Soup is also the perfect mix of the Brothers’ anarchic style and a semi-cohesive narrative structure. We still get gags and skits, but they feel much more connected to what is happening to the characters. Duck Soup wasn’t the smash hit that Horse Feathers was, and there was a lot of conflict between the Marx Brothers and Paramount during and after the production. The movie would mark the end of their relationship with that studio and send them to MGM for their next feature.

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Movie Review – Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers (1932)
Written by S. J. Perelman, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Will B. Johnstone, and Arthur Sheekman
Directed by Norman Z. MacLeod

College comedies have been a staple of motion picture since the silent era with Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman and Buster Keaton’s College being the most memorable. It made sense for the Marx Brothers to follow in those footsteps because, at the end of the day, their movies were often a vehicle to get them on screen doing routines and gags. They take advantage of the setting by using the pending football game as the crux of the plot and a finale set-piece. Some anachronistic elements could confuse contemporary viewers, but it’s not enough to make the movie unwatchable, just demanding a little more attention from the audience.

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