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And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor. Play, Don.—Otis B. Driftwood
A Night At the Opera was a 1935 Marx Brothers film, the first made in their switch from Paramount to MGM. Promised a free rein but forced by producer Irving Thalberg to focus the chaos against the bad guys who deserve the mistreatment, Opera became the largest box-office hit of the Marx Brothers' filmography. There's a fine debate over this or Duck Soup as the Marx Brothers' best film as well as one of the funniest movies ever.
This film is associated with the following tropes (if you dare!):
- At the Opera Tonight
- The Cast Showoff: The scene on the boat where Chico plays the piano? That's not dubbed in. He was actually that good.
- Kitty Carlisle had previously sung opera onstage for real, and Allan Jones, while not classically trained, was a genuinely talented singing star of the day. And of course, Harpo playing the harp.
- Chekhov's Skill: Tommaso (Harpo)'s rope-climbing and acrobatic skill.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Driftwood (Groucho), manager of Mrs. Claypool. He overhears that Lasparri is going to earn 1000$ per night so he soon scrambles to intercept the deal... he is keeping a small profit from that 1000$ dollars and paying to the singer... 10$ minus a 10% to him for negotiating the deal.
- Crowd Song: Whenever Riccardo sings.
- Deadpan Snarker: Take a guess...
- Department of Redundancy Department: Contract clauses:
"The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part."
"The party of the second part shall be know in this contract as the party of the second part."
- Emergency Impersonation: Harpo, Chico and Jones gag three famous airmen and impersonate them. They are later required to give a speech. Bizarre quotes and hilarity ensues --Chico plays a mute-- and their Paper-Thin Disguise doesn't last for long.
- Extreme Omnivore: Tomasso, who eats a lit cigar and a tie for starters.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Driftwood: You're willing to pay him a thousand dollars a night just for singing? Why, you can get a phonograph record of 'Minnie the Moocher' for 75 cents." (Pause) For a buck and a quarter, you can get Minnie.
- Grande Dame: Mrs. Claypool
- Homage: The 1992 film Brain Donors is a lovingly-crafted tribute that often equals and once or twice tops the original.
- I'll Take Two Beers, Too!: If not the Trope Namer, than at least the Ur Example.
- Jerkass: The full-of-it Lassparri.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Driftwood is rude, abusive, screwy, cheap, thieving, and a Manipulative Bastard, but he sees to it the good guys prevail and that the lovers Riccardo and Rosa get their big break.
- Lighter and Softer: Those who object to the MGM films, even A Night at the Opera, will claim it's because the Marxes were made to be nicer (see Jerk with a Heart of Gold).
- Literal Metaphor
Driftwood: You see that spaghetti? Now, behind that spaghetti is none other than Herman Gottlieb, director of the New York Opera Company. Do you follow me?
Mrs. Claypool: Yes.
Driftwood: Well stop following me or I'll have you arrested!
- Logical Fallacies: Half of the hilarity comes from Groucho's elaborate wordplay and mind games.
Driftwood: That woman? Do you know why I sat with her? Because she reminded me of you.
Mrs. Claypool: Really?
Driftwood: Of course, that's why I'm sitting here with you. Because you remind me of you. Your eyes, your throat, your lips! Everything about you reminds me of you. Except you. How do you account for that? (beat) If she figures that one out, she's good.
Driftwood: It's all right, that's in every contract. That's what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello: You can't fool me! There ain't no Sanity Claus!
- Nice to the Waiter: Lasparri establishes his position as the resident Jerkass by abusing Tomasso--though he's Genre Savvy enough to feign kindness in Rosa's presence.
- Only Sane Man: Subverted. They simply didn't have the budget for one. Everyone - even the straight-laced lovers and the evil Jerkass - gets sucked into the Marx Brothers' madness.
- Overly Long Gag: "And two hard-boiled eggs!" ". . . and two hard-boiled eggs."
- "Make that three hard-boiled eggs."
- Refuge in Audacity: From the very first lines -
(For context, Driftwood is sitting with his back to Mrs Claypool, the woman he was supposed to have dinner with, having had dinner with another woman and the waiter has just given him the bill)
Driftwood: Nine dollars and forty-eight cents...?! This is an outrage! (throws the bill to the woman) If I were you, I wouldn't pay it! (walks away)
- The Remake: Brain Donors, an all-but-the-name retelling of Opera.
- All but the name and the opera, that is.
- Shout-Out: While Driftwood tries to hide the three stowaways in his room while the cop looks around:
Henderson: What's this!?
Driftwood: Why that's the fire escape. And that's a table, and this is a room, and there's the door and I wish you'd use it. I... I vant to be alone.
- The Show Must Go On: The confused and increasingly frustrated Lassparri keeps singing, even when the scenes behind and in front of him change rapidly.
- Spiritual Successor: the following Marx Brothers film A Day at the Races, shares a similar plot but with different characters and scenery (a rest home in need of rescue and a horse race to be won).
- The State Room Sketch: The Trope Namer
- Straight Woman: Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Claypool, as always the prim foil to Groucho's antics.
- Tap on the Head: Gottlieb, many many times, and once to the cop.
- This Means War: Used by Driftwood after the three fake airmen are confronted and leave. A Shout-Out to Duck Soup
- Tough Room: Driftwood gives an opening speech at the opera that in real life would have brought the house down, but the only response he gets is stony silence.
- You Get What You Pay For: Drifwood overhears that Lasparri is going to be paid one thousand dollars per night and decides to skim the deal somehow. He is clueless and assumes Fiorelos is Lasparri's manager, so he is willing to pay 10 dollars per night. He learns later that he was hiring Ricardo Baroni instead. It turns out Ricardo Baroni is an excellent singer, just unknown by the public.