Thursday, May 19, 2011

Movie Moments: #35

A Night at the Opera (1935)

My reason in posting another A Night at the Opera item is that my wife recently asked me something akin to Mrs Claypool’s question below. I responded as per the Otis B Driftwood reply but she was unaware I was quoting Groucho Marx. Even after three quarters of a century the Marx Brothers are still great. One of their best.

The Marx Brothers try to assist two young lovers in their relationship and to achieve operatic success. Margaret Dumont again plays the comic foil to Groucho as he romances her for her money, telling the stuffy head of the New York Opera Company “Now listen here, Gottlieb, making love to Mrs. Claypool is my racket. What you're after is $200,000. And you'd better make it sound plausible, because, as incredible as it may seem, Mrs. Claypool isn't as big a sap as she looks. (Groucho looks at the camera) How's that for lovemaking?” Dumont appeared in seven Marx Brothers films, leading Groucho to comment that she was "practically the fifth Marx brother."

Mrs. Claypool: Are you sure you have everything, Otis?
Otis B. Driftwood: Well, I haven't had any complaints yet.

Producer Irving Thalberg would often call people in for meetings, and then keep them waiting in his office for hours while he attended other meetings on the MGM lot. One day, during pre-production for A Night at the Opera (1935), Thalberg kept The Marx Brothers waiting for several hours in his secretary's office, while he was in his own office making phone calls. When Thalberg's secretary went home for the day, the brothers decided they'd had enough. They pushed the office file cabinets against Thalberg's door, trapping the producer in his office.
Afterwards, Thalberg kept his appointments with the Marx Brothers, but would often interrupt his meetings with them and step out to attend other meetings - again keeping the brothers waiting for hours. One day, Thalberg came back from another meeting to find Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, and Harpo Marx sitting in his office completely naked, and roasting potatoes on sticks in his office fireplace. Thalberg sat down with them, had a potato, and never missed or interrupted another meeting with the Marx Brothers.


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