A Night at the Opera review – No such thing as a sanity clause


By: Corey Lack

a night at the opera

A Night at the Opera is a 1935 Marx Brothers comedy movie, starring the famous comedian brothers as they deal with various issues connected to the New York Opera Company. Groucho plays Otis B. Driftwood, a business manager for a wealthy dowager, Chico plays Fiorello, the self-proclaimed mangager and friend of an up-and-coming chorister, and Harpo plays Tomasso, the dresser to Lassparri the arrogant and abusive tenor of the company. Driftwood, seeking to make more money from Lassparri, is tricked by Fiorello to sign Ricardo to a contract. This locks him into helping the kinder and talented chorister move up in the company while also helping him in his romance with the company’s soprano, Rosa, while avoiding the business-focused company director, Gottlieb, and the authorities.


This movie is, without a doubt, one of the Marx Brothers’ best movies. There are many hilarious scenes throughout the movie. First, there’s the well-known contract scene that has Chico and Groucho’s characters going through copies of a contract, reading through each section before tearing off parts they don’t like or just to make them the same length. It culminates in a well-known part that goes:


Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?

Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, it says, ‘if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified’.

Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…

Driftwood: It’s all right, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.

Fiorello: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!


There is also the stateroom scene which involves Driftwood finding himself staying in a stateroom the size of a closet while he travels across the ocean to New York with the rest of the opera company, only to find that Ricardo, Fiorello, and Tomasso stowed away in his trunk. Within minutes, Driftwood’s “telephone booth” is completely filled with people including the stowaways, the chief engineer, the engineer’s assistant, four stewards with plates of hard-boiled eggs, and many others.


This movie is one that cannot go unwatched. The comedy is great and wholesome, the plot is simple, but entertaining, and the singers is very talented. Not to mention watching Chico show his unique piano-playing technique is always enjoyable. I give this movie ten moving cots out of ten.

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