First, I think the jokes are just a little sharper and sillier here than in NIGHT (not that they were poor there by any means). Also, the romantic subplot was handled a little better here. It helps, I think, that Allan "Imitation Zeppo" Jones has better chemistry with Maureen O'Sullivan than he did with Kitty Carlisle. The stricter structure that Thalberg imposed on the films is improved. I have an entertaining time cheering on the Brothers' attempting to win a horserace to save a young heroine's sanitarium.
But, of course, the real fun from a Marx Brothers film comes from the one-liners and comedic set pieces that abound, and the gags here rival their best material. As you'll hear loads of times if you peruse the DVD extras, Irving Thalberg encouraged the Brothers to take their material on the road for testing in front of an audience before filming it. Hence, the timing, the punch lines and the individual words themselves are all finely honed. It's this attention to detail that makes them work. You could easily imagine the "Tootsie Frootsie" sequence dragging and dying if the lines hadn't been performed perfectly.
The bad guys in this one are a lot of fun too, and go a long way towards making this such a success.Read more ›
The humour is up to a very high standard and the musical scenes are full of energy. Parts of it, such as the Tootsie-Frootsie and the jitterbugging scenes, are so absorbing you almost forget about the rest of the film.
On a critical analysis though, the film falls short in a few areas. The acting and delivery of some of the lines in just a few places lacks conviction and seems a bit weak and some of the songs have to be heard quite a few times before you can really remember the tune of them.
But ultimately, "A Day at the Races" wins both on entertainment value and from a critical viewpoint.