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4.0 out of 5 stars "Marry me, and I'll never look at another horse.",
This review is from: Day at the Races [Import] (DVD)
A DAY AT THE RACES is the second of the Marx/Wood/Thalberg collaborations (Marx Brothers, director Sam Wood and producer Irving Thalberg) movies made at MGM, the first the delightful A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Irving Thalberg (called "the boy genius" about a hundred times in the DVD extras) died partway through production, bringing this successful combination to an unhappy end. Critical opinion will have you believe that NIGHT is the stronger of the two, but I've always preferred DAY. I'm absolutely tickled to have it now on a fantastic DVD.
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. Sig Ruman is welcomed back after OPERA, and it's great to see him eye-popping in shock whenever insulted by Groucho. By the end of his segment, his voice has risen so high in outrage that he sounds like Dr. Strangelove. Similarly, the fake telephone call from Florida wouldn't be as funny as it is without Leonard Ceeley's wonderful over the top frustration.
As a modern movie viewer, I couldn't help but be amused by a scene, which, if DAY had come later, would have been seen as a parody of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. In one of that science fiction epic's more famous sequences, Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube" plays majestically in the background as a space station slowly spins in orbit, ready to engage in docking procedures. Here, the same piece of classical music plays while we see Groucho Marx in a dressing grown, slowly spinning and dancing in front of a mirror, as he eagerly awaits engaging in docking procedures with the beautiful Esther Muir. Well, I was amused anyway.
One more thing I should mention about the film: the song and dance sequence in the poor, black community. Now, compared to other films of that time, this is almost progressive in its attitude towards race (which, admittedly, isn't saying much). But there is one thing that makes me a little uncomfortable. In context, it almost appears to be saying that, yes, the blacks are poor, and yes, they're outcasts from white society, but, well, they've got their singing and dancing, and, gosh, aren't they happy, and doesn't that make it all okay? I can't help but think that's the subtle message, though perhaps it's just me. Still, I shouldn't complain too much, because it is by far the best singing and dancing in the entire film (though I'll grudgingly admit the ballerina was also quite skilled). Imagine, people actually having fun with song and dance! It's certainly a change from the stoic, restrained and boring performances elsewhere.
The DVD comes with several extras, so you really get your money's worth, even if you aren't quite thrilled with all of the offerings. The documentary is based upon the same structure as on the DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, which means there's valuable trivia and knowledge from the lips of all manner of comedians, co-stars, and writers, and also Dom DeLuise talking about food. I'll bet I'm not the only one surprised and delighted that both the female romantic leads from NIGHT and DAY are still alive and sharp enough to recall details from almost seventy years ago.
The commentary track is relatively good when fan Glenn Mitchell is actually speaking, but there's an unfortunate amount of dead air. At least he's honest though; he recommends viewers take advantage of the chapter-forward button to skip through the interminable ballet sequence since he's decided it's not any good and he has nothing to say until the next scene. Some of the trivia he imparts is interesting, but he has an unfortunate habit of pointing out continuity errors and things that most the audience won't care about. Still, he said some stuff I didn't know (the song "A Message From The Man In The Moon" that Groucho sings a snatch of at the closing was intended to be the movie's big song, but was cut), which is always appreciated.
You can skip over the rest of the DVD extras. Robert Benchley had an Oscar winning short on the NIGHT release, but A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES is rather predictable and dull. Also included are three vintage cartoons, which are quite clearly from a different age. And they're welcome to them.
I'm not sure whether I'd place this film or DUCK SOUP as my all-time favorite Marx Brothers flick. But honestly, who cares which one is the best? This film is available separately or as part of the recent "Marx Brothers Collection" DVD box set. If you're going to buy only one of those films (and why not just buy the set?), then I'd recommend this one above all.
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm getting a good tootsie-frootsying right here...,
This review is from: Day at the Races [Import] (DVD)
Even if the only thing I bought this for was Chico's piano scene, it would still be worth it. That's the best piece I've ever seen him do. I've only seen three of their movies total, but hey, that's beside the point - that guy can PLAY!
I'm sure other people have noticed this, but I really think the film editing was MUCH improved on this film, in comparison to the earlier ones. The main things I didn't like were, as usual, the bad musical numbers. They were just out of place. I actually liked the whole 'water carnival dancing' part, even though it was out of place too, but that's just because I tend to like dances like that. I don't know how Vivien Fay twirled around so many times without getting dizzy and collapsing.
But back to the brothers. I wouldn't consider this to be the funniest of their movies (that I've seen, at least), but they were hilarious, as always. I loved the whole telephone scene, with Groucho doing all those different voices. And of course, the tootsie-frootsie ice cream part. I also thought it was great when Flo, the 'seductress', would say "Thank you", and Groucho would always repeat her, (although it sounded more like "thank yaw").
And the whole doctor examination is one of the funniest scenes that I've seen them do. There's just something about three crazy guys running over to the wash basins to 'sterilize' their hands, and then going around in a circle, drying their hands on the coat of the person in front of them...yeah, hard to describe.
So it's not the best I've seen them do, but it's great. I have an idea: I think MGM should release a dvd with all of their funny scenes on it. That way we could just watch it and laugh, without having to go through all the annoying romantic sub-plots and boring musical numbers. I'm sure it won't be happening, but I still think it'd be a cool idea.
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully entertaining,
"A Day at the Races" is one of the top Marx Brothers movies. It's clever, humourous, full of memorable scenes and is great for entertainment value.
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars There last great film,
Before MGM made the Marx Brothers completely commercial, A Day at the Races was made. Although not there best, it is worth seeing. Although it's overlong, and dampened by superflous musical numbers with a Zeppo-look alike, it has great satrical moments, befor films like Go West, The Big Store, Room Service, and At The Circus. This is probably the lastfilm that they actually cared. I loved the "ice cream" vendor, and the vast majority of this film. A great film if you don't mind fast-forewarding-not to be missed. Thank you for taking the time to read my review and feel free to leave me a helpful/not helpful feedback. God Bless America!
5.0 out of 5 stars I Got A Message From The Man In The Moon,
By A Customer
Better than A Night at the Opera, not as good as Duck Soup.
5.0 out of 5 stars HILARIOUS MARX MADNESS,
When Tony (Chico), an employee at the financially troubled Standish sanitariam, discovers that Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) is in danger of losing the institution to a banker named Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille), he decides to seek a large donation from wealthy patient Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont, natch). Fashions in Marxism change, but this top quality production, though lacking their zaniest inspirations, does contain several of their funniest routines and a spectacularly well integrated racehorse climax. The musical and romantic asides are a matter of taste but are delightfully typical of their time. Among the performers in this delightfully off-beat film is Duke Ellington's wonderful vocalist Ivie Anderson, famous for her rendition of I GOT IT BAD (AND THAT AIN'T GOOD), and a very young Dorothy Dandridge made her debut here. It has been noted that over 5,OOO black performers auditioned for parts in the black musical sequences. An amusing trivia note: the character Groucho plays, Dr. Hackenbush was to be originally named Quakenbush. Reason for the change? Thirty-seven REAL-life doctors with that very name threatened to sue the studio(!).
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing entertainment,
'A Day At The Races' is a movie every single person alive might find pleasure in. The musical aspects of the film are unreachable in their attributes. This movie reflects on human history through edicate, music, sport, culture, and not to mention....COMEDY....One need not to understand the English language as the sets, the expressions, and activities are self descriptive
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT MOVIE!!!,
By A Customer
A GREAT ALL AROUND FAMILY MOVIE-AND VERY FUNNY!
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Day At the Races" - Marxs' last great film,
"A Day At the Races", the Marx Bros. seventh film, released in 1937, is their last real great film in the sense of its overall humor and comic genous.
Groucho plays a horse doctor, Dr. Hackenbush, who is more interested on betting on horses than treating them.
The plot revolves around a sanatorium which is loosing money. Run by Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan), she is offered five thousand dollars to sell it to a shady character, Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille). He wants the sanitorium for his race track. However, the sanitorium's leading patient, Mrs. UpJohn (Margaret Dumont) comes to the aid of Judy Standish when she offers finicial support - but only if she hires Dr. Hackenbush. Of course nobody knows he is just a horse doctor.
Harpo plays a jockey. Chico (Tony) plays the sanitarium's loyal employee. When he overhears the conversation about Hackensbush, he quickly wires him to come. He also sells ice cream and racing tips on the side. In a later scene, one of the film's highlights, he sells Groucho a library's worth of books which are intended to have the name of the horse and jockey in a particular race.
As is many Marx Bros. films, there is a love interest. This one involves Allan Jones (Gil Stewart) and Judy Standish. He spends his life's savings on a horse, Highhat, in the hopes it will win a race and enough money to bail the sanatorium out of its near bankruptcy.
Over-all, this is a fast paced comedy, expect for the songs which really have no place in the film, and seem to go on forever. However, they may be fast forwarded through.
The film's highlights include a roarous scene with the Marx Bros. and a seductress, Flo Marlowe (Esther Muir). Morgan uses her to seduce Groucho, and have Dumont come in on the act, knowing she would quickly dispense of his services, and the sanatoruim would be his. However, Hapro and Chico, through a series of hilarious events, foil the plan.
Another highlight comes when Sig Ruman, playing Dr. Leopold Steinburg, comes to examine Dumont and prove there is nothing really the matter with her. The Marx Bros. have another of their field days.
The climax comes when Highhat is entered in a race, and Morgan tries everything he can to keep him out of it. The Marx Bros. see to it that Highhat remains in the race, at any cost.
"A Day At the Races" contains enough comic humor and classic Marx Bros. material to be considered a great film, and still stands the test of time as a Marx Bros. classic.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Day at the Races,
The last great Marx Brothers movie. Just a notch below the best, which means it is still fantastic. It peters-out a little at the end and has an excess of non-Marx Brothers scenes which is why it is not quite as good as the very best. Margaret Dumont is great- "Doctor Hackenbush"
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Day at the Races [Import] by Sam Wood (DVD - 2004)
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