The Great Scenes: “Chico and Harpo at play” from A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

This week we’re beginning a new feature on the FilmNerds blog that we’re calling The Great Scenes. I was inspired in part by Roger Ebert’s ongoing feature The Great Movies in which Ebert re-examines a undisputed classic each week. In putting together my reviews for the Back to the Movies feature, I’ve been astounded to find that nearly every individual scene I’ve ever searched for on Youtube is there for the viewing. I thought it might be neat to take advantage of this modern marvel of our time and take you through what I believe to be the greatest individual scenes in movie history.

For the most part, the scenes I look at in this feature will be scenes that I feel work particularly well even outside the context of the films they come from. They are scenes that any viewer will be able to appreciate even if they don’t know anything else about the characters in the scene or where the scene falls in the overall plot line of the film. They will also, in most cases, be scenes that do not include spoilers or any details that might ruin the movie for you if you haven’t already seen it. When I feel that the scene does contain major plot details, I will always make a note of it in the post.

Movie: A Night at the Opera

Spoiler Level: None

The Setup: The rascally trio of Harpo, Chico and Groucho have stowed away on an ocean liner headed for America with a troupe of opera performers. While the socialites and producers schmooze below deck, the Marx Brothers party with the common folk on deck, reveling in the film’s biggest musical number “Cosi Cosa”. After the big production number comes to an end, the plot briefly comes to a stand-still and Chico and Harpo take over in a few minutes of pure, unapologetic light entertainment.

Why It’s Great: While Groucho typically gets the glory these days, Chico and Harpo were arguably just as popular in their day in part because of the incredible range of their talent. Both are excellent comedic actors in different ways but as you’ll see in this scene, both are also superb musicians. It’s the kind of thing that got people into theaters in the early days of cinema but the kind of superfluous, standalone moment that simply never make it past the cutting room these days. You don’t need to know who these characters are or where they are. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy two of the finest comedians and entertainers that we’ve ever had the great fortune of preserving on film. Click play and enjoy!