A Day At The Races (1937) – Sam Wood

 

The recommendations for A Night At The Opera come to a close with this last film, giving Groucho, Harpo and Chico one more opportunity to gallivant across the screen and make me laugh.

This time out, Zeppo is left out, and the boys bring their wacky antics to a dual problem, a sanitarium and a horse.

This time Groucho plays Dr. Hackenbush, a horse doctor, mistaken for a people doctor by Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) and brought in by Judy Standish (Maureen O’Sullivan) the owner of the sanitarium as the head doctor, in an attempt to cash in on his popularity and save it from a predatory banker, J.D. Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille).

Groucho takes the job, trying to keep the fact that he’s a vet under his moustache, even when Tony (Chico) and Stuffy (Harpo) cotton to the fact.

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Judy’s boyfriend Gil (Allan Jones) has spent all of his savings on a horse, hoping to enter him into the races, and win enough money to help Judy – an idea that Judy isn’t keen on, a bit of a gamble you could say.

Mrs. Upjohn, as has happened with Dumont’s character in other Marx Brothers films has her eyes set on Groucho, something one of Morgan’s flunkies, Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) wants to take advantage of by having Hackenbush caught in a compromising position with a bit of a floozie, Flo (Esther Muir).

Tony and Stuffy save Groucho from being discovered in a rather hilarious sequence, but overall this one wasn’t my favorite. While fun, and decidedly more polished that some of their earlier films, it didn’t seem to have the same spirit that the other films had.

It did however have the long protracted musical sequences featuring Chico at the piano, followed by Harpo destroying it, and using its interior like a harp. This moments all seem like the best time to get up and get myself another beverage or snack. They always seem to grind the film to a stop.

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Everything comes to a climax at the races as Gil’s horse Hi-Hat faces off against Morgan’s Skee-Ball, and there are some fun moments here, though it’s a little disturbing to see Groucho, Harpo and Chico in blackface in one scene as they attempt to escape Morgan, though this same sequence features a swinging number by Ivie Anderson, so good and bad… Still the final sequence featuring Harpo as Hi-Hat’s jockey and the horse’s reaction to Morgan’s voice is a lot of fun, especially while Chico and Groucho find ways of getting a microphone close to Morgan’s mouth!

As always, the thing that most draws me is the wordplay coming out of Groucho’s mouth, as well as his interplay with his brothers, though, I did like the repeated, “Thank YOU” during the Flo seduction sequence.

Of all of them, that I viewed for the film, I think Night At The Opera is my new favorite, followed by Animal Crackers.

But next up for me, I get a chance to watch a film with one of my favorite actors, Cary Grant! I’m looking forward to settling in and watching Bringing Up Baby with he and Katharine Hepburn!!

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