Shane Meagher looks back on the Marx Brothers’ 1937 classic, viagra ‘A Day at the Races.’
By the time they made A Day at the Races in 1937, generic Groucho, health Harpo and Chico Marx were well established as comedy giants of their day. Having already starred in six films together, and still basking in the massive success -both artistically and financially- of their excellent 1935 film A Night at the Opera, there were high expectations for A Day at the Races, and it did not disappoint. It’s got everything you could possibly want: a weighty plot, a strong directorial vision, the acting is excellent, and, of course, it’s hilarious.
Like many of today’s comedies, this film has a serious romantic plot behind all the laughs, but the comedy is far more unpredictable, zany and perhaps even revolutionary than the makers of today’s films would dare to allow in a romantic comedy. Dr Hackenbush (Groucho Marx), a vet, is called upon to work in a sanitarium by the wealthy Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont), who is completely unaware that Dr. Hackenbush’s medical skills don’t extend beyond animals. Attracted by the financial benefits of working in the sanitarium, Dr. Hackenbush chooses not to correct this error of judgement, and poses as a physician. The sanitarium is facing financial problems, and so a singer named Gil spends his life savings on a racehorse to try to gain enough money to save the sanitarium from bankruptcy, and marry his girlfriend Judy. With the help of Tony (Chico Marx) and Stuffy (Harpo Marx), Gil tries to overcome the obstacles preventing his horse from winning the race, mainly a Sheriff who is intent on making sure that the horse does not even get the chance to take part in the race. This may sum up the storyline of the film, but it still leaves out the most important thing: the comedy.
While some parts of this movie may have dated a little, the bulk of this film seems as fresh and original as it did in 1937; the wit of Dr Hackenbush in particular stands the test of time, as do many of the off-the-wall comedy scenes. It is easy to see how the likes of Monty Python have been influenced by the Marx Brothers. A Day at the Races will have you in fits of laughter, and its storyline is also as compelling as any of today’s romantic comedy blockbusters. This is definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of off-the-wall comedy.