Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Overlooked Films: A Night in Casablanca (1946)

I watched this not long after an umpteenth viewing of Casablanca, thinking there might be some elements of parody. There weren’t. Legend has it that the film was originally intended as a lampoon, with Groucho playing “Humphrey Bogus,” but Warner Brothers growled and United Artists backed down. I can’t call that a drawback, though, because a Marx Brothers movie - any Marx Brothers movie - is a parody of life.

As one of their last films (12th of 13), you might think A Night in Casablanca would be a lesser efforts. Maybe so, but I still found it consistently entertaining, and consistently funny.

The brothers are looking a bit older here, but that doesn’t slow their antics or their wit. The gags, both visual and verbal, come at you at a rapid pace, and it if one doesn’t make you laugh, the next one will.

The story here is that post-war Nazis think a stolen treasure in hidden in the Hotel Casablanca, and one Nazi in particular, an escaped war criminal in disguise, is out to get it. Oblivious to all this, the hotel owners bring in Groucho to manage the place, and he naturally attracts a couple of local lowlifes played by Chico and Harpo.

The main difference between this and many of the earlier Marx Brothers films is the absence of Margaret Dumont as Groucho’s love/ridicule interest. Instead of old battleaxe Margaret, he’s up against an actual looker, Lisette Verea, adding new flavor to the stew.

Groucho and Lisette

More Overlookeds at Sweet Freedom.


Unknown said...

Gotta admit that I'm one of those who think this is a lesser film. I haven't seen it in many years, though, so maybe I should give it another chance.

Anonymous said...

Marx Brothers purists tend to dismiss their later films out of hand. It's true that the movies from MGM (1935-41) and UA (post-WWII) are hindered by formulaic boy-meets-girl romantic subplots and musical production numbers, instead of giving them almost free rein as Paramount had done (1929-33). But it's also true that there's still plenty of fun in the later films, even if they are lesser efforts. BTW, the idea that Warners threatened to sue seems to have been fabricated (or at least exaggerated) for publicity. Groucho later noted that it would probably be impossible to secure a copyright on the name of a real city. And parodies and satires are usually not considered copyright infringement anyway.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I've always had a soft spot for this one and I think it may be the first exposure I had to one of their films. I remember being so disappointed when I bought a condensation on Super * (remember those?), which had none of my favourite bits (like Harpo holding a wall up) only had the airborne climax which is really the least of the film.

Evan Lewis said...

Always wondered about those those little films I saw advertised in the funny books.

Sounds like Groucho was a funny guy both on and off the screen.

Cap'n Bob said...

I've seen it a few times and thought it was a miss, though it had its moments.

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