Tag: A Night at the Opera

December 26, 2016 / / Main Slate Archive

It is hard to believe that when Leonard, Arthur, Julius, and Herbert Marx (better known by their stage names (Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo) assembled in early 1929 to make their first motion picture, most were already in their middle age: Chico, the firstborn, was 42, Harpo 40, Groucho 38, while Zeppo, the baby of the family born a full decade later, a mere 28. Something about their irrepressible energy, their irreverence, and their sheer outrageousness made them seem much younger, but those qualities had been honed to perfection over the previous two decades on the long hard road to stardom, as the family slowly but surely worked their way to the top of the vaudeville circuit and then Broadway. Over the twenty years that followed the brothers made a dozen more films (some against their better judgment), and while it is difficult to pick one as their absolute best, an argument could be made that they never surpassed their first five; the ones for Paramount Pictures before the infamous Hays Code imposed its “moral” guidelines on movie content, the ones that include Zeppo, and the ones the Brattle Theatre has chosen to screen this time around in their New Year’s Day marathon.