Haven't Seen It? It's on Netflix: A Night in Casablanca
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Director: Archie Mayo
Starring: The Marx Brothers
Runtime: 85 min
In one of their later efforts, the Marx Brothers are in fine form as they rehash old story lines as an excuse to bring us new witticisms and sight gags that the vaudeville troupe is loved for. After a number of managers for the Hotel Casablanca are mysteriously murdered, local officials enlist the help of unwitting and incompetent motel operator, Roland Kornblow (Groucho) to take the newly opened position. Soon it is discovered that the murders are part of a plot by a former Nazi commander to take over the Hotel Casablanca and remove a treasure that has been hidden there since the end of the war. Several attempts are made on Kornblow's life, mostly with the help of the duplicitous beauty Beatrice Reiner. But, with the aide of his new bodyguards Corbaccio and Rusty (Chico and Harpo), Kornblow is able to fend off the plot against him and cause general chaos throughout Casablanca in the process.
What's that? You say that plot doesn't matter in a Marx Brothers movie? Of course, you are correct. What matters here is that all of the elements that make the Marx Bros. a joy to watch are present. Chico plays piano numbers with his irreverent and inimitable style, Harpo's mute and destructive man child persona wreaks havoc on everything around him, and Groucho spouts off insults and one-liners with machine gun rapidity. Missing, however, is the wealthy dowager character and usual Marx foil, Margaret Dumont. Sig Ruman takes her place as the pompous Nazi-in-hiding, Heinrich Stubel, whom the Brothers continuously drive mad with a number of memorable visual gags. He's not the ideal opposite to the Marx' antics as the haughty Dumont, but he'll do in a pinch. And, of course, there's the side story of the poor young lovers whom the Brothers aide in overcoming obstacles to end up together by the film's finale. The reason they do this, again, doesn't seem to matter.
For being one of their last films together, A Night in Casablanca is a worthy entry in the Marx' collection of work. It does get off to a slower start than the films from their Warner Bros. years, but once it does get going, it doesn't slow down, and it is good to see the Brothers doing what they do best in what many consider the last good Marx Brothers movie. Of course, to the uninitiated, Duck Soup is required viewing; it's a masterpiece, and I don't imagine A Night in Casablanca will be enjoyable for those whom have no context of the Marx' earlier work. Fortunately, Duck Soup is also available on Netflix streaming. Though it might not be as delightfully absurd as Duck Soup, or have the sweetness of A Day at the Races (also required watching), like those two films it is simply a lot of fun to watch. What more could you really want?
Here's Chico playing a couple of numbers in A Night in Casablanca.