Monday 1 January 2007

A Night in Casablanca (1946)

I caught up with almost all the Marx Brothers movies long ago and I've had plenty of opportunity to do it again since. TCM runs Marx Brothers marathons a couple of times a year, it seems. However they only show the first eleven, that were released between 1929 and 1941, leaving me two later movies to search for in vain. These are A Night in Casablanca from 1946 and Love Happy from 1949. Well, at least I'm now down to only one to find.

It doesn't seem like a Marx Brothers movie for a while because they don't seem to be in it. There's what seems like a reasonably in depth plot about a hotel in post-war Casablanca, where the managers keep dropping dead. An American pilot has some sort of story about Nazi treasure that was lost when he deliberately crashed his plane to avoid taking it to South America at the forced bidding of the Third Reich, but the Chief of Police doesn't believe a word of it. There's plenty of substance here but what there aren't are Marx Brothers, which seems more than a little strange. They turn up soon enough, of course, but given that if you took the brothers out of any of their previous movies there really wouldn't be anything left, it's a surprise that they should change their tack here.

Harpo is the steward of some evil high up Nazi who is staying at the hotel and he gets most of the early laughs, Chico runs the Yellow Camel cab company outside and Groucho of course gets the biggest role as Ronald Kornblow, the newest manager of the hotel. He's exactly how you'd expect Groucho to be, only less so. I presume that's why the film didn't succeed too well, being much higher on plot and much lower on wisecracks, but for all that this could just be my favourite. Then again it could be because the brothers financed this one themselves in a hope to gain more control over their film careers, and hey, look where that got most people!

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