Thumpersma

Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 4; The Marx Brothers' Stateroom

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I've never found this particular scene hysterically funny as others have; interesting and odd, yes, but only worth a minor chuckle in my opinion. I think it's the (what I perceive as) forced rediculousness of the situation that actually turns me off. I suppose I have a hard time suspending reality long enough to find humor in what I perceive as forced silliness. In watching the figures bend and tangle in the room, I can't help thinking that one would never climb over a perfect stranger with such roaming hands and feet as they do in the stateroom. It's exactly the vertical and horizontal positions that Dr. Edwards points out in the composition of the people that causes me to not find much humor in this gag. Why does the maid have to stand on the bed when she is trying to make up the bed? How could Harpo possibly be asleep while he is being tossed about? Why do they have to twist and turn so much? If they all just stood in place, there might be room for them all.

 

Like I said, I have a hard time believing this gag long enough to find it funny. But that is my issue with many slapstick gags. I tend to focus on the logical and sensible when slapstick is anything but that. Hopefully, by the end of this course, I'll be able to see the funny side of being illogical. ????

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I've never found this particular scene hysterically funny as others have; interesting and odd, yes, but only worth a minor chuckle in my opinion. I think it's the (what I perceive as) forced rediculousness of the situation that actually turns me off. I suppose I have a hard time suspending reality long enough to find humor in what I perceive as forced silliness. In watching the figures bend and tangle in the room, I can't help thinking that one would never climb over a perfect stranger with such roaming hands and feet as they do in the stateroom. It's exactly the vertical and horizontal positions that Dr. Edwards points out in the composition of the people that causes me to not find much humor in this gag. Why does the maid have to stand on the bed when she is trying to make up the bed? How could Harpo possibly be asleep while he is being tossed about? Why do they have to twist and turn so much? If they all just stood in place, there might be room for them all.

 

Like I said, I have a hard time believing this gag long enough to find it funny. But that is my issue with many slapstick gags. I tend to focus on the logical and sensible when slapstick is anything but that. Hopefully, by the end of this course, I'll be able to see the funny side of being illogical.

I agree to an extent. I always found Groucho's verbal humor much funnier than the business going on in the room. The commentary on the scene, as if he were not only "the doorman," as Prof. Edwards noted, but also the interlocutor, is what makes the scene humorous as far as I'm concerned. Otherwise, it is the filling of a clown car before it empties out. Amusing in itself, but not nearly as much as the verbal wit.
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As of today I have never seen A Night at the Opera and just heard of it or saw clips.  This scene alone is the perfect "definition" of physical slapstick meets verbal slapstick.  It exaggeratedly builds and builds til BAM! the wonderful payoff with a torrent of human bodies tumbling into the hallway.

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I have watched this scene many times but have never thought about the complexity of the staging and blocking. I was always more focused on Groucho's play by play description. Now that I'm observing both I'm very impressed with the mechanics of the scene plus how artfully verbal and visual slapstick are melded together.

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I do believe the packing of multiple circus clowns act into a tiny car is a possible derivative of this Stateroom scene. (Perhaps vice versa?) Upon witnessing the hefty number of occupants within one space, typically an additional person would decline entry until others emerged, such as a semi-full to full elevator scenario. The humor in the Stateroom clip blatantly lies within the ridiculousness in the number of people crammed into a rather small enclosure, and of course Groucho's chattering commentary.

 

As noted by Dr. Edwards, there is much to study and consider in the setup of this scene. The blocking is definitely relevant in displaying the capacity of the room and making use of human bodies as the climax of the gag. In order to drive the punchline to further the tipping point (the spillage of bodies into the hallway), placement of objects and character movements are necessary to show comprising the frame.

 

I acquired a generous amount of knowledge with the breakdown of this clip in regards to filming comedy effectively and to maximum scale. Comedy is known to be difficult in execution, which is why a clear deconstruction is imperative for gaining insight.

 

There was a certain amount of enjoyment with this gag, as I did get a good laugh from the climactic delivery. However, the truest appeal (for me) is that quick-paced, witty banter. I become completely engrossed by the play on words the Marx Brothers capture with such finesse and ease. This is a multitude of reasons in which they are still rendered as a force in the world of film today.

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The Night at the Opera stateroom scene is one of the funniest movie scenes I have ever seen. The over the top ridiculousness of it makes me laugh so hard every time I watch it. I think what makes this scene so great is all the different things going on in the room and not a single person said "I will come back later when it isn't so crowded". They all act like this was a normal thing to happen in a stateroom on the ship. The fact that there is a giant steamer trunk in the room with makes me laugh because it shows just how tiny the room is to begin with. Then when each person comes in they act like it is  big deal.

 

Groucho's constant commentary and remarks are so quick and clever, Harpo staying asleep the whole time "He's half asleep and half nelson" and Groucho getting a manicure makes the scene become more over the top. "Would you like your long nails or short?"  " Better make them short, its getting kind of crowded in here". At that point it was already beyond crowded. Its fun to watch the scene several times to catch all the lines you miss the first time around. Like when the gal comes in looking for her Aunt Minnie and asks to use the phone and Groucho quips " Tell Aunt minnie to send up a bigger room will ya". Then when the stewards come back with all the food they march right on in as if it was a much bigger room, they somehow get the door closed just for everyone to fall out onto Mrs. Claypool when she opens the door.

 

The point was to make it ridiculous and fun. Physical and verbal slapstick. Its supposed to be over the top and beyond reason and logic.  Ever since I saw this scene I can no longer make two hardboiled eggs without making a honking sound and saying "make that three hard boiled eggs" and cracking myself up.  

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One of the all-time great moments in cinematic slapstick comedy, as the Marxes' stateroom scene (in "A Night at the Opera") is one of the essential examples of verbal slapstick.  Watched "A Night At The Opera" last night- and as always, highly entertaining!  

 

Enjoyed watching W.C. Fields in "The Bank Dick" (1940)- looking forward to the next feature, "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948)!

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It's amazîng to see how complex and chreographed this scene was. It's a hilarious scene but so much work went into it to make it work. And it did! A work of genius & one of the funniest scenes ever.

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The state room. Not only was it fascinating to watch the breakdown. It's just hysterical! And I come away with this wondering how all of those actors remain straight face. Brilliant. The best!

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This scene is so much fun to watch, and watch again. I love Harpo's stretch across the waiter's plates at the end, and never thought about this scene before within the context of the geometry of the shot. This was a great scene to break down.

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I know I'm repeating what others have already written, but I, too, really appreciate the breakdown of this particular scene.  All of the action and dialogue is so seamless that it's easy to forget just how much work went into making it the awesome piece of film that it is.  I especially appreciate the way the "geometry of the scene" was emphasized.  It's the placement of everyone in the room that makes the people tumbling out of the room look so realistic.  There isn't a hitch in the entire scene.

 

I, too, wonder how everyone was able to keep a straight face during the filming.  Did they do "retakes" in those days?

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Having done some directing and stage management in college, I enjoyed the breakdown. Vertical and horizontal lines are important, and we see levels also play a role. In some ways, this is a unique version of cramming a phone both or clowns in a car. In this case, it is a stateroom that overflows when Margaret Dumont opens the door. The verbal banter by Groucho, inviting more people in, builds up to the physical overflow at the end.

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I love this scene. I know the Marx Bros. are seen as "saturation comedy", but I feel this gag majorly influenced situational comedies. The physicality, moving parts, dialogue, and the scene itself, inspired gags, storylines and moments.

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Like everyone else, I truly appreciated the breakdown of this gag. It was fantastic and so detailed, and what I truly enjoyed learning was the “no boundaries” rule the Marx brothers seemed to have, it’s honestly admirable, and makes them stand out in their own way. What truly startles me in some way is Harpo’s ability to act asleep all throughout this chaotic gag! I find it outstanding and incredible, especially since he is the one being dragged around that small room that is slowly being filled up with some many people. Another thing I enjoyed about this bit is how cartoonish it seemed, it almost seemed truly made up or “touched up” if that makes sense, it’s just so illogical and ridiculous it’s funny, particularly Groucho’s laid back reaction to all of this. It's what really adds icing to this delicious cake! 

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It is always wonderful to watch film clips with a deep analysis of its modus operandis. Thans Mr. Edwards for that!

 

The clip itself is interesting not only because of its visual frame, that makes us belive no one can possibly enter on the room anymore; but also because of Groucho leading the overcrowded space with his verbal/cynical interventions

 

Great example od the early slapstick talkies!

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this is a great clip and it was a joy to watch it be broken down to help me get a better understanding of the work they put into it.

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For me, the funniest part of this gag is how they keep pushing the gag further and further. Every time you think they can't add any more people, they add another or three!  Building, building, building! One's laughter builds as well - you can hardly catch some of the jokes for laughing.

I think the door opening by Mrs. Claypool is nothing more than a way to end the gag, it's not really a punchline in the traditional sense...  it may be, however, a nod to the closet gag on radio's "Fibber McGee and Molly"?

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I loved the idea of groucho as the verbal conductor of the sequence. I tried to think about that as the scene evolved and it fits so well. It's his allowing in of unnecessary people that gets the room to such a disastrously full state. A fantastic example of that is the manicurist. He has the chance at that point to go "no sorry have a nice day" and move on but where's the funny in that lol

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     The “stateroom scene” from the Marx Brothers film, “A Night at the Opera” (1935) provides an interesting study in the choreography of a visual gag.  The packing of the room is more than a simple loading of the sardines into a can, because all of these sardines are dynamically engaged in performing their various tasks.  To make a scene this chaotic required a great deal of planning and control.  The humor lies in the build up, as more and more people show up needing to do something in the room.   My favorite is the maid who was there “to mop up.”  Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx) invites her in and quips that “you’ll have to start on the ceiling.  It’s the only place that isn’t occupied.”    Without hesitation, in she goes.  As mentioned, Groucho acts as doorkeeper and verbal conductor.  His quips add greatly to the humor.  While I have frequently laughed at the scene, I had never looked at it from a geometric standpoint.  It is the development of the diagonals, as Dr. Edwards pointed out, that creates the lateral force that caps the gag, when Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) opens the door and everyone cascades out.

 

     Of course, the scene is ridiculous and requires a suspension of disbelief -- it is the Marx Brothers, after all.  I find this scene to be one of the few times in their MGM movies that they captured the unbridled chaos of the last three Paramount pictures they did before going to MGM (“Monkey Business” 1931, “Horse Feathers” 1932 and “Duck Soup” 1933).  As it was later with Red Skelton, so it was with the Marx Brothers:  MGM was not a good studio for comedians.  “A Night at the Opera” is their first and best effort at MGM.  Even so, it makes this point, with its elaborate story and involved “love interest” subplot between Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) and Ricardo (Allan Jones).   

 

     While the end of the scene may remind some of Fibber McGee’s famous closet from the radio show “Fibber McGee and Molly,” it can not be a reference to it.  “A Night at the Opera” premiered in November of 1935.  The radio show debuted in the fall of 1935, but the “closet gag” came several years later.

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