A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA || 1946, USA || Comedy || Directed by – Archie Mayo / Produced by – David L. Leow / Written by – Joseph Fields, Rolend Kibbee, Frank Tashlin / Music by – Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Werner Janssen / Starring – Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx / Running time: 85 mins.
In 1946, the Marx Brothers returned to the big screen with A Night in Casablanca. They had stayed off it for nearly five years – their last motion picture had been The Big Store – and had considered themselves retired. Why the comeback? Financial problems, especially Chico’s. The end result does not reach, quite expectedly, the qualitative levels of their 30’s films, which remains unsurpassed to this day. It is certainly more in tune with later output by the Marx Brothers; in short, it’s funny but doesn’t particularly stand out. Still, their anarchic nature remains, as does their inability to stick to a structured format – the film was originally lined up as a spoof of Casablanca, as the title implies. Instead, it is something quite different, more à la Animal Crackers.
Here, Groucho is hired as the manager of a hotel, unaware of the fact that he has been hired because no one else will take the job. Why? Because it usually ends in precocious death by murder for whoever lands in it. Chico becomes his unlikely manager, aided by his valet, Harpo.
To be sure, there was, is and never will be a team up as talented and as funny as the Marx Brothers; just seeing them on the screen together is a delight. The film has its fair share of zany one-liners and characteristic physical humour. They’re not given much to work with, as far as plot is concerned, and as often is the case, scenes are far too dragged out and even the usual musical numbers feel like fillers, when they should really be the icing on the case.
When put up against A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup and others, there is simply no comparison. But as thoughtless, escapist, post-war (yes, there are Nazis in it!) entertainment, this, along with Love Happy (1949) is a nice post-scriptum to one of the greatest and most celebrated filmographies of any comedy team in history, though perhaps more so for the fans who simply cannot get enough of them. – 3/5