A Day at the Races (1937) is the seventh movie starring the three Marx Brothers, with Margaret Dumont, Allan Jones and Maureen O'Sullivan. Like their previous MGM feature A Night at the Opera, this film was a major hit.
The plot revolves around Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho), who is a veterinarian illegally employed as the medical director of Standish Sanitarium, which is owned by Judy Standish (O'Sullivan). Among other things they have to do to save the sanitarium from developers is to keep Mrs. Upjohn (Dumont) as a patient. She, of course, insists on being treated only by Dr. Hackenbush. To try to expose Groucho as a fraud, the bad guys call in Dr. Steinberg, who is played by Siegfried Rumann
(also known as Sig Ruman), who was also Groucho's nemesis in A Night at the Opera
and A Night in Casablanca
. Exterior sequences were filmed at Santa Anita Park
Often considered one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Chico gives Groucho a tip on a horse, but in code, so that Groucho has to buy book after book from Chico to decipher the code.
In another scene, Chico and Harpo try to keep Groucho away from the femme fatale by wallpapering right over everything. The bucket on Harpo's head is holding the paste.
Some of the songs in the movie by Bronislaw Kaper, Walter Jurmann, and Gus Kahn include "Tomorrow Is Another Day,"and "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" (which also featured Ivie Anderson and other members of Duke Ellington's orchestra). Two additional songs were filmed but cut. The first, "Dr. Hackenbush", was sung by Groucho about what a great doctor he is ("No matter what I treat them for they die from something else"). The other, "A Message From The Man In The Moon", is missing from the main part of the film but shows up in the titles and is "reprised" by Groucho for the big, happy ending. The DVD release includes a recently rediscovered audio recording of the song, performed by Allan Jones.
The film also features one of the most influential lindy hop dance sequences ever filmed, danced to the "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" number and featuring the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, including Norma Miller and Dorothy Dandridge. The scene has no clear association with the larger narrative film so as to simplify editing the scene from the film for release in the southern American states under racist censorship laws.
Although the film was generally well received, many fans consider it to be the beginning of the Brothers' decline, with a more formulaic approach taking hold of their work. In addition, the Brothers' leading advocate at MGM
, producer Irving Thalberg
, died in mid-production, thus depriving them of the studio executive who understood their humor best.
- "Tomorrow Is Another Day"
- "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm"
- "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"
- "A Message from the Man in the Moon"
- "Cosi Cosa" (instrumental version at the race track)
In My life with Groucho: A son's eye view
Arthur Marx relates that in his latter years Groucho increasingly referred to himself by the name Hackenbush, suggesting that Groucho identified with this character more than any other.
- Groucho takes Harpo's pulse. The scene is silent for several seconds as Groucho holds Harpo's wrist and stares at his watch. Employing logic that would make Gracie Allen proud, Groucho then says, "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped."
- At the end of the film, the sanitarium saved, Groucho quips to Dumont: "Marry me and I'll never look at any other horse!"
- Elisabeth Buxbaum: Veronika, der Lenz ist da. Walter Jurmann – Ein Musiker zwischen den Welten und Zeiten. Mit einem Werkverzeichnis von Alexander Sieghardt. Edition Steinbauer, Wien 2006, ISBN 3-902494-18-2
- Arthur Marx, My life with Groucho: A Son's eye view, PAN, 1991, ISBN: 0330311328