A Night In Casablanca
I’ve been reviewing a lot of recent movies of late, and while that’s great and all, I do still want to try to spread things around. So I figured it was high time to check out another film from the golden age of black and while.
The last time I looked in on the Marx Brothers they were at their creative and critical apex with Duck Soup, today’s movie sees the brothers near the end of their film careers, though honeslty, there isn’t a huge difference
Made in 1946 A Night in Casablanca sets the Marx Brothers against fugitive Nazi war criminal Heinrich Stubel (Sig Ruman) in post-war Casablanca. Wanted by allied authorities Stubel has disguised himself as the respectable Count Pfefferman, and set about getting himself hired as the manager of the Casablanca hotel, so that he can locate and pilfer the stolen war booty that’s held there. Because he’s an evil Nazi, his method of doing this involves killing off anybody who gets hired as hotel manager until the authorities have no choice but to hire him. Unfortunately Stubel’s plans go awry when they instead hire one Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx). Madcap antics ensue as Kornblow, along with camel-taxi dispatcher/self-appointed bodyguard Corbaccio (Chico Marx) and Pfefferman’s mute valet Rusty (Harpo Marx) proceed to foil, (at first inadvertently, then deliberately), Stubel’s plans.
Compared to Duck Soup the plot is fairly coherent and meaningful, however it’s still ultimately just a frame on which the brothers can hang their comedy bits and musical interludes. Some of these are really quite funny. Groucho’s witticisms hold up particularly well.
One thing I found particularly interesting here was seeing how this comedy, set in its own present, approached the issues of the post-war world. The whole plot involves repatriation of German war booty, and an attempt by former Nazi officials to escape to South America. Meanwhile in another thread a French aviator Pierre (Charles Drake) was the man who actually transported the booty to Casablanca, he states that he was forced to do so at gun point, but in the absence of evidence he stands accused of collaboration with the enemy. I’ve seen these issues addressed historically, but I found it fascinating to see them addressed, not through the long lens of history, but as current events in the popular entertainment of the time.
On the whole A Night in Casablanca is a nice bit of fun. It’s not as madcap or zany as the earlier Duck Soup, and at points it definitely feels like the Marx Brothers are just going through the motions, but they’re some pretty fine motions that they’re going through, and they mostly still work. The film also functions as something of an unexpected primary source for an interesting piece of history. It’s certainly Worth Seeing.