A NIGHT AT THE (SOAP) OPERA – Act IV

As the curtain rises on Act IV, we pick up where we left off in Act III:

We’ve come at long last to the denouement (aka the point in the presentation where it’s time to wrap up the plot before the popcorn runs out): Fiorello and Tomasso abduct and gag lead tenor Alasprairie during the onstage uproar and take him to a site out of sight, where he’s fit to be tied. Gottliebchen is in a bind: a replacement tenor is needed to quiet the affronted audience, as well as those seated in the rear. Ricardo Macaroni happens to be handy. Gottliebchen gives in. Ricardo and the lovely Rosa Grossa sing an aria. The audience is enthralled. Miraculously, everything has worked out in….

THE END?

But as we all know, it’s not the end until the fat lady sings — a requisite which is unaccountably missing in this opera. Fortunately for our fannies, the fat lady who doesn’t sing in this opera did sing to end this earlier opera, which will serve our purpose here:

Now that’s what I call leaving on borrowed time.

 

A NIGHT AT THE (SOAP) OPERA – Act III

When last we met, leaving our three stowaways on the good ship Lollipoop, Tomasso had cut the beards off of three Russian aviators, and he, Fiorello and Ricardo had assumed their identities….or so you were left to assume. But you don’t have to take my word for it….

Having escaped from the speakers’ platform outside City Hall with plainclothes detective Henderson in pursuit, the stowaways and Driftwort take refuge in a nearby hotel, where they have a flat and retire. In the a.m., they have room service send up their breakfast.

Just when you thought the opening night of the opera season would never arrive, it does….and so does Driftwort, only to learn that he has been fired by Missis Playpool for associating with riffraff (how riffraff got into the act, I’ll never know). Not to be denied, Driftwort (together with Tomasso and Fiorello) goes to Gottliebchen’s office, locks him in a closet, replaces Gottliebchen as Missis Playpool’s escort, and delivers the opening night address, which is the same as the day address, but not as easy to see:

Is there no end to this madness? For the answer to that question, you will have to return for Act IV. Until then….

A NIGHT AT THE (SOAP) OPERA – Act II

SCENE: A ship sailing from Wherever to New Yurt
TIME:   A day or two after Whenever
CAST:   The usual suspects (same characters as Act I)

As the curtain opens on Act II, we find Opus E. Driftwort, Missis Playpool, Hermano Gottliebchen, renowned tenor Rodolpho Alasprairie, and beautiful soprano Rosa Grossa, who has been selected as the leading lady, onboard the good ship Lollipoop (which was pirated from an earlier opera set in the deep South titled BRAT EYES, starring Surly Temper as the leading child). The ship is about to depart for New Yurt, where the famous New Yurt Opera House is believed to be located.

Sadly, tenor Ricardo Macaroni (Allan Jonesboro), who is in love with Rosa (and her with he), is being left behind on the dock, leading to this heart-breaking parting of the ways:

Shortly thereafter, Driftwort enters his cabin and proceeds with the tusk of opening his trunk, only to find it packed with hungry stowaways Fiorello and Tomasso Marxista and Macaroni.

Later, following much more merrymaking, music, and muddled madness, the stowaways are caught and confined to quarters for a change. Fiorello subsequently tires of listening to Tomasso’s kazoo and tosses it out the porthole. Tomasso leaps after it into the ocean, from which a lifeline lifts him into the stateroom of three bearded Russian aviators taking a nap. Tomasso then takes to his scissors, leaving three Russian aviators beardless and three stowaways becoming bearded Russian aviators Chicoski, Harpotski and Baronoff.

Bear with us — we’re off until Act III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A NIGHT AT THE (SOAP) OPERA

SCENE: Wherever
TIME: Whenever

CAST:

Groucho Marxisto        OPUS E. DRIFTWORT
Chico Marxisto             FIORELLO BLOWHARDO
Harpo Marxisto           TOMASSO PASTO
Margaret Dontmont    MISSIS PLAYPOOL
Sig Rumanboardo       HERMANO GOTLIEBCHEN
Kitty Carlisimo            ROSA GROSSA
Allan Jonesboro          RICARDO MACARONI
Walter Wolf Kink        RODOLPHO ALASPRAIRIE
Roberto O’Connor      POLICE DETECTIVE BANDITO MUSOLINI HENDERSON

ACT 1

Missis Playpool , millionaire dowager and high-society wannabe, has been stood up for dinner at a fancy restaurant by Opus E. Driftwort, gold-digging entrepreneur. After being discovered dining with a gorgeous blond at the next table, Driftwort worms his way out of the situation and sits down with Missis Playpool for a second dinner, during which he professes his undying love for her. Repulsed, he then proposes a plan to get her into society by investing $200,000 (in round figures) in the New Yurt Opera Company.

Hermano Gotliebchen, impresario of the opera, happily accepts Missis Playpool’s money with intent to hire celebrated Italian tenor Rodolpho Alasprairie, who beats his valet, Tomasso Pasto, for trying on one of Rodolpho’s costumes before the opera which Missis Playpool attends, after which she and Gotliebchen agree to sign the tenor to a contract. Got that?

Enter Fiorello Blowhardo, who claims to represent the “greatest tenor in the world” (Ricardo Macaroni, a little-known singer in the chorus). Driftwort, thinking Blowhardo represents Alasprairie, tries to get Blowhardo to sign a contract in which Driftwort gets $990 of the $1,000-a-week contract for the “greatest tenor’s” services….but the contract has too many disagreeable clauses, which they agree to rip out until they’re down to the last clause, which happens to be the sanity clause. Of course, Blowhardo claims there ain’t no Sanity Claus, and that’s the end of Act One.

There will now be a short intermission, during which you are free to check out the commercials, or go to the fridge for a beer, before we resume with Act Two.

 

 

THE SOUND OF SILENTS

You sure you can’t move? –what Harpo Marx “said” to the tied-up hero (Richard Dix) before punching him in the 1925 film TOO MANY KISSES (fortunately, the film survived)

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Italicized above are the only words ever “spoken” (but not heard) on film by the man whose birthday we note today, HARPO MARX. The audience didn’t hear those five words because the film was a “silent” — “talkies” didn’t come on the scene until 1927, two years before the first of thirteen Marx Brothers movies (1929-49). Harpo spoke in none of them.

But why, oh why-o, should I try-o to “bio” Harpo, when here-o you can click on the official thing from his offspring:

https://www.harposplace.com/

Because Harpo associated with Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and other wits in the famed Algonquin Round Table repartee, I expected to turn up a number of witty Harpo Marx quotes for this piece. No such luck — I found only one I enjoyed enough to post here (both the “she” referred to in the quote, and who it is addressed to, are unknown):

“She’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.”

One quote being three quotes short of a gallon, I shall return to giving you “the silent treatment” with a quota of four quotes of silence said by forethoughtful others:

“Listen to the sound of silence.” –Paul Simon, American singer, songwriter, and actor

“Silence is golden unless you have kids, then it’s just plain suspicious.” –anonymous

“If nobody ever said anything unless he knew what he was talking about, what a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth!” –A. P. Herbert, English humorist, writer, and politician

“I believe in the discipline of silence and can talk for hours about it.” –George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic

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Since I didn’t give Harpo the last word, I’ll let him give his audience the last laugh….and though he doesn’t speak, you’ll hear captivating sounds escape his lips 2:42 into this clip:

Bravo, Harpo!

EPILOGUE: Listen — 90+ years after the “silents” ended*, you can still hear….

*with the exception of two Charlie Chaplin masterpieces in the 1930s, CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES

HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: THE GRAMMAR GIRLS

Speaking of distinctive actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age, we turn from glamour girls (in my previous post) to a group of gals who made up in individuality what they lacked in allure. There were perhaps no actresses more unique and unforgettable in any category than the so-called character actors. Bring up such names as Margaret Hamilton, Marjorie Main, and Margaret Dumont (apart from their photos) to any classic film buff, and there’d be no problem matching which name belongs with which (or witch) face; same with their immediately recognizable voices. In a manner of speaking, they were vocal gold.

BTW, I have something in common with That Hamilton Woman. Like my wife, she was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was once a teacher….but unlike my wife, she was unlike my wife (and vice versa….or is it verse vica).

Character actresses may not be leading ladies, but there’s one who was always the Main attraction :

My last post started with a birthday girl; this post ends with one….and what a one: Margaret Dumont (born Oct. 20, 1882), the gloriously inimitable foil of Groucho in nine of the Marx Brothers’ thirteen films, as typified by the following story.

In a play in which she played Mrs. Rittenhouse (and which was later made into an early Marx Brothers film), the brothers abandoned the script during one performance and began improvising scene after scene….from here, I quote from the book THE MARX BROTHERS AT THE MOVIES:

After some time she decided to take her chances and enter in the middle of it all. At that moment, Chico and Harpo simply walked off the stage, leaving the great dowager face-to-face with Groucho. So Groucho, with his characteristic speed of mind, gestured to a nearby divan. “Ah, Mrs. Rittenhouse,” he proclaimed. “Won’t you…er…lie down?” It had gotten a laugh on Broadway, so the brothers simply took it with them when they traveled to the Astoria studio [to make movies].

There’s a scene in my favorite Marx Brothers movie, DUCK SOUP, in which Dumont’s character addresses Groucho’s character, Rufus T. Firefly, President of Fredonia, as “Your Excellency!”…to which he replies, “You’re not so bad yourself.”
To which I can but add, You Bet Your Life!