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Classic Comedy Moments: The Stateroom Scene from A Night at the Opera (1935)

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Who’s to Thank: The Marx Brothers

The Setup: Businessman/con man Groucho boards a luxury liner bound for the United States and discovers his stateroom is slightly smaller than a bed-sit breakfast nook. Cohorts Chico and Harpo (who is out cold) join him, along with opera tenor Allan Jones–as stowaways. The four men (and a giant steamer trunk) nearly fill up what little space exists.

The Punchline: Groucho is forced to order food for the irksome Chico/Harpo/Jones trio. While they wait for grub, the knocking begins. First, maids enter. Then an engineer to fix the heat. Then a manicurist. Then the engineer’s assistant. Then a woman looking for her aunt Minnie. (When Groucho says she’s not there, the woman asks, “Well, can I come in and use the phone?” Groucho: “Use the phone–I’ll lay even money you can’t get in the room.”)

By this time, the place starts to resemble a well-choreographed ant farm. Then two more maids enter–to mop, of course. Groucho suggests the ceiling, because it’s the only empty space. They’re followed by four (count ’em, four) stewards, bearing the aforementioned food. Miraculously, everyone fits. Barely. Enter Margaret Dumont. She innocently opens the stateroom door from the outside and sets off a Fibber McGee & Molly-ish landslide.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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