A Night At The Opera

Choose an American narrative film made between 1930 and 1960 and write a research paper in which you analyze the film from an historical perspective. 

Choose one of the following areas for your research:

  • How does the film exploit a new technology? (sound, color, widescreen)
  • How does the film represent a particular social issue? (sexuality, gender, race relations, warfare, crime)
  • How does the film exemplify a particular filmmaking movement, genre or cycle? (film noir, method acting, independent production)
  • What is the films relationship to larger trends in the film industry? (the Production Code, the blacklist, the decline of the studio system)
  • How does the film respond to technological developments outside Hollywood? (radio, television)


The chosen film for this project is A Night at the Opera, by the Marx Brothers. The topic of this research paper is How does A Night at the Opera exemplify the Comedy Genre? 

The Marx Brothers were not only some of the greatest comedians in cinema, they also set standards for comedy as being among the first major sensations in comedy as the film industry truly began to take off in the 1930s. Not to mention being the source of iconic lines and scenes still famous to this day. Physical comedy, prop comedy, insult comedy, witty wordplay, misdirection, slapstick, clever and inventive writing/improvisation, choreography, timing, the list goes on, and Night at the Opera is one of the Marx Brother's finest examples of their work.

A Night At The Opera

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Your research paper should include close analysis of your chosen films cinematic, narrative and thematic strategies, while also incorporating historical information that places your analysis in a wider context, using sources from your bibliography. Your final paper should be a well-written, thoroughly researched, and logically structured piece that demonstrates your knowledge of a particular topic and your ability to integrate this information into a close reading of an individual film.  The paper should be 2,500 words in length (approximately 8-10 pages).

General guidelines:

  • Write, re-write and re-write again. Papers always improve with continued effort.
  • Use proper citation format: Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Underline or italicize titles of all books and films; quotation marks should only be used for article titles.
  • Read your paper aloud to check for awkward passages.
  • Proofread your paper for typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before handing it in.
  • Number all pages.
  • Give your paper an engaging title.

Potential sources: (The paper needs sources, but the following sources are merely options, not strictly required to be used)

  • Charney,Maurice. The Comic World of the Marx Brothers Movies: Anything FurtherFather? Madison [N.J: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007. Print.
  • Eyles,Allen. The Marx Brothers; Their World of Comedy. [2d ed.]. New York:A.S. Barnes, 1969. Print.
  • Koestenbaum,Wayne. The Anatomy of Harpo Marx. 1st ed. Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 2012. Web.

  • Chiaro,Delia. Tearing up the Sanity Clause: A Class Action. Humor (Berlin,Germany) 32.2 (2019): 171178. Web.

  • Ulmer,Gregory L. A Night at the Text: Roland Barthess Marx Brothers. YaleFrench studies 73.73 (1987): 3857. Web.

  • Niland,Richard. Say, Who Are You Anyway?: Clowns, Childhood, and Madness in TheCharacter of Harpo Marx. Journal of popular culture 45.4 (2012): 828845.Web.

  • Nightat the Opera, A. Encyclopdia Britannica Online 2020: n. pag. Print.

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