The first Marx Brothers film made without brother Zeppo Marx, this film started a new trend of The Marx Brothers movies featuring a Zeppo-like supporting character who carries the love story and sings the song.
At the suggestion of producer Irving Thalberg, the film marked a change of direction in the brothers' career.
In their Paramount films, the brothers' characters were much more anarchic: they attacked anybody who was so unfortunate to cross their paths whether they deserved it or not, albeit comically.
Thalberg, however, felt that this made the brothers unsympathetic, particularly to female filmgoers.
So in the MGM films, the brothers were recast as more helpful characters, saving their comic attacks for the villains.
The famous "stateroom scene" was originally conceived as a way of getting a cheap laugh by having Groucho Marx, crowded out of his room, changing his pants in the corridor. There are 15 people n the scene. The stateroom scene has been paid homage may times over the years.
Cyndi Lauper featured a similar overcrowded stateroom gag in her music video for the song Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Sting also recreated the overcrowded stateroom gag in his music video for the 1991 song All This Time.
An 8th season episode of Seinfeld titled The Pothole features a homage to the stateroom scene in which the four main characters all cram into a small janitor's closet that Elaine is using to get Chinese food delivered; they all end up spilling out after Kramer spills ammonia.
When Driftwood (Groucho Marx) asks Fiorello if he knows what duplicates are, Fiorello says, "Sure, those five kids up in Canada". This is a reference to The Dionne Quintuplets.
Producer Irving Thalberg would often call people in for meetings, and then keep them waiting in his office for hours while he attended other meetings on the MGM lot.
One day, during pre-production for A Night at the Opera, Thalberg kept the Marx Brothers waiting for several hours in his secretary's office, while he was in his own office making phone calls. When Thalberg's secretary went home for the day, the brothers decided they'd had enough.
They pushed the office file cabinets against Thalberg's door, trapping the producer in his office. Afterwards, Thalberg kept his appointments with the Marx Brothers, but would often interrupt his meetings with them and step out to attend other meetings - again keeping the brothers waiting for hours.
One day, Thalberg came back from another meeting to find Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, and Harpo Marx sitting in his office completely naked, and roasting potatoes on sticks in his office fireplace. Thalberg sat down with them, had a potato, and never missed or interrupted another meeting with the Marx Brothers.
In exasperation after several attempts to have Groucho Marx read one of his lines in the manner director Sam Wood had requested, Wood exclaimed, "I guess you just can't make an actor out of clay." Groucho Marx instantly responded, "Nor a director out of Wood."
Kitty Carlisle initially refused to take the part when she was asked to mime to someone else's voice. But out of her decades of movie roles, co-starring with the Marx Brothers in this movie gained her the most recognition.
Groucho does a very brief Jack Benny impression in the film. After "Otis P. Driftwood" makes the speech to the audience, Groucho gestures to the orchestra pit and says, "Play, Don!" This is a Benny line from the radio series; Jack Benny's orchestra leader, Don Bestor, was always cued this way.
The first storyline was about Groucho Marx as the producer of an opera. That story was dropped but appeared many times in Hollywood as a story idea - until Mel Brooks made The Producers in 1968 and got an Academy Award.
Gino Corrado appeared in almost 400 films, under 7 different stage namesand he appeared uncredited as a waiter in both Citizen Kane and in Casablanca, the only actor to appear in both films. He also appeared in three other legendary films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Gone with the Wind and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Tonight he plays a porter.
Allan Jones, playing Ricardo, was the father of singer Jack Jones. Classically trained in opera, the handsome Jones worked on Broadway and in operettas until 1935, when he was signed by MGM. He is best remembered for his roles in the two Marx Brothers movies A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, and for his costarring role in Show Boat (1936).
Kitty Carlisle and Alan Jones, who were both trained in classical singing, sing for themselves in the movie.
The film was to have originally begun with each of the Marx Brothers taking turns roaring in lieu of Leo the Lion (MGM's logo mascot); Harpo Marx was to have honked his horn. For unknown reasons, this unique opening wasn’t used for the actual film, although it did turn up years later in a re-release trailer.
In the scene where the three stowaways are impersonating Russian aviators, Driftwood seems to talk gibberish with the dignitaries. As a matter of fact, it is English. When played backwards, they are saying ("This man is accusing you of being impostors", etc.). It was recorded normally, then reversed and dubbed over the scene in post-production.
The film may drag in spots because of MGM’s expensive production values and songs. The British rock group Queen paid homage to this film by naming one of their most famous albums after it.
At the end of the 1990 film The Freshman, Rodolfo Lassparri is the alias used on Matthew Broderick's passport.
In the 1950s Groucho was invited to take a tour of the New York Stock Exchange. While in the observation booth, he grabbed the public address system handset and began singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady.
Upon hearing silence coming from the trading floor, he walked into view, was given a loud cheer by the traders, and shouted, "Gentlemen, in 1929 I lost $800,000 on this floor, and I intend to get my money's worth!"
For fifteen minutes, he sang, danced, told jokes, and all this time the Wall Street stock ticker was running blank.