As discussed in Part I, ANATO was the Marx Brothers’ first MGM film, and marked not only the start of their work as a trio vs. a quartet, but also the start of a new direction in their comedy style. Gone were the freewheeling scripts of their Paramount years, replaced by more structured plots, requisite subplots revolving around young lovers, and a gradually increasing number of non-comedic musical interludes.
This film was also their first to be previewed before live audiences on the road prior to starting the filming process. Producer Irving Thalberg wanted to make absolutely sure these comedy routines would be big hits, and to time the laughs by the planting of gags. As a result of these road shows, some scenes and gags were cut, and others were created or further developed.
Amazingly, one of the scenes almost cut because of the lack of laughs on the vaudeville circuit was the famous stateroom scene, in which eventually 15 people are stuffed into a room even smaller than an efficiency apartment. It only took on its famous, final character when the Marxes threw away the script and ad-libbed everything.
Director Sam Wood originally wanted to dub the voices of Metropolitan Opera singers over those of Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but they protested so fiercely, Mr. Wood abandoned the idea. He also compared their voices to those of the planned dubs, and realized no dubbing would be necessary. However, Walter Woolf King (villain Lassparri)’s voice was dubbed over by a Metropolitan singer. He plays a tenor in the film, and in real life, he was a trained baritone.
The beautiful song “Alone” was also slated to be cut, since Groucho and Chico felt it slowed down the action, but Allan went to Irving Thalberg to plead his case. He successfully convinced the producer the song would be a hit, and indeed it was. “Alone” became Allan’s first big hit in his musical career. ANATO also contains another of his early hits, “Cosi, Cosa.”
The film originally opened with the image of a boat on a canal and the superimposed title card “ITALY—WHERE THEY SING ALL DAY AND GO TO THE OPERA AT NIGHT.” There followed several images of everyday Italians performing various bits and pieces from Pagliacci. This opening montage was cut during a WWII rerelease, so people wouldn’t think it God forbid started in Italy or had any connection to Italians.
Several other lines referencing Italy were also cut, but thankfully, a print containing these snippets was discovered in the Hungarian National Film Archive in 2008. Unfortunately, that slightly longer print still doesn’t contain the original opening scene.