Notes on A Night in Casablanca and these images

Nazi whore images

Chasing the fox images

Groucho Marx and Lisette Verea, 1946 image

Am I crazy, or did the Marx brothers end their 1946 film A Night in Casablanca with a joke about gang raping a Nazi?  I know this sounds incredibly unlikely for a 1946 comedy, but I've watched particularly the last minute of this film a dozen times and I don't know how else you can really take it. 

The basic premise of the film is that some Nazis have $5 million in stolen loot (including a Rembrandt) stashed in a hotel in Casablanca.  They murder the manager of the hotel in the first minute of the film, the third one.  Nobody will take the job, so they import a fool from out of town, ie Groucho.

One of the Nazis is a hot little fox named Beatrice (Lisette Verea).  Probably a third of the film consists of this woman using her femme fatale skills to try to lure Groucho out to be murdered by Nazis.  Now, even Chico explaining the general idea that she's trying to get him killed will not dissuade Groucho from chasing the fox, of course.  But surely this behavior makes the description "Nazi whore" more than reasonable.  She's been a knowing accessory to at least three murders, and she even came up with this plan for Groucho on her own.  I mean, how else would you describe THIS WOMAN?

Then they flip the character. Specifically, Beatrice overhears the other Nazis discussing their intention of skipping town with the loot but without her.  They're going to leave her holding the empty bag in Casablanca.  So she immediately switches sides.  She is now apparently a good girl, and not the murdering Nazi she was five minutes ago.  None of her skullduggery is mentioned again.  All is not just forgiven, but absolutely forgotten.

Or was it?  This brings us to that last minute of the film.  The Nazis have been hauled off and the happy romantic couple is reunited and having a nice kiss on the sidewalk.  The former Nazi whore is standing on the corner across the street with the three brothers.  They're all cooing over the nice couple, when Beatrice remarks in the last line of the film "If a thing like that could only happen to me." 

Immediately, all eyes are on Beatrice.  Within literally a couple of seconds of that statement, Groucho and Chico are staring at her while they're taking off their jackets.  Seeing the unmistakable looks in all of their eyes, Beatrice wisely panics and flees in terror with the Marx brothers in hot pursuit.  The end, roll credits.

So just how was that going to play out in, say, the next ten minutes after the camera is gone?  I mean, what makes that funny?  What do you think they intended to do with the fox when they caught it?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but did they spare her prison and execution like the other Nazis so that she could be gang romanced by a pack of crazed Jews?

Study THESE IMAGES of the last few seconds of the film, and TELL ME how else to take it.  It seems like you'd really have to carefully blank out the obvious implications, ignore the obvious intentions of the characters and assume that somehow the fox gets away.  Apparently neither the Hays board or anyone in the public took any implication anything like what I'm describing here.  So maybe I'm just nuts.  But what other interpretation makes sense?  Are we expected to shut off our minds and not imagine anything that would likely happen even in the next few minutes after the film ends?

Perhaps the point was simply so outrageous that it didn't quite consciously register.  The Marx brothers got away with a lot.  Harpo could act in lustful and other manners that maybe some couldn't, because he was, you know, lovable Harpo. He in particular projects a uniquely personal sense of essential innocence that covered a lot of film mischief.  Plus, they just slide it by with a laugh in a few seconds and the credits are rolling and you're on your way out to the lobby thinking about what to have for dinner.  They were also very deft at using a light touch. The film only contains the word "Nazi" once that I could tell, spoken more or less literally in a whisper by a minor character.

My godson's Ma rejected my interpretation out of hand on the grounds that the Marx brothers were not evil, so they would have never present anything intended like that.  Perhaps, but then how evil would it really be to demand services of a woman who has tried to kill you several times this week?  Seems like the least you might expect in exchange for not killing her.  Plus, try to imagine being Jews in 1946.  Even the nicest and funniest ones might at least think some fairly dark thoughts.  I would definitely have some trouble imagining even (or perhaps especially) comedians being quite so forgiving and forgetting of even a comic movie Nazi at that exact historical moment as they otherwise seem here.


Original screenplay by Joseph Fields and Roland Kibbee

the Marx brothers whipping Nazi ass


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