Groucho Marx is one of my comical inspirators who makes me laugh out loud with his sharp and witty one liners. I used to watch the Marx Brothers films which he and his 4 brothers made. It was like life can be: chaotic, lyrical and humorous. I would like to think that his sense of humor is catchy and perhaps some may have noticed that I caught it.
Groucho Marx was considered the most recognizable of the Marx Brothers. Groucho-like characters and references have appeared in popular culture both during and after his life, some aimed at audiences who may never have seen a Marx Brothers movie. Marx’s trademark eyeglasses, nose, mustache, and cigar have become icons of comedy—glasses with fake noses and mustaches are sold by novelty and costume shops around the world.
Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star. He is generally considered to be a master of quick wit and one of America’s greatest comedians.
He made 13 feature films as a team with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, primarily on radio and television, most notably as the host of the game show You Bet Your Life.
His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, spectacles, cigar, a thick greasepaint mustache, and eyebrows. These exaggerated features resulted in the creation of one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous novelty disguises, known as Groucho glasses: a one-piece mask consisting of horn-rimmed glasses, a large plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache.
Julius Henry Marx was born on October 2, 1890, in Manhattan, New York. It was populated with European immigrants, mostly artisans. Marx started his career in vaudeville in 1905 when he joined up with an act called The Leroy Trio. In 1909, Marx and his brothers had become a group act. The brothers’ mother, Minnie Marx, was the group’s manager, putting them together and booking their shows. The group had a rocky start, performing in less than adequate venues and rarely, if ever, being paid for their performances. Eventually one of the brothers would leave to serve in World War I and was replaced by Herbert (Zeppo), and the group became known as the Marx Brothers.
Groucho made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Marx developed a routine as a wisecracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.Their first movie was a silent film made in 1921 that was never released, and is believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made two of their Broadway hits—The Cocoanuts and Animal Cracker—into movies. Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera.
Marx also worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was a short-lived series in 1932, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, costarring Chico. Though most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress. In 1947, Marx was asked to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life. It was broadcast by ABC and then CBS before moving to NBC. It moved from radio to television on October 5, 1950, and ran for eleven years. Filmed before an audience, the show consisted of Marx bantering with the contestants and ad-libbing jokes before briefly quizzing them. The show was responsible for popularizing the phrases “Say the secret word and the duck will come down and give you fifty dollars,” “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” and “What color is the White House?” (asked to reward a losing contestant a consolation prize).
Marx’s three marriages ended in divorce. His first wife was chorus girl Ruth Johnson. The couple had two children, Arthur Marx and Miriam Marx. His second wife was Kay Marvis. Marx was 54 and Kay was 21 at the time of their marriage. They had a daughter, Melinda Marx. His third wife was actress Eden Hartford. He was 64 and she was 24 at the time of their wedding. During the early 1950s, Marx described his perfect woman: “Someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe and talks like George S. Kaufman.”
Despite his lack of formal education, he wrote many books, including his autobiography, Groucho and Me (1959) and Memoirs of a Mangy Lover (1963). He was a friend of such literary figures as Booth Tarkington, T. S. Eliot and Carl Sandburg. Much of his personal correspondence with those and other figures is featured in the book The Groucho Letters (1967) with an introduction and commentary on the letters written by Marx, who donated his letters to the Library of Congress. His daughter Miriam published a collection of his letters to her in 1992 titled Love, Groucho.
As he passed his 81st birthday in 1971, Marx became increasingly frail, physically and mentally, as a result of a succession of minor strokes and other health issues. On the 1974 Academy Awards telecast, Marx’s final major public appearance, Jack Lemmon presented him with an honorary Academy Award to a standing ovation. The award honored Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo as well: “in recognition of his brilliant creativity and for the unequalled achievements of the Marx Brothers in the art of motion picture comedy. Noticeably frail, Marx took a bow for his deceased brothers. “I wish that Harpo and Chico could be here to share with me this great honor,” he said, naming the two deceased brothers. Marx’s final appearance was a brief sketch with George Burns in the Bob Hope television special Joys. His health continued to decline the following year; when his younger brother Gummo died at age 83 on April 21, 1977, Marx was never told for fear of eliciting still further deterioration of his health.
Marx maintained his irrepressible sense of humor to the very end, however. George Fenneman, his radio and TV announcer, good-natured foil, and lifelong friend, often related a story of one of his final visits to Marx’s home: When the time came to end the visit, Fenneman lifted Marx from his wheelchair, put his arms around his torso, and began to “walk” the frail comedian backwards across the room towards his bed. As he did, he heard a weak voice in his ear: “Fenneman,” whispered Marx, “you always were a lousy dancer.” When a nurse approached him with a thermometer during his final hospitalization, explaining that she wanted to see if he had a temperature, he responded, “Don’t be silly — everybody has a temperature.” Actor Elliott Gould recalled a similar incident: “I recall the last time I saw Groucho, he was in the hospital, and he had tubes in his nose and what have you,” he said. “And when he saw me, he was weak, but he was there; and he put his fingers on the tubes and played them like it was a clarinet. Groucho played the tubes for me, which brings me to tears.”
Marx was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with pneumonia on June 22, 1977, and died there nearly two months later at the age of 86 in August that year.
Marx was cremated and the ashes are interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. He was survived by his three children and younger brother Zeppo, who outlived him by two years. His gravestone bears no epitaph, but in one of his last interviews he suggested one: “Excuse me, I can’t stand up.”
Groucho Marx once said, ‘Anyone can get old — all you have to do is to live long enough’.
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Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Brainyquote, interweb, poetpas