Featuring: Groucho Marx

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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https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/groucho-marx-quotes

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Brainyquote, interweb, poetpas

Featuring: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

My all time favorite movie this is. It has everything in it: drama, comedy, good story and plot, great actors and solid acting. I personally think that this is Jack Nicholson’s best performance. He was well casted and personified a perfect McMurphy. And so was Louise Fletcher who played nurse Ratched. I must have watched it over 100 times.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1975 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Kirk Douglas acquired the rights to the screenplay and Micheal Douglas was the producer. The film stars Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, a new patient at a mental institution, and features a supporting cast of Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Sydney Lassick, Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in his film debut.

Filming began in January 1975 and lasted three months, taking place on location in Salem, Oregon, and the surrounding area, as well as on the Oregon coast. The producers decided to shoot the film in the Oregon State Hospital, an actual mental hospital, as this was also the setting of the novel.

Considered by some to be one of the greatest films ever made, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director and Screenplay). It also won numerous Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. In 1993, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Plot: (contains spoilers!)
In 1963 Oregon, recidivist malefactor Randle Patrick McMurphy is moved to a mental institution after serving a short sentence on a prison farm for several charges of assault, and statutory rape of a 15-year-old. Though not actually mentally ill, McMurphy hopes to avoid hard labor and serve the rest of his sentence in a relaxed environment. Upon arriving at the hospital, he finds the ward run by nurse Mildred Ratched, a cold, passive-aggressive tyrant who uses her rules and authority to intimidate her charges into a restrictive, joyless existence.
The other patients include anxious, stuttering Billy Bibbit; Charlie Cheswick, who is prone to childish tantrums; delusional and innocent Martini; the well-educated, paranoid Dale Harding; belligerent and profane Max Taber; epileptics Jim Sefelt and Bruce Fredrickson, the former of whom gives his medicine to the latter; quiet but violent-minded Scanlon, “Chief” Bromden, a very tall Native American deaf-mute, and several others with more chronic conditions. Ratched soon sees McMurphy’s lively, rebellious presence as a threat to her authority, and she confiscates the patients’ cigarettes and rations them, and suspends their card-playing privileges. During his time in the ward, McMurphy gets into a battle of wills with Ratched. He steals a hospital bus, escaping with several patients to go on a fishing trip, encouraging his friends to discover their own abilities and find self-confidence.
After learning that the judge’s time sentence doesn’t apply to the hospital, and he could remain there indefinitely, McMurphy makes plans to escape, encouraging Chief to throw a hydrotherapy console through a window. It is also revealed that McMurphy, Chief, and Taber are the only non-chronic patients sentenced to staying at the institution, as the rest are self-committed and could voluntarily check-out at any time, but are too afraid to do so. McMurphy, Chief, and Cheswick get into a fight with the orderlies after the latter becomes agitated over his confiscated cigarettes. Ratched sends them to the “shock shop”, where McMurphy discovers Chief can actually speak and hear, having feigned his deaf-muteness to avoid engaging with anyone. After being subjected to electroconvulsive therapy, McMurphy returns to the ward pretending to have brain damage, although he reveals the treatment has made him even more determined. McMurphy and Chief make plans to escape, but decide to throw a secret Christmas party for their friends after Ratched leaves for the night.
McMurphy sneaks two women, Candy and Rose, into the ward, bringing bottles of alcohol, and bribes the night guard. After a night of partying, McMurphy and Chief prepare to escape, inviting Billy to come with them. Not ready to leave the hospital, he refuses. Billy asks for a “date” with Candy and McMurphy arranges for him to have sex with her. Ratched arrives in the morning to find the ward in disarray and most of the patients passed out drunk. She discovers Billy and Candy together, and aims to embarrass Billy in front of everyone. Billy manages to overcome his stutter and stands up to Ratched, until she threatens to inform his mother about his escapade. Billy’s stutter returns and he cracks under the pressure. Nurse Ratched has him placed in the doctor’s office to wait for the doctor to arrive. Moments later when McMurphy is trying to escape, Billy commits suicide. McMurphy flies into a rage and pins Ratched to the floor, choking her with both hands until Washington knocks him out. Some time later, Ratched comes back with a neck brace and a scratchy voice, and Harding now leads the now-unsuspended card-playing. Rumors spread that McMurphy has escaped in order to avoid being taken “upstairs”. Later that night, Chief sees McMurphy being returned to his bed. When McMurphy is utterly unresponsive and physically limp, Chief discovers lobotomy scars on his forehead. In an act of mercy, Chief smothers McMurphy to death with a pillow. He then finally is able to lift the hydrotherapy foundation out of the floor, throws it through the window, and escapes into the night, cheered on by Taber.

I feel that this is a movie that everyone must have seen at least once in their lives. You can’t not watch it; it’s too good not to…I also have a top 10 list of movies if anyone’s interested 😊

Check it out (or not):

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas

Featuring: Django Reinhardt

Not known to everyone, this guitarist has changed my life in a way that is impossible for me to put into words. His compositions, play and melodies are beyond explanation, and even comprehension I might add. In my view, he is technically the best guitarist I have ever heard (with the use of only 3 fingers). His music influenced my life and writing and changed my view on music. It was also my introduction to the world of jazz, which made me discover other great musicians which I will feature in other posts.

Django Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer. He was the first jazz talent to emerge from Europe and remains the most significant.
With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt formed the Paris-based Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. The group was among the first to play jazz that featured the guitar as a lead instrument. Reinhardt recorded in France with many visiting American musicians, including Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, and briefly toured the United States with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1946. He died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 43.

Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become standards within gypsy jazz, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages”. Jazz guitarist Frank Vignola claims that nearly every major popular-music guitarist in the world has been influenced by Reinhardt. Over the last few decades, annual Django festivals have been held throughout Europe and the U.S., and a biography has been written about his life. In February 2017, the Berlin International Film Festival held the world premiere of the French film Django.

When Django was 18 he nearly died. On the night of 2 November 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the wagon that he and his wife shared in the caravan. He knocked over a candle, which ignited the extremely flammable celluloid that set his wagon on fire. Reinhardt survived but suffered extensive burns over half his body. His ring finger and pinky of his left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again. Reinhardt applied himself intensely to relearning his craft, however, making use of a new guitar bought for him by his brother Joseph.
While he never regained the use of those two fingers, Reinhardt regained his musical mastery by focusing on his left index and middle fingers, using the two injured fingers only for chord work. During the years after the fire, Reinhardt was rehabilitating and experimenting on the guitar that his brother had given him. While developing his interest in jazz, Reinhardt met Stéphane Grappelli, a young violinist with similar musical interests. He and Grappelli frequently jammed together and formed the band Hot Club de France in 1934. Reinhardt also played and recorded with many American jazz musicians, such as Adelaide Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, etc. He participated in a jam session and radio performance with Louis Armstrong. Later in his career, Reinhardt played with Dizzy Gillespie in France.

During WW II Django was fortunate enough to be able to survive and play as Roma and Sinti, or better known as gypsies, were deported by Nazis and jazz music was prohibited. Yet some German officers were impressed by Django’s virtuosity leaving him to travel and play in France.

Many guitar players and other musicians have expressed admiration for Reinhardt or have cited him as a major influence. Jeff Beck described Reinhardt as “by far the most astonishing guitar player ever” and “quite superhuman”.
Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, both of whom lost fingers in accidents, were inspired by Reinhardt’s example of becoming an accomplished guitar player despite his injuries. Garcia was quoted in June 1985 in Frets Magazine: His technique is awesome! Even today, nobody has really come to the state that he was playing at. As good as players are, they haven’t gotten to where he is. There’s a lot of guys that play fast and a lot of guys that play clean, and the guitar has come a long way as far as speed and clarity go, but nobody plays with the whole fullness of expression that Django has. I mean, the combination of incredible speed – all the speed you could possibly want – but also the thing of every note has a specific personality. You don’t hear it. I really haven’t heard it anywhere but with Django.

Django had a son Babik who was also an accomplished and talented guitar player. Bireli Lagrene, Angelo Debarre are amongst many interpreters that play the Gypsy jazz music style still today.

Check him out (or not):

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, poetpas

RIP Vera Lynn

Let’s say goodbye with a smile, dear
Just for a while, dear
We must part
Don’t let this parting upset you
I’ll not forget you, sweetheart
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…

~lyrics by Vera Lynn