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About "the one, the only..." Groucho!"

Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx, born October 2, 1890 , died August 19, 1977) is the indisputable master of wit. He made 15 feature films with his siblings, the Marx Brothers, and also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life, which, other than The Red Skelton and Ernie Kovacs shows, had the distinction of being on all three then existing television networks. He had to go with that a distinctive image, which included a heavy greasepaint moustache and eyebrows and glasses.

The Marx family grew up in a neighborhood now known as Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side (E 93rd Street off Lexington Avenue) of Manhattan. The turn-of-the-century building that Harpo called "the first real home they ever knew" (in his memoir Harpo Speaks), was populated with European immigrants, mostly artisans - which even included a glass blower. Just across the street were the oldest brownstones in the area, owned by people like the well-connected Loew Brothers and William Orth.

Groucho's parents were Minnie Schoenberg Marx and Sam Marx (called "Frenchie" throughout his life). Minnie's brother was Al Schoenberg, who shortened his name to Al Shean when he went into show business. He was half of Gallagher and Shean, a noted vaudeville act of the early 20th century. According to Groucho, when Shean visited he would throw the local waifs a few coins so that when he knocked at the door he would be surrounded by child-like adoring fans. Marx and his brothers respected his opinions and asked him on several occasions to write some material for them.

Minnie Marx did not have an entertainment industry career, but she had intense ambition for her sons to go on the stage like their uncle. While pushing her eldest son Leonard (Chico Marx) in piano lessons, she found that Julius had a pleasant soprano voice and the ability to remain on key. Even though Julius's early career goal was to become a doctor, the family's need for income forced Julius out of school at the age of twelve. By that time, Julius had become a voracious reader, particularly fond of Horatio Alger. Throughout the rest of his life, Marx would overcome his lack of formal education by becoming very well-read.

After a few comically unsuccessful stabs at entry-level office work and other jobs suitable for adolescents, Julius took to the stage as a boy singer in 1905. Though he reputedly claimed that in the world of vaudeville, he enjoyed only "modest success" but was "hopelessly average," it was merely a wisecrack. By 1909, Minnie Marx successfully managed to assemble her sons into a low-quality vaudeville singing group. They were billing themselves as 'The Four Nightingales', Julius, Milton (Gummo Marx), Adolph (Harpo Marx) (later changed to Arthur), and another boy singer, Lou Levy, traveled the U.S. vaudeville circuits to little fanfare. After exhausting their prospects in the East, the family moved to La Grange, Illinois to play the Midwest. Following a particularly dispiriting performance in Nacogdoches, Texas, Julius, Milton, and Arthur began cracking jokes onstage for their own amusement. Much to their surprise, the audience liked them better as comedians than singers. They modified the then-popular Gus Edwards comedy skit "School Days" and renamed it "Fun In Hi Skule". The Marx Brothers would perform variations on this routine for the next seven years.

The Marx Brothers became the biggest comedic stars of the Palace Theatre, which billed itself as the "Valhalla of Vaudeville". Brother Chico's deal-making skills resulted in three hit plays on Broadway. No comedy routine had ever infected the hallowed Broadway circuit, but reports are unanimous that the Broadway audiences were just as convulsed with laughter as the vaudeville ones had been. The Marx Brothers were now more than a vaudeville sensation; they were a Broadway sensation.

All of this predated their Hollywood career. By the time the Marxes made their first movie, they were major stars with sharply honed skills, and when Groucho was relaunched to stardom on You Bet Your Life, he had already been performing successfully for half a century.

Groucho Marx made a total of 26 movies; of them, fifteen were with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Marx developed a routine as a wise-cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint moustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers (often played by Margaret Dumont) and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, his brothers and he starred in a series of extraordinarily popular stage shows and movies. Their first movie was a silent film made in 1919 that was never released and believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made some of their Broadway hits into movies, including The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930).[2] Other successful films were Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935).One quip from Marx concerned his response to Sam Wood, the director of the classic film A Night at the Opera. Wood was furious with the Marx Brothers' ad-libs and antics on the set and yelled to all in disgust that he "cannot make actors out of clay." Without missing a beat, Groucho responded, "Nor can you make a director out of Wood." >Marx also worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was in a short-lived series in 1932 Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, co-starring Chico, who was the only one of his brothers also willing to appear on the show. Most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, but all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress.

In 1947, Marx was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC television in 1950. Filmed before a live audience, the television show consisted of Marx interviewing the contestants and ad libbing jokes, before playing a brief quiz. The show was responsible for the phrases "Say the secret woid [word] and divide $100" (that is, each contestant would get $50); and "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House?" (asked when Marx felt sorry for a contestant who had not won anything). It ran for eleven years on television. Groucho was also the subject of urban legend, pertaining to a supposed response to a contestant who had over a dozen children which supposedly brought down the house. In response to Marx asking in disbelief why she had so many children, the contestant replied "No, Groucho. You don't understand. I really, really love my husband.", to which Marx responded, "I love my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." Groucho often asserted in interviews that this exchange in fact never took place, but it remains one of the most oft quoted "Groucho-isms" nonetheless.

Throughout his career Groucho introduced a number of memorable songs in films, including "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" and "Hello, I Must Be Going", in Animal Crackers, "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It", "Everyone Says I Love You" and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". Frank Sinatra, who once quipped that the only thing he could do better than Marx was sing, made a film with Marx and Jane Russell in 1951 entitled Double Dynamite.

As much as Harpo and Chico were difficult to recognize without their wigs and costumes, it was almost impossible to recognize Groucho without his trademark glasses, or fake eyebrows and moustache. The greasepaint moustache and eyebrows originated spontaneously prior to a vaudeville performance when he did not have time to apply the pasted-on moustache he had been using (or, according to his autobiography, simply did not enjoy the removal of the moustache every night because of the effects of tearing an adhesive bandage off the same patch of skin every night). After applying the greasepaint moustache, a quick glance in the mirror revealed his natural hair eyebrows were too undertoned and did not match the rest of his face, so Marx added the greasepaint to his eyebrows and headed for the stage. The absurdity of the greasepaint was never discussed on-screen, but in a famous scene in Duck Soup, where both Chico and Harpo are disguising themselves as Groucho, they are briefly seen applying the greasepaint, implicitly answering any question a viewer might have had about where he got his moustache and eyebrows. Marx was asked to do the greasepaint moustache once more for You Bet Your Life, but refused, opting instead to grow a real one, which he wore for the rest of his life.

The exaggerated walk, with one hand on the small of his back and his torso bent almost 90 degrees at the waist was a parody of a fad from the 1880s and 1890s. Then, fashionable young men of the upper classes would affect a walk with their right hand held fast to the base of their spines, and with a slight lean forward at the waist and a very slight twist toward the right with the left shoulder, allowing the left hand to swing free with the gait. Edmund Morris, in his biography of President Roosevelt The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt describes a young TR, newly elected to the State Assembly, walking into the House Chamber for the first time in this trendy, affected gait, somewhat to the amusement of the older and more rural Members who were present. Groucho exaggerated this fad to a marked degree, and the comedy effect was enhanced by how out of date the fashion was by the 1920s and 30s.[citation needed] He did paint the old character moustache over his real one on a few rare performing occasions, including a TV sketch with Jackie Gleason on the latter's variety show in the 1960s (in which they performed a variation on the song "Positively Mr. Gallagher, Absolutely Mr. Shean," written by Marx's uncle Al Shean) and the 1968 Otto Preminger film Skidoo. In his 70s at the time, Marx remarked on his appearance: "I looked like I was embalmed." He played a mob boss called "God" and, according to Marx, "both my performance and the film were God-awful!".

Marx was married three times, all of which ended in divorce. His first wife was chorus girl Ruth Johnson (married February 4, 1920, divorced July 15, 1942). He was 29 and she 19 at the time of their wedding. The couple had two children, Arthur and Miriam. His second wife was Kay Marvis (married February 24, 1945, divorced May 12, 1951), former wife of Leo Gorcey. Groucho was 54 and Kay 24 at the time of their marriage. They had a daughter, Melinda. His third wife was actress Eden Hartford (married July 17, 1954, divorced December 4, 1969)[3]. She was 20 when she married the 63 year old Groucho.
Marx's children, particularly his son Arthur, felt strongly that Fleming was pushing his weak father beyond his physical and mental limits. Writer Mark Evanier concurs with this.Groucho Marx was hospitalized for pneumonia on June 22, 1977 and died on August 19, 1977 at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Groucho was cremated, and the ashes were interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California. Aged 86 at death, Groucho had the longest lifespan of all the Marx Brothers and was survived only by younger brother Zeppo, who outlived him by two years, dying in 1979 at age 78. Groucho's death only received passing attention, due to the fact that it occurred three days after that of Elvis Presley. In an interview, he jokingly suggested his epitaph read "Excuse me, I can't stand up", but his mausoleum marker bears only his stage name, a Star of David, and the years of his birth and death.


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8.22.2012 TonyTanT, MA Funny guy, funny guy!

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