Groucho Marx

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Groucho Marx : biography

October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977

In the last of the Tintin comics, Tintin and the Picaros, a balloon shaped like the face of Groucho could be seen in the Annual Carnival.

In the Italian horror comic Dylan Dog, the protagonist’s sidekick is a Groucho impersonator whose character became his permanent personality.

The BBC remade the radio sitcom Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, with contemporary actors playing the parts of the original cast. The series was repeated on digital radio station BBC7. Scottish playwright Louise Oliver wrote a play named Waiting For Groucho about Chico and Harpo waiting for Groucho to turn up for the filming of their last project together. This was performed by Glasgow theatre company Rhymes with Purple Productions at the Edinburgh Fringe and in Glasgow and Hamilton in 2007-08. Groucho was played by Scottish actor Frodo McDaniel..

Death

Marx’s children, particularly his son Arthur, felt strongly that Fleming was pushing their weak father beyond his physical and mental limits. Writer Mark Evanier concurred. Fleming’s influence on Marx was controversial. Many close to him believed that she did much to revive his popularity. Also, some observers felt the apparent relationship with a young starlet boosted Groucho’s ego, adding to his vitality. Others described her as a Svengali, exploiting an increasingly senile Marx in pursuit of her own stardom while reportedly behaving erratically and violently, suggesting mental instability. Marx was hospitalized for pneumonia on June 22, 1977 and died on August 19 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Fleming, increasingly mentally unstable through the years, committed suicide in 2003.

He was cremated and the ashes were interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Groucho had the longest lifespan of all the Marx Brothers and was survived only by younger brother Zeppo, who outlived him by two years. His death was somewhat overshadowed by the death of Elvis Presley, which occurred three days earlier. In an interview, he jokingly suggested his epitaph read: "Excuse me, I can’t stand up." His mausoleum marker bears only his stage name, a Star of David, and the years of his birth and death.

Early life

In a 1950 radio episode of You Bet Your Life, Groucho stated that he was born in a room above a butcher’s shop on 78th Street in New York City.

The Marx children grew up on East 93rd Street off Lexington Avenue in a neighborhood now known as Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side of the borough of Manhattan, in New York City. 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. Just across the street were the oldest brownstones in the area, owned by people such as the well-connected Loew Brothers and William Orth.

Marx’s family was Jewish. Groucho’s mother was Miene "Minnie" Schoenberg, whose family came from Dornum in northern Germany when she was 16 years old. His father was Simon "Sam" Marx, who changed his name from Marrix, and was called "Frenchie" throughout his life because he and his family came from Alsace-Lorraine. Minnie’s brother was Al Schoenberg, who shortened his name to Al Shean when he went into show business as 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 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 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.