Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers were an American family comdedy act that enjoyed success in vaudeville, on Broadway and in motion pictures from the early 1900s to the 1950s.

2009 is the 80th anniversary of the first Marx Brothers' film.

The Marx Brothers were born in New York City and were the sons of Jewish immigrants from Germany and France. Their mother, Minni Schonberg was from Dornum in East Frisia and their father Simon Marx (nicknamed Frenchie) was a native of Alsace. The family lived on New York's upper east side.

Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen films were selected by the American Film Institute as among the top 100 comedies of all time, with two of them (Duck Soap and A Night at the Opera) being in the top twelve.

The core of the act was the three elder brothers, Chico, Harpo and Groucho. Zeppo appeared in the first five Marx Brothers' films and left to pursue other adventures. Gummo, the youngest brother, was a member of the vaudeville act but left the group before motion pictures.

Chico Marx was the oldest brother born March 22, 1887 and originally named Leonard.

Harpo Marx was the second oldest brother born November 23, 1888, originally named Adolph (however he changed his name to Arthur in 1911).

Groucho Marx was the middle child born October 2, 1890 and originally named Julius Henry.

Gummo Marx was the fourth child born October 23, 1893 and originally named Milton.

Zeppo Marx was the youngest born February 25, 1901 and originally named Herbert.

There was a fifth brother, Manfred, the first child of Sam and Minnie, born in 1886, however he died in infancy.

There first film was Humor Risk (1921) and was previewed once and never released, no copy exists today. It starred Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo and Chico.

Harpo, Chico, Groucho and Zeppo starred in The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933).

Harpo, Chico and Groucho starred in A Night at the Opera (1935), A Day at the Races (1937), Room Service (1938), At the Circus (1939), Go West (1940), The Big Store (1941), A Night in Casablanca (1946), Love Happy (1949) and The Story of Mankind (1957).

Groucho would appear in the most movies without his brothers including Copacabana (1947), Mr. Music (1951), Double Dynamite (1951), A Girl in Every Port (1952), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), and Skido (1968).

Harpo would do two sole ventures in the movies in Too Many Kisses (1925) and Stage Door Canteen (1943).

After the last Marx brother's movie, Harpo made many appearances on television shows including I Love Lucy, The Red Skelton Show, General Electric Theater, and Playhouse 90.

Zeppo left acting after five Marx Brothers' movies and joined a a talent management company in Hollywood. In 1969, Zeppo Marx patented a wristwatch for cardiac patients, which sounded an alarm if the wearer went into cardiac arrest. He also developed clamping devices which were used in the first atomic bomb raids over Japan in 1945.

Gummo Marx became a talent agent after leaving the vaudeville act. He was also the only Marx brother to be drafted and fight in WWI in the U.S. Army.

Groucho Marx was the most known of the Marx Brothers and had the most successful solo career. In the 1950s he hosted You Bet Your Life, which ran for eleven seasons.

Groucho Marx is also the only Marx Brothers to receive an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Academy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also won an Emmy award in 1951 for Outstanding Television Personality.

Chico Marx died on October 11, 1961 at the age of 74.

Harpo Marx died on September 28, 1964 at the age of 75.

Gummo Marx died on April 21, 1977 at the age of 83.

Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977 at the age of 86.

Zeppo Marx died on November 30, 1979 at the age of 78.

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