Saturday, July 11, 2009

Groucho's Customs Form

A story frequently cut and pasted around various websites appears to have some basis in fact. An eyewitness account exists in the book Arthur Marx's Groucho: A Photographic Journey, edited by Groucho impersonator Frank Ferrante, with comments and photography by Groucho's son Arthur, published in 2001. After the Marx Brothers had a run at the Palace Theater in London, they returned to the U.S. on the ship Paris in 1931. Arthur's comments on shipboard pictures from the trip include the following:
When the ship docked, all the passengers went straight through customs--including Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. But my father, my mother, Ruth, my sister Miriam and I were held up for four hours. They went through all our luggage with a fine tooth comb and made go into separate rooms and take off all our clothes. I think it may have had something to do with the way my father filled out the customs form:

NAME: Julius H. Marx
ADDRESS: 21 Lincoln Road, Great Neck, Long Island
HAIR: Very little
PURCHASES: Wouldn't you like to know!
Some internet versions of the episode include the apocryphal detail that Groucho turned to Ruth and said, "What did you do with the opium? Do you still have it on you?" Arthur doesn't mention Groucho asking these questions, so I would take this part of the story with several grains of salt.


  1. Oh, such a hilarious story! I read it aloud to my boyfriend, haha. As to the internet version, it's not totally impossible that Groucho could have said something like it, don't you think? But I agree, not a very reliable source!

  2. Hello David - Guess the secret word and the duck will come down and give you the One Lovely Blog Award.
    (For the audience at home, the secret word is: