Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday Reminder

Just a reminder that Oct. 2 with be Groucho's 120th birthday. The cake below was created for his 103rd birthday in 1993. The walleyed portrait of Groucho is a borderline candidate for the Cakewrecks blog.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Night at the Opera on the Road

As I have pointed out before, Harpo was posthumously baptized as a Mormon. Still, you wouldn't expect the Utah State Historical Society to be a rich source of Marx Brothers history. You'd be wrong, because the USHS has produced a very interesting page related to the premiere of the stage version of "A Night at the Opera" in 1935. MGM producer Irving Thalberg arranged for the brothers to road test the show in Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco before filming began. Audience reaction was carefully observed in order to fine tune the script and timing of "Opera." I'll leave it to the interested reader to click over to the USHS site for details.

I'd also like to point out a link provided by USHS. It is a page of material deleted from the original script. Some of the stuff is pretty good, IMHO. For example:
Driftwood (to the cab driver when he learns that he has arrived at the opera house before the opera is over): On account of you, I nearly heard the opera! Next time I go to the opera, I'll take a turtle. At least with a turtle you've got something. When you get tired of it, you can make turtle soup. Of course, you can get turtle soup in cans. But you can't go to the opera in a can. On the other hand, you can't go to the can in an opera.
To read more, click on this link.

Former Marx Secretary Surfaces

A recent article by Wesley Slape at reveals that Dorothy Ohman, who was Jack Benny's secretary from 1957 till his death in 1974 started her career at age 21 as secretary for the Marx, Miller, and Marx talent agency in Los Angeles. The principals in the agency were Zeppo, Gummo, and Zeppo's brother-in-law, Alan Miller.

She got to know all the brothers while working at the agency, and recalled Groucho as "low-key" when he dropped by the office, and that he didn't have to "be on" around the family. Harpo was a "dapper dresser" with "a good personality and class." Chico was "the same as he was on screen. He was the playful one, full of fun."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Groucho Marx, Cigar Aficionado

If you didn't have the foresight to buy the Spring 1993 issue of Cigar Aficionado, or, like me, you don't know which box in the basement your copy is in, here is a link to an article about Groucho and his cigars by his son, Arthur.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Cat Named Groucho

Recently auctioned on eBay was this newspaper clipping which Zeppo sent to Groucho in 1975, along with a note that read, "Groucho, thought this cute, will try to come see you next week. Love, Zeppo."

The caption reads:
All that's missing is the cigar to make Groucho, this mustachioed cat, look just like his famous namesake. Groucho, who's half Siamese, has two other unusual features: his hind legs are twice as long as his front ones, and he has no tail. Groucho, owned by the Morris Gilbert family of Brownwood, Tex., won a blue ribbon at the Brown County pet fair last fall after judges chose him the most unusual cat displayed.
The seller made this statement in the listing:
I was Groucho's personal secretary and archivist for the last three years of his life, and am the author of the book RAISED EYEBROWS: My Years Inside Groucho's House. Groucho received this item from Zeppo in July of 1975. He did, in fact, get a kick out of the cat photo (Groucho had a weakness for kitties to begin with), but rather than saving the note and photo and putting it into a scrapbook, he simply tossed it into the waste basket under his desk. (After all, Groucho would hardly have looked upon a note from Zeppo Marx as a rare and desirable collectible!) So - I retrieved the note, envelope, and clipping from the trash and saved it for whatever passes as posterity.
That would be Steve Stollar, who authored Raised Eyebrows.

The clipping, note, and envelope went for $299 to the only individual who placed a bid.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Brothers and the Cubs

Thanks to Rick Kaempfer, editor of the blog Just One Bad Century, for pointing out that the Marx Brothers were Chicago Cubs fans. At the time of WW I, Minnie moved the family to a farm in LaGrange, Illinois, because she had heard that farmers would not be drafted. Rick quotes Groucho's comments about life on the farm:
The first day we got up at 5 in the morning. The second morning we dawdled until 6. By the end of the first week we slept until noon, which gave us just enough time to catch the 1:07 train to Chicago to see the Chicago Cubs play.
Apparently, the brothers spent a lot of time at Cubs Park, now known as Wrigley Field, during the World Series year of 1918.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Groucho and Marilyn Monroe

In this clip from 1963, Groucho talks about Marilyn Monroe appearing in the 1949 movie, "Love Happy." Her scene in the movie appears at the end of this clip.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Faux Groucho

It's hard to resist dressing up as Groucho. He is universally recognized and the makeup is pretty easy to do. I've done it myself in younger, more hirsute days. I won the Halloween costume contest at the children's hospital where I was working at the time.

Over at The Marx Brothers Council of Britain blog, Matthew Coniam unleashed a mystery on the blogosphere in the form of a photo of someone disguised as Groucho. The photo was used on the cover of CD of Groucho's radio performances.

Tom (sorry--I have no additional identifying information), an astute reader of Matthew's blog, solved the mystery. The photo is of famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Tom had seen it before in the book Life Goes to the Movies.

A little Googling on my part uncovered the article, "Speaking of Pictures", subtitled "LIFE photographer gets made up to look like seven other people," in the September 26, 1949 issue of Life. The Paramount makeup artist who transformed Eisenstaedt into characters ranging from Sampson to Victoria Lake noted that Groucho was the easiest.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chico Becomes a Bandleader - 1942

The March 28, 1942 edition of Billboard included an article titled "The Marxian Approach to Bandleading" by Chico Marx. I've always thought of Groucho as the writer among the brothers. He wrote several books and articles, as well as many letters which have been compiled in books. As far as I know, Harpo, though adored by the literary types at the Algonquin Round Table, never did any writing. His autobiography, Harpo Speaks,was ghost written by Rowland Barber. The article in Billboard is the first piece of writing I've seen carrying Chico's byline. Whether he actually wrote it himself, I don't know.

The article was written three months after Chico left the brothers' act to lead a band. Among other things, he writes:
The first thing I do when a poor but ambitious youngster comes to me and reverently beseeches some inside info on how to become a maestro is give him Toscanini's telephone number. After that I look myself square in the eye--which is no mean trick when you haven't got a mirror on you--and ask myself the burning question, "Marx, how the hell did you get into the band business?" Even tho this is where you came in, don't go away yet. Tea and cookies will be served later.
Pretty good stuff, I'd say. To read the whole article, click on the link in the first sentence in of this post.