Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was
successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from
1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were
selected by the
American Film Institute
American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100
comedy films, with two of them (Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera) in
the top twelve. They are widely considered by critics, scholars, and
fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the
20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years...100
Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood cinema,
the only performers to be inducted collectively.
The group are almost universally known today by their stage names:
Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo. The core of the act was the
three elder brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho. Each developed a
highly distinctive stage persona.
After the group essentially disbanded in 1950,
Groucho went on to
begin a significant second career in television, while Harpo and Chico
appeared less prominently. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo,
did not develop their stage characters to the same extent. They each
left the act to pursue business careers at which they were successful,
as well as a large theatrical agency for a time, through which they
represented their brothers and others. Gummo was not in any of the
movies; Zeppo appeared in the first five films in relatively straight
(non-comedic) roles. The performing lives of the brothers were brought
about by their mother Minnie Marx, who also acted as their manager.
1 Brothers' names, family background, and lifetimes
2 Stage beginnings
3 Origin of the stage names
4 Motion pictures
4.2 MGM, RKO, and United Artists
4.3 Later years
5 Impact on modern entertainment
7.1 Awards and honors
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Brothers' names, family background, and lifetimes
The only known photo of the entire Marx family, c. 1915. From left:
Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Sam (father), Chico, and
Julius Henry Marx (Groucho) on the left and Adolph Marx (Harpo) on the
right holding a rat terrier dog, c. 1906
Marx Brothers were born in New York City, the sons of Jewish
Germany and France. Their mother Miene "Minnie"
Schoenberg (professionally known as Minnie Palmer, later the brothers'
manager) was from
Dornum in East Frisia, and their father Samuel
("Sam"; born "Simon"). Marx was a native of
Alsace and worked as a
tailor. (His name was changed to Samuel Marx, and he was
nicknamed "Frenchy".) The family lived in the poor Yorkville
section of New York City's Upper East Side, centered in the Irish,
German and Italian quarters. The brothers are best known by their
000000001887-03-22-0000March 22, 1887
October 11, 1961
Adolph (after 1911: Arthur)
000000001888-11-23-0000November 23, 1888
000000001964-09-28-0000September 28, 1964
000000001890-10-02-0000October 2, 1890
000000001977-08-19-0000August 19, 1977
000000001892-10-23-0000October 23, 1892
000000001977-04-21-0000April 21, 1977
000000001901-02-25-0000February 25, 1901
000000001979-11-30-0000November 30, 1979
Another brother, Manfred ("Mannie"), the first-born son of Sam and
Minnie, was born in 1886 and died in infancy:
"Family lore told privately of the firstborn son, Manny, born in 1886
but surviving for only three months, and carried off by tuberculosis.
Even some members of the Marx family wondered if he was pure myth. But
Manfred can be verified. A death certificate of the Borough of
Manhattan reveals that he died, aged seven months, on 17 July 1886, of
enterocolitis, with 'asthenia' contributing, i.e., probably a victim
of influenza. He is buried at New York's Washington Cemetery, beside
his grandmother, Fanny Sophie Schönberg (née Salomons), who died on
10 April 1901."
Marx Brothers also had an older sister, actually a cousin, born in
January 1885 who had been adopted by Minnie and Frenchie. Her name was
Pauline, or "Polly".
Groucho talked about her in his 1972 Carnegie
Minnie Marx came from a family of performers. Her mother was a
yodeling harpist and her father a ventriloquist; both were funfair
entertainers. Around 1880, the family emigrated to New York City,
where Minnie married Sam in 1884. During the early 20th century,
Minnie helped her younger brother Abraham Elieser Adolf Schönberg
(stage name Al Shean) to enter show business; he became highly
successful on vaudeville and Broadway as half of the musical comedy
double act Gallagher and Shean, and this gave the brothers an entree
to musical comedy, vaudeville and Broadway at Minnie's
instigation. Minnie also acted as the brothers' manager, using the
name Minnie Palmer so that agents did not realize that she was also
their mother. All the brothers confirmed that
Minnie Marx had been the
head of the family and the driving force in getting the troupe
launched, the only person who could keep them in order; she was said
to be a hard bargainer with theatre management.
Gummo and Zeppo both became successful businessmen: Gummo gained
success through his agency activities and a raincoat business, and
Zeppo became a multi-millionaire through his engineering
1911 newspaper advertisement for a
Marx Brothers appearance (l–r:
Harpo, Groucho, Gummo)
The brothers were from a family of artists, and their musical talent
was encouraged from an early age. Harpo was particularly talented,
learning to play an estimated six different instruments throughout his
career. He became a dedicated harpist, which gave him his
nickname. Chico was an excellent pianist,
Groucho a guitarist and
singer, and Zeppo a vocalist.
They got their start in vaudeville, where their uncle Albert
Schönberg performed as
Al Shean of Gallagher and Shean. Groucho's
debut was in 1905, mainly as a singer. By 1907, he and Gummo were
singing together as "The Three Nightingales" with Mabel O'Donnell. The
next year, Harpo became the fourth Nightingale and by 1910, the group
briefly expanded to include their mother Minnie and their Aunt Hannah.
The troupe was renamed "The Six Mascots".
One evening in 1912, a performance at the
Opera House in Nacogdoches,
Texas, was interrupted by shouts from outside about a runaway mule.
The audience hurried out to see what was happening.
angered by the interruption and, when the audience returned, he made
snide comments at their expense, including "Nacogdoches is full of
roaches" and "the jackass is the flower of Tex-ass". Instead of
becoming angry, the audience laughed. The family then realized that it
had potential as a comic troupe. (However, in his autobiography
Harpo Marx stated that the runaway mule incident
occurred in Ada, Oklahoma. A 1930 article in the San Antonio
Express newspaper stated that the incident took place in Marshall,
The act slowly evolved from singing with comedy to comedy with music.
The brothers' sketch "Fun in Hi Skule" featured
Groucho as a
German-accented teacher presiding over a classroom that included
students Harpo, Gummo, and Chico. The last version of the school act
was titled Home Again and was written by their uncle Al Shean. The
Home Again tour reached
Flint, Michigan in 1915, where 14-year-old
Zeppo joined his four brothers for what is believed to be the only
time that all five
Marx Brothers appeared together on stage. Gummo
then left to serve in World War I, reasoning that "anything is better
than being an actor!" Zeppo replaced him in their final vaudeville
years and in the jump to Broadway, and then to Paramount films.
Sheet music (1917) for one of the songs from Home Again; from left:
Harpo, Gummo, Chico, Groucho
During World War I, anti-German sentiments were common, and the family
tried to conceal its German origin. Mother Minnie learned that farmers
were excluded from the draft rolls, so she purchased a 27-acre
(110,000 m2) poultry farm near
Countryside, Illinois — but the
brothers soon found that chicken ranching was not in their blood.
During this time,
Groucho discontinued his "German" stage personality.
By this time, "The Four Marx Brothers" had begun to incorporate their
unique style of comedy into their act and to develop their characters.
Both Groucho's and Harpo's memoirs say that their now-famous on-stage
personae were created by Al Shean.
Groucho began to wear his trademark
greasepaint mustache and to use a stooped walk. Harpo stopped speaking
onstage and began to wear a red fright wig and carry a taxi-cab horn.
Chico spoke with a fake Italian accent, developed off-stage to deal
with neighborhood toughs, while Zeppo adopted the role of the romantic
(and "peerlessly cheesy", according to James Agee) straight man.
The on-stage personalities of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo were said to
have been based on their actual traits. Zeppo, on the other hand, was
considered the funniest brother offstage, despite his straight stage
roles. He was the youngest and had grown up watching his brothers, so
he could fill in for and imitate any of the others when illness kept
them from performing. "He was so good as
Captain Spaulding [in Animal
Crackers] that I would have let him play the part indefinitely, if
they had allowed me to smoke in the audience,"
(Zeppo stood in for
Groucho in the film version of Animal Crackers.
Groucho was unavailable to film the scene in which the Beaugard
painting is stolen, so the script was contrived to include a power
failure, which allowed Zeppo to play the Spaulding part in
near-darkness.) In December 1917 the Marx brothers were noted in
an advertisement playing in a musical comedy act "Home Again".
By the 1920s, the
Marx Brothers had become one of America's favorite
theatrical acts, with their sharp and bizarre sense of humor. They
satirized high society and human hypocrisy, and they became famous for
their improvisational comedy in free-form scenarios. A famous early
instance was when Harpo arranged to chase a fleeing chorus girl across
the stage during the middle of a
Groucho monologue to see if Groucho
would be thrown off. However, to the audience's delight, Groucho
merely reacted by commenting, "First time I ever saw a taxi hail a
passenger". When Harpo chased the girl back in the other direction,
Groucho calmly checked his watch and ad-libbed, "The 9:20's right on
time. You can set your watch by the Lehigh Valley."
The brothers' vaudeville act had made them stars on Broadway under
Chico's management and with Groucho's creative direction—first with
the musical revue
I'll Say She Is (1924–1925) and then with two
The Cocoanuts (1925–1926) and Animal Crackers
George S. Kaufman
George S. Kaufman worked on the last two and
helped sharpen the brothers' characterizations.
Out of their distinctive costumes, the brothers looked alike, even
down to their receding hairlines. Zeppo could pass for a younger
Groucho, and played the role of his son in Horse Feathers. A scene in
Duck Soup finds Groucho, Harpo, and Chico all appearing in the famous
greasepaint eyebrows, mustache, and round glasses while wearing
nightcaps. The three are indistinguishable, enabling them to carry off
the "mirror scene" perfectly.
Origin of the stage names
The stage names of the brothers (except Zeppo) were coined by
monologist Art Fisher during a poker game in Galesburg, Illinois,
based both on the brothers' personalities and Gus Mager's Sherlocko
the Monk, a popular comic strip of the day that included a supporting
character named "Groucho". As Fisher dealt each brother a card, he
addressed him, for the very first time, by the names they kept for the
rest of their lives.
The reasons behind Chico's and Harpo's stage names are undisputed, and
Gummo's is fairly well established. Groucho's and Zeppo's are far less
clear. Arthur was named Harpo because he played the harp, and Leonard
became Chico (pronounced "Chick-o") because he was, in the slang of
the period, a "chicken chaser". ("Chickens"—later "chicks"—was
period slang for women. "In England now," said Groucho, "they were
In his autobiography, Harpo explained that Milton became Gummo because
he crept about the theater like a gumshoe detective. Other sources
reported that Gummo was the family's hypochondriac, having been the
sickliest of the brothers in childhood, and therefore wore rubber
overshoes, called gumshoes, in all kinds of weather. Still others
reported that Milton was the troupe's best dancer, and dance shoes
tended to have rubber soles.
Groucho stated that the source of the
name was Gummo wearing galoshes. Whatever the details, the name
relates to rubber-soled shoes.
The reason that Julius was named
Groucho is perhaps the most disputed.
There are three explanations:
Julius' temperament: Maxine, Chico's daughter and Groucho's niece,
said in the documentary The Unknown
Marx Brothers that Julius was
named "Groucho" simply because he was grouchy most or all of the time.
Robert B. Weide, a director known for his knowledge of Marx Brothers
history, said in Remarks On Marx (a documentary short included with
the DVD of A Night at the Opera) that, among the competing
explanations, he found this one to be the most believable. Steve Allen
said in Funny People that the name made no sense;
Groucho might have
been impudent and impertinent, but not grouchy—at least not around
Allen. However, at the very end of his life,
Groucho finally admitted
that Fisher had named him
Groucho because he was the "moody one".
The grouch bag: This explanation appears in Harpo's biography; it was
voiced by Chico in a TV appearance included on The Unknown Marx
Brothers; and it was offered by George Fenneman, Groucho's sidekick on
his TV game show You Bet Your Life. A grouch bag was a small
drawstring bag worn around the neck in which a traveler could keep
money and other valuables so that it would be very difficult for
anyone to steal them. Most of Groucho's friends and associates stated
Groucho was extremely stingy, especially after losing all his
money in the 1929 stock market crash, so naming him for the grouch bag
may have been a comment on this trait.
Groucho insisted that this was
not the case in chapter six of his first autobiography:
I kept my money in a 'grouch bag'. This was a small chamois bag that
actors used to wear around their neck to keep other hungry actors from
pinching their dough. Naturally, you're going to think that's where I
got my name from. But that's not so. Grouch bags were worn on manly
chests long before there was a Groucho.
Groucho himself insisted that he was named for
a character in the comic strip Knocko the Monk, which inspired the
craze for nicknames ending in "o"; in fact, there was a character in
that strip named "Groucho". However, he is the only Marx or Marx
associate who defended this theory, and as he is not an unbiased
witness, few biographers take the claim seriously.
Groucho himself was no help on this point; he was discussing the
Brothers' names during his
Carnegie Hall concert, and he said of his
own, "My name, of course, I never did understand." He goes on to
mention the possibility that he was named after his unemployed uncle
Julius, who lived with his family. The family believed that he was a
rich uncle hiding a fortune, and
Groucho claimed that he may have been
named after him by the family trying to get into the will. "And he
finally died, and he left us his will, and in that will he left three
razor blades, an 8-ball, a celluloid dicky, and he owed my father $85
Herbert was not nicknamed by Art Fisher, since he did not join the act
until Gummo had departed. As with Groucho, three explanations exist
for Herbert's name "Zeppo":
Harpo's explanation: Harpo said in Harpo Speaks! that the brothers had
named Herbert for Mr. Zippo, a chimpanzee that was part of another
performer's act. Herbert found the nickname very unflattering, and
when it came time for him to join the act, he put his foot down and
refused to be called "Zippo". The brothers compromised on "Zeppo".
Chico's explanation: Chico never wrote an autobiography and gave fewer
interviews than his brothers, but his daughter Maxine said in The
Marx Brothers that, when the brothers lived in Chicago, a
popular style of humor was the "Zeke and Zeb" joke, which made fun of
slow-witted Midwesterners in much the same way that Boudreaux and
Thibodeaux jokes mock Cajuns and
Ole and Lena jokes mock Minnesotans.
One day, Chico returned home to find Herbert sitting on the fence.
Herbert greeted him by saying "Hi, Zeke!" Chico responded with "Hi,
Zeb!" and the name stuck. The brothers thereafter called him "Zeb"
and, when he joined the act, they floated the idea of "Zebbo",
eventually preferring "Zeppo".
Groucho's explanation: In a tape-recorded interview excerpted on The
Unknown Marx Brothers,
Groucho said that Zeppo was so named because he
was born when the first zeppelins started crossing the ocean. He
stated this in his
Carnegie Hall concert, around 1972. The first
zeppelin flew in July 1900, and Herbert was born seven months later in
February 1901. However, the first transatlantic zeppelin flight was
not until 1924, long after Herbert's birth.
Maxine Marx reported in The Unknown
Marx Brothers that the brothers
listed their real names (Julius, Leonard, Adolph, Milton, and Herbert)
on playbills and in programs, and only used the nicknames behind the
Alexander Woollcott overheard them calling one another
by the nicknames. He asked them why they used their real names
publicly when they had such wonderful nicknames, and they replied,
"That wouldn't be dignified." Woollcott answered with a belly laugh.
Woollcott did not meet the
Marx Brothers until the premiere of I'll
Say She Is, which was their first Broadway show, so this would mean
that they used their real names throughout their vaudeville days, and
that the name "Gummo" never appeared in print during his time in the
act. Other sources reported that the
Marx Brothers went by their
nicknames during their vaudeville era, but briefly listed themselves
by their given names when
I'll Say She Is opened because they were
worried that a Broadway audience would reject a vaudeville act if they
were perceived as low class.
The Marx Brothers' stage shows became popular just as motion pictures
were evolving to "talkies". They signed a contract with Paramount
Pictures and embarked on their film career at Paramount's studios in
New York City's Astoria section. Their first two released films (after
an unreleased short silent film titled Humor Risk) were adaptations of
the Broadway shows
The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930).
Both were written by
George S. Kaufman
George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Production
then shifted to Hollywood, beginning with a short film that was
included in Paramount's twentieth anniversary documentary, The House
That Shadows Built (1931), in which they adapted a scene from I'll Say
She Is. Their third feature-length film, Monkey Business (1931), was
their first movie not based on a stage production.
Horse Feathers (1932), in which the brothers satirized the American
college system and Prohibition, was their most popular film yet, and
won them the cover of Time magazine. It included a running gag
from their stage work, in which Harpo produces a ludicrous array of
props from inside his coat, including a wooden mallet, a fish, a
coiled rope, a tie, a poster of a woman in her underwear, a cup of hot
coffee, a sword; and, just after
Groucho warns him that he "can't burn
the candle at both ends," a candle burning at both ends.
During this period Chico and
Groucho starred in a radio comedy series,
Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel. Though the series was short lived,
much of the material developed for it was used in subsequent films.
The show's scripts and recordings were believed lost until copies of
the scripts were found in the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress in the 1980s. After
publication in a book they were performed with Marx Brothers
impersonators for BBC Radio.
Their last Paramount film, Duck Soup (1933), directed by the highly
regarded Leo McCarey, is the highest rated of the five Marx Brothers
films on the American Film Institute's "100 years ... 100 Movies"
list. It did not do as well financially as Horse Feathers, but was the
sixth-highest grosser of 1933. The film sparked a dispute between the
Marxes and the village of Fredonia, New York. "Freedonia" was the name
of a fictional country in the script, and the city fathers wrote to
Paramount and asked the studio to remove all references to Freedonia
because "it is hurting our town's image".
Groucho fired back a
sarcastic retort asking them to change the name of their town, because
"it's hurting our picture."
MGM, RKO, and United Artists
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
After expiration of the Paramount contract Zeppo left the act to
become an agent. He and brother Gummo went on to build one of the
biggest talent agencies in Hollywood, helping the likes of Jack Benny
Lana Turner get their starts.
Groucho and Chico did radio, and
there was talk of returning to Broadway. At a bridge game with Chico,
Irving Thalberg began discussing the possibility of the Marxes joining
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They signed, now billed as "Groucho, Chico,
Harpo, Marx Bros."
Unlike the free-for-all scripts at Paramount, Thalberg insisted on a
strong story structure that made the brothers more sympathetic
characters, interweaving their comedy with romantic plots and
non-comic musical numbers, and targeting their mischief-making at
obvious villains. Thalberg was adamant that scripts include a "low
point", where all seems lost for both the Marxes and the romantic
leads. He instituted the innovation of testing the film's script
before live audiences before filming began, to perfect the comic
timing, and to retain jokes that earned laughs and replace those that
did not. Thalberg restored Harpo's harp solos and Chico's piano solos,
which had been omitted from Duck Soup.
Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948
The first Marx Brothers/Thalberg film was A Night at the
a satire on the world of opera, where the brothers help two young
singers in love by throwing a production of
Il Trovatore into chaos.
The film—including its famous scene where an absurd number of people
crowd into a tiny stateroom on a ship—was a great success, and was
followed two years later by an even bigger hit, A Day at the Races
(1937), in which the brothers cause mayhem in a sanitarium and at a
horse race. The film features
Groucho and Chico's famous "Tootsie
Frootsie Ice Cream" sketch. In a 1969 interview with Dick Cavett,
Groucho said that the two movies made with Thalberg were the best that
they ever produced. Despite the Thalberg films' success, the brothers
left MGM in 1937; Thalberg had died suddenly on September 14, 1936,
two weeks after filming began on A Day at the Races, leaving the
Marxes without an advocate at the studio.
After a short experience at
RKO (Room Service, 1938), the Marx
Brothers returned to MGM and made three more films: At the Circus
(1939), Go West (1940) and
The Big Store
The Big Store (1941). Prior to the release
The Big Store
The Big Store the team announced they were retiring from the
screen. Four years later, however, Chico persuaded his brothers to
make two additional films,
A Night in Casablanca (1946) and Love Happy
(1949), to alleviate his severe gambling debts. Both pictures were
released by United Artists.
From the 1940s onward Chico and Harpo appeared separately and together
in nightclubs and casinos. Chico fronted a big band, the Chico Marx
Orchestra (with 17-year-old
Mel Tormé as a vocalist).
several radio appearances during the 1940s and starred in You Bet Your
Life, which ran from 1947 to 1961 on
NBC radio and television. He
authored several books, including
Groucho and Me (1959), Memoirs of a
Mangy Lover (1964) and The
Groucho Letters (1967).
Groucho and Chico briefly appeared together in a 1957 short film
The Saturday Evening Post
The Saturday Evening Post entitled "Showdown at Ulcer
Gulch," directed by animator Shamus Culhane, Chico's son-in-law.
Groucho, Chico, and Harpo worked together (in separate scenes) in The
Story of Mankind (1957). In 1959, the three began production of Deputy
Seraph, a TV series starring Harpo and Chico as blundering angels, and
Groucho (in every third episode) as their boss, the "Deputy Seraph."
The project was abandoned when Chico was found to be uninsurable (and
incapable of memorizing his lines) due to severe arteriosclerosis. On
March 8 of that year, Chico and Harpo starred as bumbling thieves in
The Incredible Jewel Robbery, a half-hour pantomimed episode of the
General Electric Theater
General Electric Theater on CBS.
Groucho made a cameo
appearance—uncredited, because of constraints in his NBC
contract—in the last scene, and delivered the only line of dialogue
("We won't talk until we see our lawyer!").
The five brothers, just prior to their only television appearance
together, on the Tonight! America After Dark, hosted by Jack
Lescoulie, February 18, 1957; from left: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho
According to a September 1947 article in Newsweek, Groucho, Harpo,
Chico and Zeppo all signed to appear as themselves in a biopic
entitled The Life and Times of the Marx Brothers. In addition to being
a non-fiction biography of the Marxes, the film would have featured
the brothers reenacting much of their previously unfilmed material
from both their vaudeville and Broadway eras. The film, had it been
made, would have been the first performance by the Brothers as a
quartet since 1933.
The five brothers made only one television appearance together, in
1957, on an early incarnation of The Tonight Show called Tonight!
America After Dark, hosted by Jack Lescoulie. Five years later
(October 1, 1962) after Jack Paar's tenure,
Groucho made a guest
appearance to introduce the Tonight Show's new host, Johnny
Around 1960, the acclaimed director
Billy Wilder considered writing
and directing a new
Marx Brothers film. Tentatively titled A Day at
the U.N., it was to be a comedy of international intrigue set around
United Nations building in New York. Wilder had discussions with
Groucho and Gummo, but the project was put on hold because of Harpo's
ill-health and abandoned when Chico died in 1961. He was 74. Three
years later, on September 28, 1964, Harpo died at the age of 75 of a
heart attack one day after heart surgery.
Filmation produced a pilot for a
Marx Brothers cartoon.
Groucho's voice was supplied by
Pat Harrington Jr.
Pat Harrington Jr. and other voices
were done by
Ted Knight and Joe Besser.
In 1970, the four
Marx Brothers had a brief reunion of sorts in the
animated ABC television special The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians, produced
Rankin-Bass animation (of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame). The
special featured animated reworkings of various famous comedians'
acts, including W. C. Fields, Jack Benny, George Burns, Henny
Youngman, the Smothers Brothers, Flip Wilson, Phyllis Diller, Jack E.
Leonard, George Jessel and the Marx Brothers. Most of the comedians
provided their own voices for their animated counterparts, except for
Chico Marx (both had died), and
Zeppo Marx (who had left
show business in 1933). Voice actor
Paul Frees filled in for all three
(no voice was needed for Harpo). The Marx Brothers' segment was a
reworking of a scene from their Broadway play I'll Say She Is, a
Groucho considered among the brothers'
funniest routines. The sketch featured animated representations, if
not the voices, of all four brothers.
Romeo Muller is credited as
having written special material for the show, but the script for the
Napoleon Scene" was probably supplied by Groucho.
Impact on modern entertainment
On January 16, 1977, the
Marx Brothers were inducted into the Motion
Picture Hall of Fame. With the deaths of Gummo in April 1977, Groucho
in August 1977, and Zeppo in November 1979, the brothers were gone.
But their impact on the entertainment community continues well into
the 21st century.
Many television shows and movies have used
Marx Brothers references.
Animaniacs and Tiny Toons, for example, have featured Marx Brothers
jokes and skits.
Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) on M*A*S*H occasionally
put on a fake nose and glasses, and, holding a cigar, did a Groucho
impersonation to amuse patients recovering from surgery. Early
episodes also featured a singing and off-scene character named Captain
Spaulding as a tribute.
Bugs Bunny impersonated
Groucho Marx in the 1947 cartoon Slick Hare
Elmer Fudd dressing up as Harpo and chasing him with a cleaver)
and in a later cartoon he again impersonated
Groucho hosting a TV show
called "You Beat Your Wife," asking
Elmer Fudd if he had stopped
beating his wife. Tex Avery's cartoon
Hollywood Steps Out
Hollywood Steps Out (1941)
featured appearances by Harpo and Groucho. They appeared, sometimes
with Chico and Zeppo caricatured, in cartoons starring Mickey Mouse,
Flip the Frog
Flip the Frog and others. In the
Airwolf episode 'Condemned', four
anti-virus formulae for a deadly plague were named after the four Marx
In All in the Family, Rob Reiner often did imitations of Groucho, and
Sally Struthers dressed as Harpo in one episode in which she (as
Gloria Stivic) and Rob (as Mike Stivic) were going to a Marx Brothers
film festival, with Reiner dressing as Groucho. Gabe Kaplan did many
Groucho imitations on his sit-com
Welcome Back, Kotter
Welcome Back, Kotter and Robert
Hegyes sometimes imitated both Chico and Harpo on the show. In Woody
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Woody's character, after
an unsuccessful suicide attempt, is inspired to go on living after
seeing a revival showing of Duck Soup. In
Manhattan (1979), he names
Marx Brothers as something that makes life worth living. In an
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Murray calls the new station
owner at home late at night to complain when the song "Hooray for
Captain Spaulding" is cut from a showing of Animal Crackers because of
the new owners' policy to cut more and more from shows to sell more ad
time, putting his job on the line.
Everyone Says I Love You
Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Woody Allen and
Goldie Hawn dress
Groucho for a
Marx Brothers celebration in France, and the song
"Hooray for Captain Spaulding", from Animal Crackers, is performed,
with various actors dressed as the brothers, striking poses famous to
Marx fans. (The film itself is named after a song from Horse Feathers,
a version of which plays over the opening credits.)
Harpo Marx appeared as himself in a sketch on
I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy in which he
Lucille Ball reprised the mirror routine from Duck Soup, with Lucy
dressed up as Harpo. Lucy had worked with the Marxes when she appeared
in a supporting role in an earlier
Marx Brothers film, Room Service.
Chico once appeared on
I've Got a Secret
I've Got a Secret dressed up as Harpo; his
secret was shown in a caption reading, "I'm pretending to be Harpo
Marx (I'm Chico)". The
Marx Brothers were spoofed in the second act of
the Broadway Review A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.
In the 1989 film
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sean Connery
Harrison Ford he should have sent his diary "to the Marx
Brothers" rather than entrusting it to Harrison's Indiana Jones
Films with the four Marx Brothers:
Humor Risk (1921), previewed once and never released; thought to be
The Cocoanuts (1929), released by Paramount Pictures; based on a 1925
Marx Brothers Broadway musical
Animal Crackers (1930), released by Paramount; based on a 1928 Marx
Brothers Broadway musical
The House That Shadows Built (1931), released by Paramount (short
Monkey Business (1931), released by Paramount
Horse Feathers (1932), released by Paramount
Duck Soup (1933), released by Paramount
Films with the three
Marx Brothers (post-Zeppo):
A Night at the
Opera (1935), released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
A Day at the Races (1937), released by MGM
Room Service (1938), released by
Radio Pictures; based on a 1937
Broadway play that did not star the Marx Brothers
At the Circus
At the Circus (1939), released by MGM
Go West (1940), released by MGM
The Big Store
The Big Store (1941), released by MGM (intended to be their last film)
A Night in Casablanca (1946), released by United Artists
Love Happy (1949), released by United Artists
The Story of Mankind (1957), released by
Warner Bros. (not a Marx
Brothers film, but the three brothers perform separate cameos)
The Incredible Jewel Robbery
The Incredible Jewel Robbery (1959), an episode of the TV series
General Electric Theater
General Electric Theater starring Harpo and Chico with an uncredited
Groucho in a cameo role
Copacabana (1947), released by United Artists
Mr. Music (1951), released by Paramount
Double Dynamite (1951), released by RKO
A Girl in Every Port (1952), released by RKO
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), released by 20th Century Fox
The Mikado (1960), made for television
Skidoo (1968), released by Paramount.
Too Many Kisses (1925), released by Paramount
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935) released by MGM
Stage Door Canteen (1943), released by
United Artists (cameo)
Papa Romani (1950), television pilot
A Kiss in the Dark (1925), released by Paramount (cameo)
The Love Interest
Too Many Kisses
The Village Peter Pan
Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding
Signor Emmanuel Ravelli
The House That Shadows Built
The Merchant of Weiners
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff
Rufus T. Firefly
Lt. Bob Roland
A Night at the Opera
Otis B. Driftwood
A Day at the Races
Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush
At the Circus
J. Cheever Loophole
S. Quentin Quale
The Big Store
Wolf J. Flywheel
Stage Door Canteen
A Night in Casablanca
Lionel Q. Devereaux
Faustino the Great
Emile J. Keck
A Girl in Every Port
Benjamin Franklin 'Benny' Linn
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
The Story of Mankind
Sir Isaac Newton
The Incredible Jewel Robbery
Suspect in a police lineup
Awards and honors
Marx Brothers were collectively named #20 on AFI's list of the Top
25 American male screen legends of Classic Hollywood. They are the
only group to be so honored.
The "Sweathogs" of the ABC-TV series
Welcome Back Kotter
Welcome Back Kotter (John
Travolta, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and Ron Palillo)
patterned much of their on-camera banter in that series after the Marx
Brothers. Series star Gabe Kaplan was reputedly a big Marx
Book: Marx Brothers
Margaret Dumont, an actress frequently double-acting with the Marx
brothers, especially Groucho
Thelma Todd, another actress frequently appearing alongside the Marx
^ La famille paternelle des
Marx Brothers (in French)
^ "Mrs. Minnie Marx. Mother of Four Marx Brothers, Musical Comedy
Stars, Dies". The New York Times. September 16, 1929. p. 27.
Retrieved 11 August 2016.
^ "Samuel Marx, Father of Four
Marx Brothers of Stage and Screen
Fame". The New York Times. May 12, 1933. p. 17. Retrieved
^ "Chico Marx, Stage and Film Comedian, Dies at 70 - Oldest of 5
Brothers Took Role of Italian Piano Player - Team Business Manager".
The New York Times. October 12, 1961. p. 29. Retrieved 12 August
^ "Harpo Marx, the Silent Comedian, Is Dead at 70". The New York
Times. September 29, 1964. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
Groucho Marx, Comedian, Dead. Movie Star and TV Host Was 86. Master
of the Insult
Groucho Marx, Film Comedian and Host of 'You Bet Your
Life,' Dies". The New York Times. August 20, 2007. p. 1.
^ 1900 Census shows birth year as Oct 1892 and his WWI draft
registration says 21 Oct 1892 Roll #1613143, on his death certificate
and his grave the year 1893 is given.
^ "Gummo Marx, Managed Comedians". The New York Times. Palm Springs,
California, April 21, 1977 (Reuters) Gummo Marx, an original member of
the Marx brothers' comedy team, died here today. He was 83 years
Zeppo Marx Dies on Coast at 78; Last Survivor of Comedy Team;
'Tired of Being a Stooge'". The New York Times. December 1, 1979.
Zeppo Marx, the surviving member of the
Marx Brothers comedy team who
left the quartet in 1934 for other businesses, died yesterday at
Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif. The youngest of the
brothers, he was 78 years old and had lived in Pal ...
^ Adamson, Joe (1973). Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo: A
Celebration of the Marx Brothers. New York: Simon and Schuster.
pp. 6–8. ISBN 0-340-18807-3.
^ Louvish, Simon (June 2000). Monkey Business. New York: St. Martin's
Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-312-25292-7.
^ Timphus, Stefan. "Family and Friends - The Marx Brothers." The Marx
Brothers Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, Zeppo. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 August
^ Simon Louvish. "Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx
Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo With Added Gummo", The New York
^ The Marx Brothers : Their World, Their Movies, Their Lives,
Their Humour and Their Legacy by Robert G. Anstey
^ Louvish, Simon. Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx
Brothers. Thomas Dunne Books; 1st U.S. edition (2000). Also e-text at
^ Current Biography, The H. W. Wilson Company, archived from the
original on 2012-04-26, retrieved 2011-11-29
^ Marman Twin – Herbert
Zeppo Marx –
Marx Brothers Archived
2014-07-17 at the Wayback Machine.
Marx Brothers on IMDb
^ Marx and Barber.
^ Kanfer, pp. 35–36.
^ Marx, Harpo (1961). Harpo Speaks. New York: Limelight Editions.
pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-87910-036-2.
^ "Runaway Mules Gave Marx Bros. Cue to Comedy". San Antonio Express.
July 20, 1930.
^ [dead link]
^ Chandler, p. ???.
^ "Groucho's Threat Against Nixon and 9 More
Marx Brothers Stories" at
^ a b Joe Adamson, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo: A
Celebration of the
Marx Brothers New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.
^ Kanfer, pp. 139–140.
^ The labor world., December 15, 1917, Image 2 Library of Congress
accessed December 26, 2015
Groucho (1976). The
Groucho Phile, p. 31.
^ a b
Groucho Live At Carnegie Hall
^ Marx and Barber, p. ??.
^ Louvish, S. (1999). 'Monkey business: The lives and legends of the
Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo with added Gummo.' London:
Faber & Faber.
^ Marx, G. (1976). The
Groucho Phile. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, p.
Groucho and Me.
^ Time magazine cover, August 15, 1932
Radio 4 Extra - Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel". Bbc.co.uk.
2014-05-31. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
^ Harpo was a very skillful bridge player, and a consistent winner in
the highest circles.
^ Johnny Carson. Museum of Broadcast Communications Retrieved
^ Gore, Chris (1999). The Fifty Greatest Movies Never Made, New York:
St. Martin's Griffin.
^ Scheimer, Lou; Mangels, Andy (2012). Lou Scheimer: Creating the
Filmation Generation. Raleigh, NC: Two Morrows Publishing. p. 51.
^ Beck, Jerry (2009-07-22). "Filmation's Marx Brothers?". Cartoon
Brew. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-01-22. Retrieved
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Marx, Groucho, Many Happy Returns (1942) Simon & Schuster
Crichton, Kyle, The
Marx Brothers (1950) Doubleday & Co.
Marx, Arthur, Life with
Groucho (1954) Simon & Schuster, (revised
as My Life with Groucho: A Son's Eye View, 1988)
Groucho and Me (1959) Random House, (1989) Fireside
Books ISBN 0-306-80666-5
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Associates, (1985) Limelight Editions ISBN 0-87910-036-2
Marx, Groucho, Memoirs of a Mangy Lover (1963) Bernard Geis
Associates, (2002) Da Capo Press ISBN 0-306-81104-9
Marx, Groucho, The
Groucho Letters: Letters from and to
(1967, 2007) Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-306-80607-X
Zimmerman, Paul D., The
Marx Brothers at the Movies (1968) G.P.
Eyles, Allen, The Marx Brothers: Their World of Comedy (1969) A.S.
Robinson, David, The Great Funnies: A History of Film Comedy (1969)
Durgnat, Raymond, "Four Against Alienation" from The Crazy Mirror:
Hollywood Comedy and the American Image (1970) Dell
Maltin, Leonard, Movie Comedy Teams (1970, revised 1985) New American
Anobile, Richard J. (ed.), Why a Duck?: Visual and Verbal Gems from
Marx Brothers Movies (1971) Avon Books
Bergman, Andrew, "Some Anarcho-Nihilist Laff Riots" from We're in the
Money: Depression America and Its Films (1971) New York University
Marx, Arthur, Son of
Groucho (1972) David McKay Co.
Adamson, Joe, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo (1973, 1983)
Simon & Schuster
Kalmar, Bert, and Perelman, S. J., The Four
Marx Brothers in Monkey
Business and Duck Soup (Classic Film Scripts) (1973) Simon &
Mast, Gerald, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies (1973, 2nd ed.
1979) University of Chicago Press
McCaffrey, Donald W., "Zanies in a Stage-Movieland" from The Golden
Age of Sound Comedy (1973) A. S. Barnes
Anobile, Richard J. (ed.), Hooray for Captain Spaulding!: Verbal and
Visual Gems from Animal Crackers (1974) Avon Books
Anobile, Richard J., The Marx Bros. Scrapbook (1974) Grosset &
Dunlap, (1975) Warner Books
Wolf, William, The
Marx Brothers (1975) Pyramid Library
Marx, Groucho, The
Groucho Phile (1976) Bobbs-Merrill Co.
Groucho (with Arce, Hector), The Secret Word Is GROUCHO (1976)
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Byron, Stuart and Weis, Elizabeth (eds.), The National Society of Film
Critics on Movie Comedy (1977) Grossman/Viking
Maltin, Leonard, The Great Movie Comedians (1978) Crown Publishers
Groucho (1979) G. P. Putnam's Sons
Chandler, Charlotte, Hello, I Must Be Going:
Groucho & His Friends
(1978) Doubleday & Co., (2007) Simon & Schuster
Marx, Maxine, Growing Up with Chico (1980) Prentice-Hall, (1984) Simon
Weales, Gerald, Canned Goods as Caviar: American Film Comedy of the
1930s (1985) University of Chicago Press
Gehring, Wes D., The Marx Brothers: A Bio-Bibliography (1987)
Barson, Michael (ed.), Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel: The Marx
Radio Show (1988) Pantheon Books
Allen, Miriam Marx, Love, Groucho: Letters from
Groucho Marx to His
Daughter Miriam (1992) Faber & Faber ISBN 0-571-12915-3
Eyles, Allen, The Complete Films of the
Marx Brothers (1992) Carol
Gehring, Wes D.,
Groucho and W.C. Fields: Huckster Comedians (1994)
University Press of Mississippi
Mitchell, Glenn, The
Marx Brothers Encyclopedia (1996) B.T. Batsford
Ltd., (revised 2003) Reynolds & Hearn ( ISBN 0-7134-7838-1)
Stoliar, Steve, Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House
(1996) General Publishing Group ISBN 1-881649-73-3
Dwan, Robert, As Long As They're Laughing!:
Groucho Marx and You Bet
Your Life (2000) Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.
Kanfer, Stefan, Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
(2000) Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 0-375-70207-5
Bego, Mark, The
Marx Brothers (2001) Pocket Essentials
Louvish, Simon, Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx
Brothers (2001) Thomas Dunne Books ISBN 0-312-25292-7
Gehring, Wes D., Film Clowns of the Depression (2007) McFarland &
Keesey, Douglas, with Duncan, Paul (ed.), Marx Bros. (2007) Movie
Icons series, Taschen
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marx Brothers.
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The Marx Brothers’ Lost Film: Getting to the Bottom of a Mystery
in-depth article on the background and fate of the first Marx Brothers
Marx Brothers Night at the
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The Marx Brothers
Humor Risk (1921)
The Cocoanuts (1929)
Animal Crackers (1930)
The House That Shadows Built (1931)
Monkey Business (1931)
Horse Feathers (1932)
Duck Soup (1933)
A Night at the
A Day at the Races (1937)
Room Service (1938)
At the Circus
At the Circus (1939)
Go West (1940)
The Big Store
The Big Store (1941)
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Love Happy (1949)
The Story of Mankind (1957)
I'll Say She Is (1924)
The Cocoanuts (1925)
Animal Crackers (1928)
"Hello, I Must Be Going"
"Hooray for Captain Spaulding"
"Lydia the Tattooed Lady"
Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel
Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel (radio, 1932 – episodes)
Blue Ribbon Town
Blue Ribbon Town (radio, 1943–44)
"The Incredible Jewel Robbery" (TV, 1959)
Deputy Seraph (TV, 1959)
An Evening with Groucho
Giraffes on Horseback Salad
Hello, I Must Be Going!
Marx & Lennon
Groucho: A Life in Revue (1986 play)
"Why a Duck?"
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