Who Were Marx Brothers? Information on American comedians Marx Brothers biography, life story, films, stage career.
Marx Brothers; American comedians of stage and films, whose anarchic, nimble-witted hnmor depended on the interplay of sight gags and zany dialogue. They made the classic films Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera, in most of which they cavorted around the imperturbable and statuesque grande dame Margaret Dumont.
Groucho (Julius, 1890-1977 ) was born in New York City (as were all the brothers) on Oct. 2 1890. His visual trademarks were his painted-on moustache, huge cigar, and a walk that was something between a crouch and a lope. In the Marx Brothers act it was usually Groucho who fast-talked them into or out of ridiculous predicaments. After the act broke up, Groucho continued to appear in occasional movies, but he became better known as a TV personality with his 11-year (1951-1961) run in You Bet Your Life, a quiz show that succeeded largely because of his quick-witted ad-libbing. Groucho wrote the autobiographical Memoirs of a Mangy Lover (1963). In 1974, Groucho accepted a special Academy Award on behalf of all the brothers.
Chico (Leonard, 1887-1961) was born on March 22, 1887. For purposes of the act, Chico adopted an outrageously phony Italian accent. He also played the piano in an eccentric manner. He died in Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 11, 1961.
Harpo (Arthur, 1888-1964) was born on Nov. 23, 1888. Wearing a blond fright wig and a battered top hat, he pretended to be a childlike mute, communicating by gestures and persistently honking a toy horn. His feature “turn” in the act was as a harpist. He died in Hollywood on Sept. 28, 1964.
Gummo (Milton) and Zeppo (Herbert), two other brothers, were briefly in the act.
The mother of the Marx Brothers, Minna, was the daughter of entertainers and the sister of the vaudeville star A1 Sheean (of Gallagher and Sheean). She was determined that her sons would be in show business. After making several false starts, the Four Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Gummo) became an established comedy act on the major vaudeville circuits shortly before World War I. The war interrupted their career, since Harpo and Gummo joined the Army, but the Four Marx Brothers (with Zeppo replacing Gummo) resumed their act in 1918. The brothers left vaudeville for the legitimate theater in 1924, appearing in their own musical I’ll Say She Is, followed by Coconuts ( 1926 ) and Animal Crackers (1928).
The first Marx Brothers film was their adaptation of Cocoanuts ( 1929 ). Zeppo left the act after Duck Soup (1933) to establish a theatrical agency in Hollywood ( in which he later was joined by Gummo ). The three brothers then appeared in A Night at the Opera (1935 ), A Day at’the Races (1936), Room Service (1938), A ‘Day at the Circus (1938), Go West (1940), The Big Store (1941), and A Night in Casablanca (1946). Love Happy (1950) was their last film together.