Julius Henry Marx, well known as Groucho Marx, was an american actor in the years 30-40's, comedian, film and television star. He is one of the most famous figure in the United States.
Personality and private life :
Groucho was born the 2 octobre 1890 in New York.
Groucho and his family were Jewish. His mother came from northern Germany and his father from Alsace in France. They moved to the U.S.A.
Groucho was a famous person especially because of his eyeglasses, his fake eyebrows and his moustache, which all became a part of him as early as the1920s, and it was very hard to recognize him without all of this. Groucho got married three times in his life. First, when he was 29 to the chorister Ruth Johnson, with whom he had two children Arthur and Miriam. His second wife was Kay Marvis, who gave him one daughter Melinda. She was an alcoholic. One day she was driving the car and drinking at the same time, with Groucho and their child by her side, later Groucho decided to divorce. His last wife, Eden Hartford, was attracted by Groucho's celebrity more than Groucho himself and like Kay she also started to drink. The three women were more younger than him.
Afterwards Groucho met Erin Fleming, who became his personal manager and his companion. This new relationship was viewed with suspicion and Groucho's family and surroundings thought she was with him for his money. She was also very violent and she began to verbally harass Groucho, even physically by throwing things at him.
When he was a child, Groucho wanted to become a doctor, but he could not choose the life he wanted because he was forced by his parents out of school at 12. Consequently, he began his career as an actor very early.
That is firstly his ambitious mother Minnie who noticed that Groucho had a pleasant voice and she helped him to get into a small company called "The Leroy Trio" with his brother Milton (Gummo later). This is where he learnt how to sing, dance and act.
A few years later in 1907 Groucho slowly ascended in the theatrical world and left the company. He reached the stage as a boy singer accompanied by two of his brothers (Gummo and Harpo) in the Vaudeville « The tree Nightingales" that their mother had created. In 1909 he had his own group with his brothers called Lou Levy.
One day after the three boys had begun cracking jokes on stage, they realized that the audience preferred them more as comedians than as singers. Afterwards the brothers were conscious of their humorist talent, they decided to make up their own comic group under the name of the Marx Brothers in 1910. It was mainly composed by Chico, Harpo and Groucho. Gummo early left the band to join the army and was replaced by Zeppo in 1921.
In their productions, all the brothers had developed their own characteristics. For example the oldest Chico, made up an Italian accent, Harpo, was wearing a curly red wig and played his role in mime. Groucho played himself with a German accent but quickly dropped it because of the First World War. Instead of it, he developed the fast-talking wise-guy character. It is at this moment that Julius Henry adopted the nickname Groucho as a stage name. (From the verb “to grouch” which means “ronchonner” in French).
As the result of their theatrical succes, they were put on the way to Broadway. During that time, Groucho took the habit to smoke a cigar on stage and he let his moustache grows.
Finally The Marx Brothers became the biggest comedy stars of the Palace Theatre in New York City. All this succes predicted their famous Hollywood career.
Hollywood and cinema :
Groucho played in 23 movies in total whose 16 with his brothers, mainly Chico and Harpo. At the age of 32, he made his first silent film with his five brothers « Humor Risk ». But they decided not to edit it because it was not as good as they expected. They even burnt all the copies. A decade later, the brothers made their Broadways hits into films, including Coconuts, one of the most famous movie. Other successful films were « Monkey Business », « Horse Feathers », « Duck Soup » and « A Night at the Opera ». The last film made with his brothers was in 1957. After this one, Groucho continued his career at the cinema alone until 1968.
At the end of the cinematographic collaboration with his brothers, Groucho had a successful career at the radio and the television.
Groucho achieved a lot of feats in his life, and despite a lack of formal education, he was able to write a few books, including his own autobiography «Groucho and Me ».
The Last Years :
During his last years, Groucho Marx tried on lots of different fields. He worked at the radio but it was not as successful as his life on stage. He hosted a radio show called « Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel" in 1932 with his brother Chico. The aim of the program was to show the life of an attorney and his assistant by adding a huge cup of humor. The roles of the characters were obviously played by Groucho and Chico but the program was not as successful as it hoped to be and ended a little time later.
Actually, in the 1940s, Marx had a breakdown because of the fail of his radio show and his mood began to turn bad. Indeed, when Marx went on the air of Bob Hope radio show, he clearly showed he had waited 40 minutes in the waiting room and that it was unacceptable.
Marx also hosted a quizz show called « You Bet Your Life », which started in 1947 on radio. At the beginning, he did not enjoy to do something like that but he thought that he had to try everything he could because he knew his radio show life had clearly nothing special. The principle of the program consisted on the fact that Groucho had to entertain the audience with improvised conversations with his guests. Hopefully, the quizz show was a huge success in the 1950s and it appeared in 1960 on television. But the producers insisted on the fact that the network should be recorded in advance because of the outspokenness of Marx. There were 11 seasons of the quizz show until it was cancelled in 1961.
There was one big scandal about Marx during the shooting of the quizz show. This happened while Groucho was interviewing a woman who had given birth to 20 children. Groucho asked why she had wanted so many children. She answered that it was because she loved her husband. Groucho replied, with his eternal outspokenness, that he loved his cigars but it was not a reason to take it out of his mouth once in a while. His reflexion was judged too uncalled-for to be aired but stayed famous even if Marx denied having said this.
In 1974, Groucho received an Academy Award and was so touched that he told some words in honor of his deceased brothers Harpo and Chico.
Even if Groucho’s health was becoming worse and worse, his peculiar sense of humor stayed until his death. When he was about to die and was staying in the hospital, a nurse came to see if he had temperature and he answered that she was silly because everybody has a temperature, this is a perfect example to see the kind of humor he had.
In 1977, Marx was hospitalized because of a pneumonia and he died two months later at the age of 86. He had the longest life of all the Marx Brothers. He was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. His death was not as famous as the one of Elvis Presley who died 3 days earlier but it stays in the memories of his fans.