Top 30 Groucho Marx Quotes
Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx (/ˈɡraʊtʃoʊ/; October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was an American comedian, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star. A master of quick wit, he is widely considered one of America’s greatest comedians.
He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life.
His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, spectacles, cigar, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows. These exaggerated features resulted in the creation of one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous novelty disguises, known as Groucho glasses: a one-piece mask consisting of horn-rimmed glasses, a large plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache.
Julius Marx was born on October 2, 1890, in Manhattan, New York. Marx stated that he was born in a room above a butcher’s shop on East 78th Street, “Between Lexington & 3rd”, as he told Dick Cavett in a 1969 television interview. The Marx children grew up on East 93rd Street off Lexington Avenue in a neighborhood now known as Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side of the borough of Manhattan. The turn-of-the-century building that his brother Harpo in his memoir Harpo Speaks called “the first real home they ever knew”, was populated with European immigrants, mostly artisans. Just across the street were the oldest brownstones in the area, owned by people such as the well-connected Loew Brothers and William Orth. The Marx family lived there “for about 14 years”, Groucho also told Cavett.
Marx’s family was Jewish. His mother was Miene “Minnie” Schoenberg, whose family came from Dornum in northern Germany when she was 16 years old. His father was Simon “Sam” Marx, who changed his name from Marrix, and was called “Frenchie” by his sons throughout his life, because he and his family came from Alsace in France. Minnie’s brother was Al Schoenberg, who shortened his name to Al Shean when he went into show business as half of Gallagher and Shean, a noted vaudeville act of the early 20th century. According to Marx, when Shean visited, he would throw the local waifs a few coins so that when he knocked at the door he would be surrounded by adoring fans. Marx and his brothers respected his opinions and asked him on several occasions to write some material for them.
Minnie Marx did not have an entertainment industry career but had intense ambition for her sons to go on the stage like their uncle. While pushing her eldest son Leonard (Chico Marx) in piano lessons, she found that Julius had a pleasant soprano voice and the ability to remain on key. Julius’s early career goal was to become a doctor, but the family’s need for income forced him out of school at the age of twelve. By that time, young Julius had become a voracious reader, particularly fond of Horatio Alger. Marx would continue to overcome his lack of formal education by becoming well-read.
After a few stabs at entry-level office work and jobs suitable for adolescents, Julius took to the stage as a boy singer with the Gene Leroy Trio, debuting at the Ramona Theatre in Grand Rapids, MI, on July 16, 1905. Marx reputedly claimed that he was “hopelessly average” as a vaudevillian, but this was typical Marx, wisecracking in his true form. By 1909, Minnie Marx had assembled her sons into an undistinguished vaudeville singing group billed as “The Four Nightingales”. The brothers Julius, Milton (Gummo Marx) and Arthur (originally Adolph, but Harpo Marx from 1911) and another boy singer, Lou Levy, traveled the U.S. vaudeville circuits to little fanfare. After exhausting their prospects in the East, the family moved to La Grange, Illinois, to play the Midwest.
After a particularly dispiriting performance in Nacogdoches, Texas, Julius, Milton, and Arthur began cracking jokes onstage for their own amusement. Much to their surprise, the audience liked them better as comedians than as singers. They modified the then-popular Gus Edwards comedy skit “School Days” and renamed it “Fun In Hi Skule”. The Marx Brothers would perform variations on this routine for the next seven years.
For a time in vaudeville, all the brothers performed using ethnic accents. Leonard, the oldest, developed the Italian accent he used as Chico Marx to convince some roving bullies that he was Italian, not Jewish. Arthur, the next oldest, donned a curly red wig and became “Patsy Brannigan”, a stereotypical Irish character. His discomfort when speaking on stage led to his uncle Al Shean’s suggestion that he stop speaking altogether and play the role in mime. Julius Marx’s character from “Fun In Hi Skule” was an ethnic German, so Julius played him with a German accent. After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, public anti-German sentiment was widespread, and Marx’s German character was booed, so he quickly dropped the accent and developed the fast-talking wise-guy character that became his trademark.
The Marx Brothers became the biggest comedic stars of the Palace Theatre in New York, which billed itself as the “Valhalla of Vaudeville”. Brother Chico’s deal-making skills resulted in three hit plays on Broadway. No other comedy routine had ever so infected the Broadway circuit. All of this stage work predated their Hollywood career. By the time the Marxes made their first movie, they were already major stars with sharply honed skills; and by the time Groucho was relaunched to stardom on You Bet Your Life, he had been performing successfully for half a century.
Top 30 Groucho Marx Quotes
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