Groucho was the leader of the Marx Brothers comedy team with his greasepaint mustache, big cigar, swallow tail coat, and most of all, sarcastic, caustic wit. He achieved fame in film with his brothers Harpo and Chico and sometimes Zeppo, and went on to radio and TV success with the ‘You Bet Your Life’ program. The brothers became a smash on Broadway in 1924 with ‘I’ll Say She Is.’ The brothers — by this time, with Zeppo replacing Gummo – became movie stars in 1929 with the film version of ‘The Cocoanuts,’ which was the third talking movie ever. They made 13 films together, finally retiring with ‘Love Happy’ in 1949. In 1947, he went on radio as the quizmaster of ‘You Bet Your Life,’ a show more famous for its repartee between Groucho and his contestants than for the game itself. The program went on TV in 1950 and ended in 1961. One of the things Groucho was best known for was his rendition of the song ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady’ from their movie ‘At the Circus.’ In the 1950s Groucho was invited to take a tour of the New York Stock Exchange. While in the observation booth, he grabbed the public address system handset and began singing ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady.’ Upon hearing silence coming from the trading floor, he walked into view, was given a loud cheer by the traders, and shouted, ‘Gentlemen, in 1929 I lost eight hundred thousand dollars on this floor, and I intend to get my money’s worth!’ For fifteen minutes, he sang, danced, told jokes, and all this time, the Wall Street stock ticker was running blank.
After the deaths of Harpo and Chico, Groucho faded into semi-retirement, having ended his third marriage in 1969. Erin Fleming became his companion/secretary and helped revive his visibility, which included campus tours and a Carnegie Hall appearance. Groucho also wrote eight books. His last year was sadly spent with his son, Arthur Marx, battling Fleming over an aged and decrepit Groucho’s care and her alleged physical abuse and financial misappropriation of his fortune. Shortly after his death, his children found a gag letter written by Groucho that stated that he wanted to be buried on top of Marilyn Monroe, although he was cremated and put in a small niche in Eden Memorial Cemetery in Mission Hills California. In 1989, the Republic of Abkhazia (in the former Soviet Georgia) proclaimed independence and to show the world they were rejecting their Communist past, they issued a postage stamp of Groucho Marx and another of John Lennon (as opposed to Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin). He was good friends with rock star Alice Cooper, often inviting Alice over at 11 o’clock at night to watch TV with him. A drawing of Groucho can also be seen on the cover of the ‘Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits’ album. In 1978, when the original giant white letters of the famous ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign were auctioned off in order to raise money for new replacement letters, Alice bought an ‘O’ in memory of Groucho. Some of his best one liners…..
‘Remember, men, we’re fighting for this woman’s honor; which is probably more than she ever did.’
‘I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.’
[When told that a swimming pool was off-limits to Jews] ‘My son is half-Jewish; can he wade in up to his knees?’
‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.’
‘From the moment I picked your book up until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.’
‘I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.’
‘You’re only as young as the woman you feel.’
‘If you want to see a comic strip, you should see me in the shower.’