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Groucho, Chico, and Harpo

In the 1890's, Groucho, Chico and Harpo (Julius, Leonard and Adolph Marx) were born to Jewish immigrant parents in Manhattan's Yorkville section. 

Groucho Marx, king of the jungle
by Ron Goulart.
Waterville, Me. : Wheeler Pub. ; [Bath, England] : Chivers ; Camden, 2006.
  1. "Unabridged"--T.p. Verso.
  2. Originally published: New York : St. Martin's Press, c2005.
     
Groucho : a life in revue
New Jersey Public Television & White Whale Productions presents ; produced by Comedia Creative Group and Big Foot Productions ; by Arthur Marx & Robert Fisher ; directed for the stage by Frank Ferrante ; teleplay directed by Steve Moskovic.
West Long Branch, NJ : White Star, [2001]
Groucho: A Life In Revue highlights the legendary comedian's life and amazing career. Written by the ultimate authority - Groucho's son Arthur Marx - this comedy with music chronicles the unparalleled rags-to-riches story of America's funniest entertainer.
     
Groucho Marx and the Broadway murders
Ron Goulart.
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins Minotaur, 2001.
In Ron Goulart's well received series featuring comedian-cum-amateur sleuth Groucho Marx, Groucho and his writer Frank Denby have made a name for themselves as detectives. In fact, in their last case, they were able to outsmart Sherlock Holmes, or at least the actor playing him. However, both men play down their sleuthing abilities and to escape their new reputation, Groucho agrees to perform in a Broadway play and Frank accompanies his wife on a business trip. When Groucho learns that Frank and Jane are going to New York via train he decides to join them, figuring it will be a nice relaxing journey. However, murder and mayhem somehow follow them across the country. First, before even leaving for New York they are approached by a local mobster who firmly believes that the recent murder of his associate was not a mob hit. He asks them to look into the matter and Groucho suggests that he try "Philip Marlowe, Dan Turner or some other Hollywood shamus" even though "they don't have our track record...or a strawberry birthmark right here." From there, things only get more interesting. On the train they meet Dian Bowers, the newest star of Daniel Manheim, a domineering Hollywood producer. A series of bizarre events unfolds on the train, including an attempt on Manheim's life. When they arrive in New York, Groucho agrees to escort Dian to the premiere of her estranged husband's play, but the play never makes it into the second act because a body is discovered on stage. When Dian's husband becomes the prime suspect, Groucho and Frank once again find themselves playing detective. Searching for clues in the Big Apple and trying to see if the second murder is at all connected to the death of the mobster, Groucho and Frank have their hands full. However, the pressure doesn't get to Groucho and as he hunts for clues he still has time for all of his silly gags and terrible puns. Whether or not you are a Groucho fan, "this enjoyable little tale will charm the baggy pants off you."
     
Monkey business : the lives and legends of the Marx Brothers : Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, with added Gummo
Simon Louvish.
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000, c1999.
Strange but true: this is the first authentic account of the Marx Brothers, their origins and of the roots of their comedy. First and foremost, this is the saga of a family whose theatrical roots stretch back to mid-19th century Germany. From Groucho Marx's first warblings with the singing Leroy Trio, this book brings to life the vanished world of America's wild and boisterous variety circuits, leading to the Marx Brothers' Broadway successes, and their alliance with New York's theatrical lions, George S. Kaufman and the 'Algonquin Round Table'. Never-before-published scripts, well-minted Marxian dialogue, and much madness and mayham feature in this tale of the Brothers' battles with Hollywood, their films, their loves and marriages, and the story of the forgotten brother Gummo.
     

Groucho, master of one-liners

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening.  But this was not it."

"I could dance with you till the cows come home...But I would rather dance with the cows till you come home."

The Marx Brothers were trained musically from an early age, and around 1905 they got their start in vaudeville.  Groucho sang and played guitar, Chico played piano, and Harpo played almost any instrument, including the harp. 

Their experiences growing up in the slums of New York had given the Marx Brothers an endless amount of subject matter, and gradually their act featured more comedy and less music. 

The Marx's improv routine really came to life at a performance in Nacogdoches, Texas, when a mule broke loose outside of the theater.  In the commotion, the brothers forgot the script and started making fun of the locals.

Wacky stage names

Groucho (Julius) for his surly and dour disposition
Chico (Leonard) for his love of the ladies
Harpo (Adolph) for the harp he played

Shortly after, the Marx Brothers began developing their stage characters: Groucho with his cane, grease-paint moustache and cigar; Harpo, who carried a bicycle horn, wore a curly wig and never talked, and Chico with his fake Italian accent. 

In 1924, their careers took off with the Broadway show, 'I'll Say She Is'.  Five years later saw the release of their first film, 'The Cocoanuts', an adaptation of the Broadway play.  They starred in a total of 13 films between 1929-1949, delighting audiences with their comic assaults on facism, intellectualism, and middle-class America.

In the 1950s the Marx Brothers would pursue separate careers.  Groucho would star on the radio and television program 'You Bet Your Life'.  Chico and Harpo appeared periodically on television and in films.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff