With all the attention on Elvis’ 30th anniversary of his death, to my mind a much more important memorial is forgotten. Today is the 30th anniversary of Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx. I was in boot camp when I saw the newspaper headline that Groucho had died and though he had a long life and died at 86 I certainly felt his passing.
As a life long Marx Brothers fan it was always Groucho I loved most (after that of course it is Zeppo or Gummo). In the days of three or four channel TV is was always an event for me when a Marx Brother film was being played or when a local theater was doing a Marx Brothers’ film festival. In high school I read every book on the Marx Brothers I could get my hands on and even once wrote an essay on them. Besides once dressing up as Groucho though I did once pull the Harpo handshake-to-leg-holding trick on my principal.
There are just so many stories about Groucho outside of his films that I truly love. One of my favorite being is that after the Marx Brothers’ had made the film "A Night in Casablanca", Warner Brothers sent a letter to them saying they were going to sue. Groucho wrote them back saying that the Marx Brothers were brothers before the Warner brothers and would counter-sue. That was the end of that lawsuit.
Night of the Opera is my favorite film of theirs, but I enjoy even their lesser films which compared to what passes for comedy in films today are masterpieces in comparison. To many film comedians have decided that to be funny you have to be vulgar and crass. The new comedians might have their funny moments in film, but it is only moments. The interplay of the Marx Brothers could have your rolling from the beginning of the film to the end. Instead of the onscreen wit and silliness of Groucho’s walk, songs, and painted on moustache we get Adam Sandler.
So thank you Groucho for the years of pleasure and may we one day meet in Heaven even if you would never join a club that would have you as a member.
"I once shot an elephant in my pajamas, how he got in my pajamas I’ll never know" — Animal Crackers
One of my first parodies was a Marx Brothers’ take on the Jesus Seminar called A Night at the Jesus Seminar.