Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Significant things have always happened in my life on the nineteenth of every month-- good things and bad things. The 19th of October was my mother and father's wedding anniversary, though my three sisters always get that date confused with the date of my dear mother's birthday: October 25th. I do remember that on August 19th 1977 we lost the one and only Groucho Marx. Groucho was so amazingly funny. He once described the perfect woman as: someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe and talks like George S. Kauffman. Yes, I can hear it: George who? George S. Kauffman was one of the funniest playwrights of all times.He won the Pulitzer Prize. He was the early Neil Simon. His collaboration with Moss Hart on such plays as "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and "George Washington Slept Here" are absolute classics of the theatre. I'm sure that dear old Groucho would have howled about the recent story that has just come out in the news about the man who years and years ago bought the crypt from Joe Dimaggio above Marilyn Monroe's at Forest Lawn in Glendale and insisted that when he died that he was to be burried "upside down" in his coffin, secured tightly by steel bars in his casket to secure himself to remain in an upside down position so that for all eternity he could "be on top of Marilyn Monroe"-- and now his late wife is going to move his body to where she is buried and sell the empty grave site. Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Dear Groucho developed a routine as a wise cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint moustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers (often played by Margaret Dumont) and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.Their first movie was a silent film made in 1919 that was never released, and believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made some of their Broadway hits into movies, including The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers . Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera.One quip from Marx concerned his response to Sam Wood, the director of the classic film A Night at the Opera. Furious with the Marx Brothers' ad-libs and antics on the set, Wood yelled in disgust: "I cannot make actors out of clay." Without missing a beat, Groucho responded, "Nor can you make a director out of Sam Wood."Groucho worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was in a short-lived series in 1932 Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, co-starring Chico. Most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, but all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress.In 1947, the year I was born my hero Groucho was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC television in 1950. Filmed before a live audience, the television show consisted of Marx interviewing the contestants and ad libbing jokes, before playing a brief quiz. The show was responsible for the phrases "Say the secret woid [word] and divide $100" (that is, each contestant would get $50); and "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House?" (asked when Marx felt sorry for a contestant who had not won anything). It ran for eleven years on television.
Dearest Groucho was the subject of an urban legend, about a supposed response to a contestant who had over a dozen children which supposedly brought down the house. In response to Marx asking in disbelief why she had so many children, the contestant replied "I love my husband," to which Marx responded, "I love my cigar, but I take it out once in a while." Another interview today In Encino and if it goes well, it will manifest that good things do happen for me on the 19th of each month.

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