Saturday, October 02, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GROUCHO MARX


Today is Groucho Marx's one hundred and tenth birthday! He was born in 1890. What an absolutely amazing and legendary performer. Groucho Marx remains one of my all time favorite comedians. Groucho once performed at Carnegie Hall and I was privileged to view a video of it not long ago. The laughter from that audience was mind blowing.Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo.Marx developed a routine as a wise-cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache 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 is 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 dear Groucho 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: "You can't make an actor out of clay." Groucho responded, "Nor a director out of Wood."Marx 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 very year that i was born) Groucho was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC radio and 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. Actually that's a trick question because not even Grant is buried in Grant's tomb. Groucho was the subject of an urban legend, about a supposed response to a contestant who had nine 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 this, Marx responded, "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." Groucho often asserted in interviews that this exchange never took place, but it remains one of the most often quoted "Groucho-isms" nonetheless. The exchange actually did occur in a taping session for the radio version of You Bet Your Life, out of which it was censored before the installment aired. As a songwriter I can tell you that throughout his career Groucho introduced a number of memorable songs in films, including "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" and "Hello, I Must Be Going", in Animal Crackers, "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It", "Everyone Says I Love You" and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". Frank Sinatra, who once quipped that the only thing he could do better than Marx was sing, made a film with Marx and Jane Russell in 1951 entitled Double Dynamite. Oh and less i forget to honor a straight man's birthday, today is also the birthday of the greatest straight man of all time, Mr. Bud Abbott. Of course on the female side that would have to be dear Gracie Allen.

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