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The oldest of the Marx Brothers, Chico Marx had an antic personality and a savvy eye for how to keep the group going, but that was also because he had a weakness for both gambling and chasing women.
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Though Chico was responsible for helping secure the wealth of his brothers, his gambling addiction forced them to take over his finances and put him on a fixed allowance. When the other brothers retired from show business, Chico kept working to pay off gambling debts. Jobs included headlining the Chico Marx Orchestra, where Mel Torme got his start,
and performing at some of the seedy vaudeville houses where his career had begun. The Marx Brothers reunited for A Night in Casablanca (1946) to help Chico's bottom line after he'd filed for bankruptcy a few years earlier.
Chico was the first of the Marx Brothers to die, of heart disease on October 11, 1961, in Hollywood, California. He had married his second wife, Mary De Vithas, just a few years earlier, but in 1917, had married Betty Karp. He and Karp had one child together, daughter Maxine Marx, who would later write about her love and exasperation with her complex father in Growing Up With Chico (1980). She also campaigned hard to get the Marx Brothers a U.S. postage stamp. (The brothers actually had an obsession with collecting business stamps, and had used numbers from the stamps to remember bits in their acts.)
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Find out more about the Marx Brothers, the immensely popular family act known for their stage and film performances from the early 1920s to the late '60s, including Animal Crackers, Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera. Explore full biographies, and view photos and videos, of Groucho, Gummo, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo.
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