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Comedian and film actor Groucho Marx was one of the Marx Brothers. He spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit.
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Groucho Marx was born on October 2, 1890, in born New York City. The Marx Brothers had a career breakthrough in 1914, as Groucho's quick-witted quips won over crowds. By the 1920s, the Marx Brothers had become a hugely popular theatrical act. They made films before splitting up in 1949, at which point Groucho performed solo on radio and television. He died on August 19, 1977.
"When we were coming up through vaudeville, we had the time to work at a sketch until we had it right. When we played Chicago, we played a year and never left the city. There was a theater every four blocks. And then when you left Chicago there was Decatur, Aurora, Elgin, Champaign … you could work out new stuff."
"… my trouble is that I don’t like to let just everybody get in a word edgewise, and can’t stand anyone else having the last word."
Comedian, actor, singer and writer Groucho Marx was born Julius Henry Marx on October 2, 1890, in New York City. Groucho Marx spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit. He once described his comedy as "the type of humor that made people laugh at themselves."
While he originally aspired to be a doctor, Marx started his career as a singer. One of his earliest efforts proved to be disastrous, however. As part of the Le May Trio, Marx got stuck in Colorado for a while after another group member took off with his pay. He had to work at a grocery store to earn enough money to make it back to New York.
Marx's father Samuel never had much success as a tailor, and the family struggled financially. His mother Minnie hoped that she might find prosperity through her five children. She became the quintessential "stage mother," guiding her children's theatrical acts and even performing herself. The act eventually featured Groucho and his brothers Leonard, Adolph and Milton.
Groucho received his colorful nickname from fellow vaudeville performer Art Fisher because of his personality. Fisher also coined amusing names for Marx's brothers, renaming Leonard "Chico," Adolph "Harpo" and Milton "Gummo." Milton left the act to fight in World War I and was replaced by youngest brother Herbert, known as "Zeppo." Both Herbert and Milton later became theatrical agents.
The Marx Brothers had a career breakthrough in 1914 while performing in Texas. During a show, some of the audience left to go see a runaway mule. When they returned, the Marx Brothers put aside their usual routines to make fun of the audience. Groucho's quick-witted quips won over the crowd. The switch to comedy proved to be their ticket to success.
By the 1920s, the Marx Brothers had become a hugely popular theatrical act. Groucho had developed some of his trademarks by this time. He often wore a long coat, a painted-on mustache, thick glasses and held on to a cigar on stage. In addition to just liking cigars, Marx explained that they proved useful, too. He said that "if you forget a line, all you have to do is stick the cigar in your mouth and puff on it until you think of what you've forgotten."
The Marx Brothers had a string of Broadway hits, starting with 1924's I'll Say She Is, which Groucho helped write. The following year, they returned to the stage with The Cocoanuts, a spoof on land speculation in Florida. The Marx Brothers hit it big again in 1928 with Animal Crackers.
In great demand, Marx appeared on Broadway in Animal Crackers at night while filming the film version of The Cocoanuts during the day.
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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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