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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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Around this time, he nearly suffered a complete mental breakdown. His hectic schedule and his enormous financial loss in the 1929 stock market crash had taken a toll on the performer and left him with a lifelong struggle with insomnia.
Working with producer Irving Thalberg, the Marx Brothers created one of their most popular movies: A Night at the Opera (1935). As the decade drew to a close,
the Marx Brothers continued to make more films, but none matched the success of their earlier efforts. Their last film together was 1949's Love Happy.
Even before the Marx Brothers split up, Groucho had been exploring other career opportunities. He wrote the 1930 humorous book Beds, and followed it up in 1942 with Many Happy Returns, his comic attack on taxes. On the radio, Groucho worked on several programs before landing a hit in 1947 with You Bet Your Life. He hosted the quirky game show, which focused more on his quick wit than on contestants winning prizes.
You Bet Your Life moved from radio to television in 1950, and Marx entertained America with his wisecracks for 11 years, also winning a 1951 Emmy. After that program ended in 1961, he appeared on Tell It to Groucho, a short-lived game show the following year. Then Marx largely retreated from the limelight, making only sporadic appearances on television and in films.
Later in life, instead of performing, Marx wrote a follow-up to his 1959 autobiography Groucho and Me. This time around, he focused on love and sex in 1963's Memoirs of a Mangy Lover. The thrice-married comedian had a lot to say on those topics. Marx had been married to first wife Ruth from 1920 to 1942. The couple had two children together, Miriam and Arthur. He had his third child, Melinda, with his second wife, Catherine Gorcey. His third marriage to Eden Hartford lasted from 1953 to 1969.
A prolific correspondent with friends and associates, Marx had his personal writings published in 1967 as The Groucho Letters. He returned to the stage in 1972 with a one-man show at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Crowds turned out to see the performer, then in his 80s. He had trouble hearing and his voice was much weaker than it was in his prime. Still, he managed to charm and entertain the audience. Two years later, Marx received a special Academy Award for his stage and screen efforts.
By 1977, Marx was in decline both physically and mentally. He struggled with health problems, and his family battled with his companion Erin Fleming over control of his affairs. After spending nearly two months in a Los Angeles hospital, Marx died of pneumonia on August 19, 1977. "He developed the insult into an art form," The New York Times mused on his death. "And he used the insult, delivered with maniacal glee, to shatter the egos of the pompous ??and to plunge his audience into helpless laughter."
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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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