A Loving Tribute to the Marx Brothers______
It Was a Moment That
I will never forget. Similar to a moment frozen into the fabric of time. My very first glimpse of The Marx Bros. starring in "A Day at The Park," and although I was only eight, and not blessed with a great I.Q., something explosive happened inside my imagination and I actually knew what these three fireballs-of-three-actors were doing. No kidding. I was not tempted tp not run to the kitchen and hit the refrigerator for a snack, because the screenplay writers, director, and producer and all concerned (behind the scenes) made the fast and unpredictable gags and stunts performed by Groucho; Harpo; Chico and Gummo not only a wonderful departure, but a slice of pure joy. The Marx Brothers' antics, there was that unmistakable, visible intelligence and resilience that carried them through the good and bad times--and with these heroes of Cinema, they catapulted from the Silver Screen to Hollywood Legends to rest comfortably into our hearts
Who Were The Marx Brothers, Really?
Proudly an American family comedy engine that ran wide-open from start to finish. The Marx Brothers was not only successful in not only Vaudeville, but on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949 with the ease of a high-flying trapeze act. This body of work by the Marx Brothers is still recognized as incomparable. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were chosen by the American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them (Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera) in the top twelve. They are widely considered by (theater and fil) critics, scholars, and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively.
The group is still universally known today by their stage names: Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo. There was a sixth brother, the first born, named Manfred (Mannie), who died aged seven months; Zeppo was given the middle name Manfred in his memory.
The center and leader of the act were the three older brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho, each of whom developed a highly distinctive stage presence. After the group disbanded in 1950, Groucho went on to begin a successful second career in television, while Harpo and Chico appeared less prominently. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, never developed their stage characters to the same extent as the elder three. They each left the act to pursue business careers at which they were successful, and for a time ran a large theatrical agency through which they represented their brothers and others. Gummo was not in any of the movies; Zeppo appeared in the first five films in relatively straight (non-comedic) roles. The performing lives of the brothers owed much to their mother Minnie Marx, who acted as their manager until her death in 1929.
From the acting to the people in ticket booths in every theater there was always a big line of Marx Brothers fans who couldn't wait for the film to begin. The screenplays for the Marx Brothers were sometimes invented onstage and the director either used or cut it. But most of the time, those impromptu gags were what made the Marx Brothers, more than a comedy act, but an enduring Hollywood trademark.
If you were among the first fans of the Marx Brothers, you couldn't help to see the choreography designed by not only the Marx Brothers, but the stunt doubles and the brothers went in every scene on both feet and if it didn't meet (their) standards, they stayed and re-shot it until it did.
A List of The Block-Buster Films by The Marx Brothers. . .
which, even in today's "Video Area," are as entertaining and spell-binding as when they were first released: "Duck Soup," "Horse Feathers," "A Night at The Opera," "Animal Crackers," "Monkey Business," "The Cocoanuts," "A Day at The Races," "A Night in Casablanca," "Room Service," "Marx Brothers Go West," "The Big Store," "A Day at The Circus," "Love Happy," and Copacabana," all films very funny, hilarious to be truthful.
Everyone Has a Favorite
mine just happens to be Harpo, simply because of the innocence he portrayed while performing his intricate gags, but my personal favorite moments were the music he made not only in the films, but on the sitcom, “I Love Lucy,” where he played “Take Me Out to The Ballgame,” and I was in tears—even though I was 17. This is how Harpo’s talent affected me.
In 1961 Harpo published his autobiography, Harpo Speaks. Because he never spoke a word in character, many believed he actually was mute. In fact, radio and TV news recordings of his voice can be found on the Internet.
The Marx Brothers were individualistic if they were anything and even said in the Hollywood papers that they were not in any way, competing with The Three Stooges and how many true Hollywood stars would say such a thing concerning stardom.
But the Marx Brothers were stars on and off the stage and screen and I am always glad to share a very touching moments that I was blessed to see on PBS, when Harpo’s adopted daughter,
Minnie Marx Eagle, said that when Harpo was not working, “Uncle Harpo,” as she called him, always had all of the neighborhood kids at his house, not for babysitting, but to play games, joke around and all in clean fun.”
“To me, Uncle Harpo was only very intelligent and artistic, but at heart, a kid like the ones who came to play with him at his home.” She added.
I for one celebrate this one fact that there will never be a Marx Brothers and oh, how I applaud and miss them.
February 19, 2019___________________________________
© 2019 Kenneth Avery