Groucho Marx: Funny? You bet your life he is
Think of bushy eyebrows, a cigar always dangling from the mouth, raised eyes, stooped posture, rotund glasses and a painted on moustache – and you've got Groucho Marx singing aloud Lydia and the Tattooed Lady. How may the world describe him? An American actor, singer, comedian, wise wit, radio host, filmmaker or just a zany figure who is still remembered by millions in the world? Let's find out who this famous personality was, and some of Groucho Marx's best quotes.
Who was Groucho Marx?
Groucho Marx was a film star, radio and television personality and a man with a solid sense of humor. He grew up in a Jewish family in the 1890s with a mother who was supremely ambitious about her sons going to show business. Grouch Marx and his two brothers were trained in the street side theatrical traditions of the Vaudeville. Over a slew of successful performances, the Marx brothers became big Broadway stars and made their first movie in 1921. Some of their most famous works that the world remembers are Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, Monkey Business and A Night at the Opera.
People started loving Groucho from 1947 onwards when he hosted the 11 year long running television show, You Bet Your Life. Marx's strengths were to ad lib jokes on the contestants and converse with them impromptu to bring down the house. If you thought that the funny phrases Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? and What color is the White House have originated from the English lexicon, you're wrong. They've come from the mind and mouth of none other than Groucho Marx. These phrases were inflicted upon contestants in his show who didn't win anything!
Why was Groucho Marx's show You Bet Your Life so popular?
Essentially a quiz show, You Bet Your Life was presented for both radio and broadcast, because of its simple show format. Couples who were called for being interviewed were selected from the studio audience, and were usually selected keeping in mind their interesting backgrounds. Groucho Marx made the show interesting to such an extent that these common people turned into celebrities-of-sorts at that time.
You Bet Your Life's creative concept was based on the contestants saying a secret word. This was a common word which was revealed to the audience before the show. If a contestant said the word, a toy duck resembling the looks of Groucho with a moustache, cigar and eyeglasses would descend from the ceiling with a 100 dollar bill. A cartoon of a duck with a cigar was also used in the opening title sequence. Groucho was famous for manipulating the conversation to probe the contestant into revealing the secret word. Interestingly, Bill Cosby also hosted a version of this show in 1992, which was later cancelled because of low ratings. No one can match Groucho Marx, it seems!
Groucho Marx: Much more than a comedian
Groucho Marx had a personality and a charm of his own. He had witty one line replies to just about every situation. He was much more than a comedian because unlike today's stand up comedians, there was no script for him.
- Jack Lemmon presented Groucho with an honorary Academy Award in 1974, which was also marked Marx's final public appearance. He also wished that Margaret Dumont, the leading lady in all of the Marx Brothers' films could have been present. He said that he loved her as she never understood any of his jokes.
- You simply can't leave this hub without knowing about this Groucho-ism. There's now a famous club in London called 'The Groucho', frequented by celebrities. Did you know how it got its name? He always said "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members". The name of the club is a tribute to this famous Groucho-ism that he gave the world.
- On this television show, once it so happened that he came a across a contestant who had nine children. When Groucho asked him why she had so many children, the replied saying that it was because she loved her husband. And this is what Groucho said "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." In addition to many others, this remains that most oft-quoted Groucho-isms ever.
- There was something about Groucho and his ladies. He was always approximately 10 years elder to each of the three ladies he married. Whenever they went to a restaurant and any of his wives tried to show off by asking Groucho to tell the staff 'who they are', Groucho always embarrassed her by telling the staff "We're the Smiths" or "We're the Jones!"
- Groucho was friends with greats like Frank Sinatra, Elton John, George Kaufman, Alice Cooper, Carl Sandberg and T. S Eliot. In 1978, when the original white lettering of HOLLYWOOD atop the hill in LA were being auctioned to raise money for new replacement letters, Alice Cooper bought an "O" in memory of her dear friend Groucho.
Groucho-isms that are worth knowing
You could exhaust half your life trying to gather all the anecdotes and quotes that marked Groucho's personality and life. The beauty of his wit is that it ranges from being funny, to just a little sarcastic to serious to mindless yet surprisingly poignant. Marx appeals on innumerable levels to each person in some way or the other. Check out some of Groucho Marx's famous quotes.
- A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere
- A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running
- Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife
- In Hollywood, brides keep the bouquets and throw away the groom
- Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?
- Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book, and does
- The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made
- Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?
- No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend
- Die, my dear doctor! That's the last thing I shall do!