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The Marx Brothers

Updated on December 29, 2009

Marx Brothers, American film comedy team. "Chico", born Leonard Marx, Mar. 22, 1891; died Oct. 11, 1961. "Harpo," born Arthur Marx, Nov. 23, 1893; died Sept. 28, 1964. "Groucho," born Julius Marx, Oct. 2, 1895; died Aug. 19, 1977. All three born in New York City and died in Los Angeles, Calif.

The films of the Marx Brothers rank with those of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as the funniest ever made. Full of "screwball" sight gags and lunatic dialog, they poke fun at such established institutions as the upper class, higher education, grand opera, and governmental bureaucracy. Their most popular films include Animal Crackers (1928), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), Duck Soup (1933), A Night at the Opera (1935), A Day at the Races (1937), Room Service (1938), The Big Store (1941), and A Night in Casablanca (1946).

The Marx Brothers first gained recognition in the Broadway musical comedy I'll Say She Is (1924). Their first film, The Cocoanuts (1929), introduced the distinctive characters that became their trademark: the irreverent, nonsensical Groucho with beetle brows, greasepaint mustache, and ever-present cigar; Cfoico, a piano-playing ignoramus adept, however, at all kinds of chicanery; and Harpo, a popeyed, curly-wigged mute who expressed himself through a variety of noisemakers and musical instruments and who tirelessly chased women with a blissfully lecherous grin on his face.

As the team dissolved during the 1940's, each of the brothers pursued separate careers, with Groucho remaining the most active. In the 1950's he served as the wise-cracking master of ceremonies on the popular television show You Bet Your Life, Groucho's Groucho and Me (1959) and Memoirs of a Mangy Lover (1965) and Harpo's Harpo Speaks! (1961) provide colorful de tails of the brothers' career. Two other Marx brothers, Milton ("Gummo") and Herbert ("Zeppo"), were less successful at comedy and retired from the limelight before the team became famous.

Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo
Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo

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