Tag Archives: Groucho Marx

The Little Girl Harpo Marx Was “Crazy About”

Harpo Marx Loved A Little Visitor To The Set So Much, He Seriously Wanted To Buy Her

Harpo Marx with Shirley Temple in the studio commissary during the filming  of Duck Soup 1933

Harpo Marx with Shirley Temple in the studio commissary during the filming of Duck Soup 1933

Maybe today this would be considered kind of creepy, but anyone who knew Harpo Marx would have said it was not, because it was “so Harpo-like.”

The story sounds apocryphal, but according to Groucho Marx as told to Richard Anobile in The Marx Brothers Scrapbook it is true.

In the midst of the Great Depression during the production of the Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers in 1932, Harpo Marx would see this adorable girl who was about four-years-old along with her parents watching the Marx’s work on the set. During breaks in the filming, Harpo starting talking to the child and her parents. Groucho says, “Harpo was crazy about this girl.” He became so enchanted with this little girl, that he offered to adopt her and give her parents $50,000 as compensation.  They of course refused.

Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple doll 1934

Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple doll 1934

This all happened before the little girl was in a single film and would go on to become the biggest child movie star of all-time – Shirley Temple.

The photograph at the top of this article was taken a year after Harpo’s offer. By that time, Shirley Temple had still not made a feature film, but appeared in many ten minute shorts. Shirley was just beginning to become known to the public when she revisited Harpo while in the studio commissary.

Shirley Temple died in Woodside, CA, Monday February 10, 2014 of natural causes. She retired from motion pictures at the age of 21 in 1949. Shirley was happily married for 55 years to Charles Black. She became a United States ambassador and by all accounts had a very happy and fulfilling life.

Because Harpo’s wife Susan Fleming was unable to have children, Harpo did eventually adopt four children who all say he was the most wonderful father in the world.

Groucho Marx And His Third Wife Eden Hartford

A Marriage Not Made To Last

On July 17, 1954 Groucho Marx married Eden Hartford at Sun Valley, Idaho. It was his third marriage, it was her second. He was 63, she was 24.

This was the beginning.

Groucho and Eden Marx 1954

 

This was the end.

 

Groucho and Eden at Brown Derby

The look on both of their faces in this photo from around 1962 says it all about the state of their marriage after eight years.

Groucho and Eden are dining at the famous Brown Derby restaurant and apparently not enjoying each other’s company. Groucho and Eden displayed similar expressions during the 1960’s anytime they were photographed together.

Even though the love affair was apparently over, the official end wouldn’t come until 1969 after 15 years of marriage when Groucho and Eden were divorced.

Six years after Groucho died, Eden passed away from cancer at the age of 53 on December 15, 1983.

The Greatest TV Game Show Ever

What’s My Line 1950 – 1967

Whats-My-Line-Cast-Dorothy-Kilgallen-death-November-8-1965 cr

A few years ago my Tivo was tuned into the Game Show Network weeknights at 3:00 a.m., taping every episode of the greatest TV game show ever made, What’s My Line.

Let me state it was not just a great game show, but one of the best television shows ever.

Unfortunately the series is not being broadcast now, but many segments of the show are available on Youtube.

To describe the brilliance of the show better than I ever could, we will refer to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1948 – Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine 1988), an indispensable television reference book.

What’s My Line was the longest-running game show in the history of prime-time network television. It ran for 18 seasons, on alternate weeks from February to September 1950, then every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. for the next 17 years. The format was exceedingly simple. Contestants were asked simple yes-or-no questions by the panel members, who tried to determine what interesting or unusual occupation the contestant had. Each time the contestant could answer no to a question, he got $5, and a total of 10 no’s ended the game. The panel was forced to don blindfolds for the “mystery guest,” a celebrity who tried to avoid identification by disguising his voice.

That little game, by itself, hardly warranted an 18-year run, when other panel shows of the early 1950’s came and went every month. But What’s My Line was something special, both for the witty and engaging panel, and for a certain élan which few other shows ever captured. There were no flashy celebrities-of-the-moment or empty-headed pretty faces on this panel; they were obviously very intelligent people all, out to have some genteel fun with an amusing parlor game. Like (moderator) John Daly with his bow tie and perfect manners, it reeked of urbanity [“that’s three down and seven to go, Mr. Cerf?”]

The panelists who created this special atmosphere were an elite group. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #24

W.C. Fields In A Rare Color Photograph Circa 1940

WC Fields color

W.C. Fields or Bill Fields to his friends, was one of the most talented comedians of the first half of the 20th century. He began his show business career in vaudeville as a juggler and worked his way up to top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies for a ten year stretch. From there he went on to become a major film star during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Today, upon viewing his films, many people do not understand why he was considered funny. But I assure you there is a subtle brilliance in Fields’ portrayals of the henpecked husband, disreputable man and misunderstood misanthrope.

One of the more popular, yet apocryphal stories about Fields, was that he had hundreds of bank accounts spread across the country, many under ridiculous pseudonyms such as Otis Criblecoblis; Mahatma Kane Jeeves; Aristotle Hoop; Ludovic Fishpond; Figley E. Whitesides and so on. After Fields died in 1946, his mistress Carlotta Monti claimed that there was over $1.3 million in unclaimed funds in banks under the fake names. An assistant hired to solve the dilemna of Fields estate found only 24 accounts all under Fields real name.

J.P. McEvoy’s profile of Fields in the July 26, 1942 Los Angeles Times revealed some things about Fields and his money:

Bill agrees in part, with Arthur Brisbane, who said that to keep a comic good was to keep him poor. Bill has no intention of becoming poor so that people will think he is funny, but he refuses to let photographers snap him in his big cars or silhouetted against his Hollywood mansion. “People won’t laugh if they think I’m rich,” he says. “They’ll snarl, ‘That so and so. Trying to be funny, eh? I could be funny too if I had all that dough.’ ”

“All that dough” are the words for it, for Bill has been in the big money for years. But he’s never invested, bought a stock, or even owned a house – he’s salted it away in cash and Government bonds. It is reliably reported he had $400,000 cash in the New York Harriman bank in ’29 and got all of it out before it folded in the crash. When he toured the world he banked his salary in every country  – and got it all over here before trouble started. “Bill will feed you, clothe you and house you,” says an old pal, “but he won’t lend you a nickel.”

My favorite story about Fields was told by Groucho Marx. In the early 1940’s Groucho visited Fields at his house on DeMille Drive in the Laughlin Park section of Los Angeles.

Fields took Groucho up to the attic where he showed Groucho his stash of liquor. It was literally thousands of cases of assorted booze. Groucho was shocked and said “Bill what do you need all this liquor for? Prohibition is over.”

Fields looked at Groucho and half seriously replied, “Well, it might come back!”

Before They Were Famous…

The 4 Nightingales – “Big Hit Everywhere”

4 Nightingales

This rare trade card from 1908 – 1909 advertises a vaudeville group known as “The Four Nightingales.” Two of them went on to worldwide fame. Can you guess who they are?

Scroll down for the answer.

A huge clue is “Minnie Marx Manager”

It is The Marx Brothers. From left to right: Milton “Gummo” Marx, Harpo Marx, Groucho Marx and Lou Levy.

Gummo Marx never appeared in any Marx Brothers film. He retired from the act after World War I to be replaced by brother Herbert “Zeppo” Marx. Gummo later did manage the brothers and was an agent for many Hollywood stars.

Little is known about the act of The Four Nightingales. They began as a singing act and bits of comedy eventually were worked in. Gummo said, “we would sing what were the popular songs of the day – until we sang them”.

Classic Hollywood #22

Hedy Lamarr and Cecil B. DeMille On The Set Of “Samson and Delilah”

Hedy Lamarr Cecil B Demille On Set 10 28 1949

The 1949 biblical epic, Samson and Delilah starred the beefy Victor Mature and the beautiful Hedy Lamarr in the title roles. According to legend, when Groucho Marx was asked what he thought of the movie he replied with one of the greatest bon mots ever. Groucho said he “couldn’t enjoy a film where the leading man’s tits were bigger than the leading lady’s.”

The caption on the back of this October 28, 1949 publicity photograph reads:

THERE CAN BE QUIET — This is one of the few serene moments in “Samson and Delilah.’ Hedy Lamarr (left) with Producer- Director Cecil B. DeMille maintain an interested silence  while technicians set up the equipment for the next scene. It is Ms. Lamarr’s first Technicolor picture and also her first under the DeMille banner. In it she enacts one of history’s most exotic and celebrated personalities, the Delilah of the Book of Judges, from which Mr. DeMille has extracted the framework of his big-budget production.  (PLEASE CREDIT SAMSON AND DELILAH)

Classic Hollywood #6

Harpo with his Children, 1954

Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers married the beautiful actress Susan Fleming in 1936. She promptly retired from acting and from all accounts they had a terrific marriage until Harpo’s death in 1964.

Unable to have children, Harpo and Susan adopted four children, three of whom are seen here. From left to right Alex, Jimmy & Minnie.

Upon reflection, years later in interviews, the children concurred Continue reading

Groucho Marx’s Son Dies at 89

Arthur Marx, Son of Groucho Passes Away – April 14, 2011

Arthur Marx’s passing is being announced quite expectedly as “Groucho Marx’s son dies.”

Arthur was very talented in his own right and did carve out a successful career for himself as a champion tennis player and author.

Arthur was the author of a dozen books and wrote about his famous father in four books, most recently the picture collection Arthur Marx’s Groucho: A Photographic Journey 2001 (Phoenix Marketing Service). Arthur first wrote about his father in Life With Groucho A Son’s Eye View 1954 (Simon and Schuster) and the much more candid autobiographical Son of Groucho 1972 (David McKay). The last book is especially revealing in discussing the difficulty Arthur encountered in finding his own career path and being the son of one of the most famous entertainers in the world. By Arthur’s account Groucho had a difficult time showing affection and drove all three of his wives away through one form of mental cruelty or another.

Arthur told one story where the only time he had ever seen his father cry was at the funeral of Groucho’s brother Harpo.  Arthur was named after Harpo (whose real name was Adolph, and then Americanized to Arthur during World War I.)   All of the Marx Brothers named their daughters after their mother Minnie; each of their names begins with the letter “M”.

Arthur’s career as a writer for television, movies and the stage was quite varied but mostly within the comedy field.  He had written for such shows as Alice, My Three Son’s and McHale’s Navy.  He was much more than the “son of Groucho.”