GROUCHO AND M(US)E

Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age. –Groucho Marx, Chapter I, GROUCHO AND ME

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As long-time readers of my blog know, I’m a big fan of Groucho Marx/The Marx Brothers, so it should come as no surprise that one of the first books I read from my used book sale haul (see previous post) was Groucho’s autobiography, GROUCHO AND ME. And who, you ask, is the ME in that title? (Hint: it’s not me).  It’s none other (says the back cover) than “a comparatively unknown Marx named Julius, who, under the nom de plume of Groucho, enjoyed a sensational career on Broadway and in Hollywood with such comedy classics as Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup [and] A Night at the Opera.”

Julius Groucho Marx (1895-1977) wasn’t just a comedian — he was a wit who appreciated wit in others and “Gratefully Dedicated This Book To These Six Masters Without Whose Wise and Witty Words My Life Would Have Been Even Duller: Robert Benchley / George S. Kaufman / Ring Lardner / S. J. Perelman / James Thurber / E. B. White.”

I already owned several Marx Brothers books (written by others) and had at least a whit of an impression of Groucho’s résumé before sinking my teeth into this book….but there’s nothing like an autobio for getting it straight from the Horse’s mouth (Feathers and all). At least, that’s what I thought until I got to page 11, where Groucho wrote:

“This opus started out as an autobiography, but before I was aware of it, I realized it would be nothing of the kind. It is almost impossible to write a truthful autobiography. Maybe Proust, Gide and a few others did it, but most autobiographies take good care to conceal the author from the public.”

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. This is a different kettle of soup. You pay coal hard cash for an autobiography, and what do you get? A bit of Cash back, another day older and deeper in debt.

Well, two can play that game. This opus began as a book review of GROUCHO AND ME, but Groucho’s bait-and-switch gives me no choice but to turn it into a GROUCHO AND me thing (sorry, readers, no refunds) by invoking the Sanity Clause in my contract….

As I started to say before me was so rudely interrupted, you will have to be satisfied with some suitable quotes from Groucho’s book, which left me in stitches:

My Pop was a tailor, and sometimes he made as much as $18 a week. But he was no ordinary tailor. His record as the most inept tailor that Yorkville ever produced has never been approached. This could even include parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx. The notion that Pop was a tailor was an opinion held only by him. To his customers he was known as “Misfit Sam.”

They say that every man has a book in him. This is about as accurate as most generalizations. Take, for example, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man you-know-what.” Most wealthy people I know like to sleep late, and will fire the help if they are disturbed before three in the afternoon. You don’t see Marilyn Monroe getting up at six in the morning. The truth is, I don’t see Marilyn getting up at any hour, more’s the pity.

Recognition didn’t come overnight in the old days. We bounced around for many years before we made it. We played towns I would refuse to be buried in today, even if the funeral were free and they tossed in a tombstone.

After we hit the big time on Broadway, naturally our lives changed. Each member of the family reacted differently. Chico stopped going to poolrooms and started to patronize the more prosperous race tracks. After he got through with them, they were even more prosperous. Zeppo bought a forty-foot cruiser and tore up Long Island Sound as though to the manner born. Harpo, a shy and silent fellow, was taken up by the Algonquin crowd, at that time probably the most famous and brilliant conversational group in America. The quips flew thick, fast and deadly, and God help you if you were a dullard!

I am not sure how I got to be a comedian or a comic. As a lad, I don’t remember knocking anyone over with my wit. I’m a pretty wary fellow, and have neither the desire nor the equipment to know what makes one man funny to another man. My guess is that there aren’t a hundred top-flight professional comedians, male and female, in the whole world. But because we are laughed at, I don’t think people really understand how essential we are to their sanity. If it weren’t for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare with the death rate of the lemmings.

And so ( just between Groucho and us) it seems that there is a Sanity Clause after all. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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12 comments on “GROUCHO AND M(US)E

  1. It sounds like an autobio to me, just seen through Groucho’s lens, which is shaded with humor. I get the impression that you enjoyed the book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mistermuse says:

    I did indeed enjoy the book. I think Groucho made his autobio-denial with tongue in cheek — as he does with most of the anecdotes in his book, which makes his autobio much different than most I’ve read. And what’s not to like about making (in many instances) serious points with insightful wit!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. arekhill1 says:

    I’m glad to say I’ve read every author on Groucho’s list, Sr. Muse.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mistermuse says:

    I shall take up your defense against anyone who ever accuses you of being listless, Ricardo.

    Like

  5. Don Frankel says:

    Some people say this never happened and others say it was why he got kicked off TVr. But a little research showed he said it on the radio and they just cut it out before it was aired.

    Sounds real to me. But either way he was a classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mistermuse says:

    In those days, even Groucho couldn’t get away with that one — classic though it was. Thanks for digging up that clip, Don.

    Like

  7. BroadBlogs says:

    Sure am glad film was invented by the time Groucho came around.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mistermuse says:

    You said it! And so did the movies, in converting from silent to sound just as Groucho and his brothers came to Hollywood from Broadway in the late 1920s.

    Like

  9. linnetmoss says:

    I adore Groucho! And S. J. Perelman too. Surprised to find that Wodehouse was not on his list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mistermuse says:

    I’m surprised that Dorothy Parker wasn’t on his list, as Groucho seemed partial to members of the Algonquin Round Table (with which Harpo “was taken up by,” according to one of Groucho’s quotes) — she, Benchley, Kaufman and Lardner being ‘charter members.’ But Wodehouse spent much of his life in New York and Hollywood (as did the Marx Brothers), so I can only guess that P. G.’s humor was a bit too droll for Groucho’s taste.

    Like

  11. restlessjo says:

    We have a boxed set of the Marx Brothers. Thanks for reminding me 🙂 They used always to be on at Christmas. Wishing you a joyful time!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse says:

    Thank you, and have a great Christmas!

    Like

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