Monday, October 11, 2010



"Groucho: A Life In Revue"

Roy Abramsohn

From Wikipedia:
Leonard "Chico" Marx (March 22, 1887 – October 11, 1961) was an American comedian and film star. He was the eldest of the Marx Brothers and known for his use of a Tyrolean hat.

Marx used an Italian accent for his on-stage character; stereotyped ethnic characters were common with Vaudeville comedians. All the Marx brothers at some point in their careers performed "dialect characters," but Chico was the only one to continue this into his films.

Chico was a talented pianist. He originally started playing with only his right hand and fake playing with his left, as his teacher did so herself. Chico eventually got a better teacher and learned to play the piano correctly. As a young boy, he got jobs playing piano to earn money for the Marx family.

Groucho Marx once said that Chico never practiced the pieces he played. Instead, before performances he soaked his fingers in hot water. He was known for 'shooting' the keys of the piano. He played passages with his thumb up and index finger straight, like a gun, as part of the act. (He appears in the film A Year to Remember (1948) playing a "pistol shot" version of the Australian folk song "Waltzing Matilda" to a group of Australian soldiers.) Another example of his keyboard flamboyance is found in A Night at the Opera, wherein he plays the piano for a group of delighted children.

Chico became manager of the Marx Brothers after their mother, Minnie, died. As manager, he cut a deal to get the Marx Brothers a percentage of a film's gross receipts—the first of its kind in Hollywood. Furthermore, it was Chico's connection with Irving Thalberg of MGM that led to Thalberg's signing the Brothers when they were in a career slump after Duck Soup (1933), made at Paramount Pictures.

Chico was the first Marx Brother to die, passing away on October 11, 1961, from cardiovascular disease. During his lifetime, his year of birth had commonly been given as 1891 instead of the true year of 1887, so obituaries tended to report his age at death as 70 rather than 74. He is entombed in a crypt in the Freedom Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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