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The Marx Brothers Film Series

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The Brothers

The Brothers:

Groucho Marx:  Julius Marx, better known to us as "Groucho Marx", originally wanted to be a dentist.  Not exactly making the cut into his wanted profession, he took up entertaining.

Zeppo Marx:  There were five Marx brothers, although only four would make it into films.  Most people only think of there being three Marx brothers.  Of course we all know Groucho, Harpo, and Chico.  Do you remember Zeppo?  Have you ever heard of Gummo?

    In their early vaudeville days there were four Marx brothers:  Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Gummo.  Gummo (who real name was Milton Marx) left the act just as they were beginning to get popular in vaudeville because he didn't feel he had the performing talent of his brothers.  The youngest of the five Marx brothers, Zeppo, replaced him in the act.  Zeppo was typically the straightman, but actually had a lot more talent than most people credit him for.  Sometimes in the vaudeville acts, Zeppo would play Groucho's parts.  People who have seen that have said that Zeppo could play Groucho better than Groucho himself! 

    My favorite Marx Brothers movies are the ones with Zeppo.  He was a good straight man and a breath of relief from the craziness of the other three brothers.  After he left, there was no straight man and the Brothers often went too over the top.  Zeppo brought things back to some kind of reality, while the other brothers were perennial mischief-makers.  Plus he was good-looking enough to be thought of as the "cool" Marx brother.  Zeppo was also the ladies' man and because of him you got to see a lot more of the sexy love interests.  The other Marx brothers definitely were not "smooth" or handsome in their movies.

    Zeppo had small parts in the first five Marx Brothers movies which at the time were not big hits.  It wouldn't be until the act was a trio that they would have real commercial success.  Zeppo left in 1933 because he just didn't feel his talent was being fully utilized.  Although he played his parts well, no one can say that Zeppo was really as wacky or "out there" as the other Marx brothers.  Zeppo managed the brothers along with other brother Gummo before they ran a talent management company of their own.

    Allegedly, Zeppo was the funniest of the five brothers off camera despite the fact that he always played the romantic lead man in their films.  He was also a mechanical whiz.  His company Marman Products produced clamping devices which were used in the first atomic bomb raids over Japan in 1945.  From about 1948-1949 this same company developed a 2-cylinder motorized bicycle called "The Marman Twin".  Unfortunately the bikes were unable to compete the more established Whizzers even though they were far more powerful.  These bikes are highly collectible today.

    In 1969, Zeppo invented a wristwatch that would monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients.  If the wearer went into cardiac arrest an alarm would sound.  How cool is that?!  He had a great many careers during his life including being a commercial fisherman and growing grapefruits.  Now for some more fascinating Zeppo facts:

Birth Name:  Herbert Marx

Birth Date:  February 25, 1901 in New York City, New York, USA

Date of Death:  November 30, 1979 in Palm Springs, California, USA (cancer)

Height:  5' 9"

Spouse #1:
  Marion Benda (April 12, 1927-May 12, 1954) (divorced) 1 child

Spouse #2:
  Barbara Marx (September 18, 1959-1973) (divorced)
How He Received His Nickname:  Herbert missed out when his brothers received their nicknames, so when he came into the act they gave him one.  He was always practicing acrobatics, so they called him "Zippo" after a famous chimpanzee circus star called "Mr. Zippo".  Herbert didn't think this was flattering so he changed it to Zeppo. 

After He Died:  His ashes were scattered at sea.

His Marx Brothers Filmography:  The Cocoanuts (1929); Animal Crackers (1930); Monkey Business (1931); Horse Feathers (1932); Duck Soup (1933).