Groucho Marx: Behind The Mustache


Of the five Marx brothers, Groucho Marx may be the most iconic, and for good reason. Groucho was one of the greatest comedians of the modern era and one of the most recognizable. The prolific entertainer has appeared on stage, in vaudeville, in films, on television, and on the radio. Behind that greasepaint mustache and exaggerated eyebrows, however, was a complex figure. Here's what you don't know about Groucho Marx.

he got his nickname because he was grumpy

According to stories, all five Marx brothers got their surnames during a 1914 card game with stand-up comedian Art Fisher. Despite his reputation as a witty man, Julius Marx was a serious and grumpy brother who was easy to anger and often in a bad mood. In another story, it was claimed that Groucho Marx often wore a "Groocho Bag" around his neck in which he held candy. Either way, Art Fischer suggested the name Groucho for Julius Marx, and his brothers---Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo---all agreed to it.

Groucho Was Grouchy --- Just Ask His Ex-Wives

While Groucho Marx was friendly on stage, it was rumored that he was vindictive, pessimistic and mean, and that his wives bore the brunt of his anger. At the age of 29, he married 19-year-old Ruth Johnson, who later claimed that Groucho was verbally abusive, controlling, and led him to alcoholism. Kay Marvis, Groucho's second wife, who was just 21 when she married the 54-year-old comedian, also claimed after their divorce that Groucho was mentally cruel and forced her to drink. He married his third wife, Eden Hartford, when he was 63 and she was 24. Hartford later filed for divorce on the grounds of excessive cruelty and controlling behavior.

Groucho couldn't sing

The parents of the Marx Brothers were not involved in show business, but they had an uncle, Al Sheen, who found success in vaudeville. Their mother, Minnie, hoped that their five sons would also be big vaudeville stars, so she taught them some songs and promoted them as a singing group. However, there was a small problem with his plan: none of the boys could sing the song. The brothers later explained that they once gave a mediocre musical performance, much to the dismay of the audience, so in an effort to defuse the tension, they cracked jokes with each other. The audience liked it. It was then that Groucho and the rest of the Marx Brothers abandoned their musical aspirations and turned to comedy.

Groucho's Mustache Was Fake, And It Looked

Early in his career, Groucho performed while wearing a fake mustache, which he carefully watched in his dressing room before each performance. According to legend, Groucho was running late one day and had come to the theater for a performance of She Is From the Marx Brothers' show I Will, with little time to prepare. He quickly drew a mustache on his face using greasepaint, which he decided he liked better than his prop mustache. Not only was it fast to apply, it was also easy to remove. His oversized, exaggerated mustache and accompanying eyebrows eventually became Groucho Marx's signature look, but later, as host of the popular quiz show You Bet Your Life, Groucho actually grew a real mustache.

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