Go and Never Darken My Towels Again! – Groucho Marx
My pen and ink of Groucho Marx comes from my 7th sketchbook. The bold portrait with Groucho’s lazy eye has been used by other artists for their own illustrations for good reason. I had to draw it too. And once the LickedinPop Series was under way I knew immediately that my drawing of Groucho would be a part of it.
It’s crazy to think that Groucho was born 125 years ago, but even when I was a kid I was seeing him on the Million Dollar Movie. That’s where you went to see the ooooooolddddd movies. I thought I was watching something from another lifetime! That feeling was probably intensified by the fact that 99% of the movies from the 30s and 40s were filmed in black and white. But funny is funny no matter how it’s filmed and Groucho and his brothers had funny in spades. Well… maybe not Zeppo.
I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.
Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was an American comedian and film and television star. He was known as a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era. His rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers and imitators.
He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life.
His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, glasses, cigar, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows. These exaggerated features resulted in the creation of one of the world’s most ubiquitous and recognizable novelty disguises, known as “Groucho glasses”: a one-piece mask consisting of horn-rimmed glasses, large plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache.
I intend to live forever, or die trying.
Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Marx developed a routine as a wisecracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers (often played by Margaret Dumont) and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.
Their first movie was a silent film made in 1921 that was never released, and is believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made some of their Broadway hits into movies, including The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera. One quip from Marx concerned his response to Sam Wood, the director of A Night at the Opera. Furious with the Marx Brothers’ ad-libs and antics on the set, Wood yelled in disgust: “You can’t make an actor out of clay.” Groucho responded, “Nor a director out of Wood.”
Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.
Marx also worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was a short-lived series in 1932, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, costarring Chico. Though most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress. In 1947 Marx was chosen to host a radio quiz program, You Bet Your Life, broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC radio and television in 1950. Filmed before a live audience, the television show consisted of Marx interviewing the contestants and ad libbing jokes, before playing a brief quiz. The show was responsible for the phrases “Say the secret woid [word] and divide $100” (that is, each contestant would get $50); and “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” or “What color is the White House?” (asked when Marx felt sorry for a contestant who had not won anything). It ran for eleven years on television.
Throughout his career he introduced a number of memorable songs in films, including “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” and “Hello, I Must Be Going”, in Animal Crackers, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It”, “Everyone Says I Love You” and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady”. Frank Sinatra, who once quipped that the only thing he could do better than Marx was sing, made a film with Marx and Jane Russell in 1951 entitled Double Dynamite.
I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.
All work in the LickedinPop Series begins as an original pen and Ink illustration. Rich and colorful, it is my homage to the work of Roy Lichtenstein tuned to my favorites in pop culture. Beautiful reproductions of ‘Groucho Marx’ and all my work in the LickedinPop Series are available for sale at my Etsy Store. Please come visit!