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"Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo:
A History of the Marx Brothers
and a Satire on the Rest of the World"
by Joe Adamson

Review by John Gabree

The best thing about this exhaustively researched and jauntily written critical biography is the anecdotes: Groucho once "attended a spritualists' meeting and answered a call for questions to the Great Spirit by standing up and asking, 'What's the capital of North Dakota?'"

Adamson, a college professor, brings an academic's seriousness of purpose and breadth of knowledge to bear on the Marx Brothers' lives and work. He also brings -- and this sets off this volume from most Hollywood hagiography -- an irreverent and entertaining prose style. He is serious but never stuffy.

Although he touches on every stage of their career, Adamson wisely concentrates on the '30s, when the Marx Brothers were at their creative peak. He examines almost scene by scene such movie classics as "The Coconuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races," demonstrating how and why the comedy team was funny.

Adamson also records their decline, more in the style of a documentary than a Hollywood expose. The book is packed with photographs and movie stills and dozens of excerpts of the madcap dialog that made them famous. And more anecdotes: Groucho "was probably not aware of everything he was saying when a 'You Bet Your Life' contestant stated that she had 13 children and could explain it only by proclaiming, 'I love my husband!' 'I like my cigar too,' said Groucho, 'but I take it out once in a while.'" (1982)

Buy Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo by Joe Adamson



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