Stars of Bedlam: The Rise & Fall of the Marx Brothers (Part 2)

As we saw in the previous entry, Julius Henry Marx had a passionate, all-consuming love for being onstage and entertaining an audience. His younger brother Milton most assuredly did not.

Milton, around the time he became a Nightingale

But Milton’s antipathy toward performing did not slow their mother, Minnie, down for one second. She was also consumed by a single-minded desire: making her sons famous. Julius was off to a good start. Now it was time to add another to the mix. 

Acting in her new capacity as agent for her sons, Minnie struck up a personal friendship and professional relationship with Ned Wayburn, a well-known producer and choreographer who not only staged musical shows with fresh young performers, but also ran Wayburn’s Training School for the Stage (sometimes referred to as the “College of Vaudeville”), where ambitious but awkward stars-to-be could be receive instruction in singing, dancing, projection, and poise. Milton was immediately enrolled. How long he attended the classes is not remembered. How much good it did him is academic. In June of 1907, Milton and Julius (in matching white yachting suits) were on the road with a petite girl soprano in a pretty party dress named Mabel O’Donnell — a discovery of Wayburn’s — performing as Ned Wayburn’s Nightingales. Minnie accompanied the troupe as road manager. Mother-hen Minnie touring with her boys was a tradition that would continue long after O’Donnell had been forgotten. (Young Herbert was left under the loving but less-than-watchful care of Frenchie and Opie.)

A be-wigged Mabel O’Donnell, and her ardent suitor, Milton

Reviews were…mixed. “The young people in the act dress in white and sing with expression and some magnetism,” noted the New York Clipper. “Their voices are too immature to be measured by critical standards, and they evidently do not attempt to give any example of vocal ability.” Variety was a little kinder: “Two clean-cut, good looking boys and a little mite of a girl with a voice that seems about ten times too large for her make up a most pleasing singing trio. The voices blend well and are handled with judgment usually lacking in children.” Variety also noted that their white costumes needed to be sent to the cleaners.

Their centerpiece number was “Love Me and the World is Mine.”

O’Donnell and Julius

By the end of the year, Ned Wayburn had over-extended himself. He had several expensive shows touring up and down the east coast that were returning negligible profits, so he was preparing to file for bankruptcy. As a result, he was not giving his Nightingales the attention that Minnie felt they deserved. She took over their management and bookings, took Wayburn’s name off the act (now they were “The Three Nightingales”) and, at some point in the spring of 1908, fired Mabel O’Donnell. According to Julius and Milton in later interviews, O’Donnell’s voice was a powerful instrument, but tended to wander off-key. She also, in Milton’s uncharitable memory, had a glass eye and had to wear a peek-a-boo wig that covered one side of her face, which hampered her constant lustful pursuit of Julius. In Julius’ even more uncharitable memory, she was “a fucking nuisance.” In O’Donnell’s defense, the few photographs in existence of her seem to depict a rather plain but perfectly normal-looking girl, and no review of their act ever mentioned off-key singing. (She definitely wore a wig, though.)

Lou Levy, a diminutive boy singer from Brooklyn a few years younger than the Marxes, became the third Nightingale, which may reveal the real reason O’Donnell was sent packing — an all-boy act could share a single room, saving money on accommodations. 

This new version of The Three Nightingales did not sing a single note before they became The Four Nightingales. As always, stories about the reason for this expansion of the act are contradictory, but the most commonly accepted version is that the manager of the next venue where the Nightingales were booked — Henderson’s Music Hall in Coney Island — insisted he had hired a quartet, and a quartet is what had damn well better show up. No problem, decided Minnie. She would just put another son in the act. But even with three sons to choose from, realistic options were limited. Leo, now a talented “trick” pianist and the most obvious choice (even though, at twenty-one, he would be a little long in the tooth for a juvenile act), was counted out because he was actually working a semi-respectable job all the way over in Philly (more on that later). Herbert was…well, Herbert was seven. That left Adolph, who, at nineteen, had outgrown his childhood nickname of “Ahdie” — but wasn’t especially fond of the name “Adolph,” either. 

Teenaged “Ahdie”

Adolph was not quite the black sheep (Frenchie and Minnie could never be ashamed of any of their boys), but he was the oddity in an already odd family. Leo had an amazing head for numbers and could mentally calculate as quick as lightning. Julius was a voracious bookworm, and loved literature and history. Adolph was the Brother who left school the earliest (around his second year of second grade), and struggled with basic literacy. He wandered around the city, hopping on and off streetcars one step ahead of the ticket-takers, and worked dozens of odd jobs that would last only a few weeks or even just a day or two before he was let go for being a screw-up. He had all of Leo’s irresponsibility, but none of his drive. He was a dreamer and a naif. He could play piano well enough that his most steady job was playing accompaniment to the short silent films still called “flickers” at the nickelodeon. 

And of all the Brothers, he was the only one who couldn’t sing. 

This would seemingly be the minimal requirement for joining a singing quartet, but didn’t seem to faze Minnie at all as she stalked into the nickelodeon one day and insisted her almost-adult son stop what he was doing and come with her immediately as she sized him up for a white suit. 

The Four Nightingales make their debut. Adolph clutches Lou Levy by the shoulder. The three men on the right are unidentified — Coney Island, June 1908

Adolph Marx — later known to the world as the silent comic genius Harpo Marx — made his professional stage debut on Coney Island on June 1, 1908 as part of The Four Nightingales. He was silent at that moment, too, having been instructed to lip-synch his part of “Darling Nelly Gray.” He had to be literally shoved onstage. “As I caught my balance, the thought sizzled in my mind. You’re not a boy anymore. You’re a man. Don’t let them know you’re scared,” Adolph recalled. “I came to a halt beside Lou Levy. And there They were. A sea of mocking, hostile faces across the footlights…With my first look at my first audience, I reverted to being a boy again. I wet my pants. It was probably the most wretched debut in show business.”

Business card

As is generally the case with a good Marx Brothers story, this may be exaggerated or totally fictional. (Julius remembers Adolph shitting his pants, so take it all with a grain of salt.) If  Adolph’s little accident really happened, then the audience didn’t notice. The Four Nightingales were a success at Henderson’s Music Hall, and played there a full week. Then the road beckoned, and the boys (and ever-present Minnie) hit the circuit. York, PA…Lima, OH…Tampa, FL…Wheeling, WV…Richmond, IN…the road went on and on as 1908 turned to 1909. Adolph developed a passable enough singing voice to “growl” the bass parts. At the same time, Julius recalled that as he and Milton reached the end of their teens, their formerly sweet singing voices had begun to coarsen. Lou Levy had to carry the primary musical load as lead vocalist. 

Ladies and gentlemen…the Four Nightingales: Milton, Lou Levy, Julius, and Adolph

Although The Four Nightingales’ show was essentially a musical act, comedy had been a part of it from the very beginning, when Julius would do a little between-song patter, often in a comic German accent (in imitation of Uncle Al.) An early review in a New Jersey paper stated that “Julius and Milton Marks [sic]…are not only good singers but clever comedians, too.” Not everyone was so appreciative. “[They] are wasting a good deal of valuable time in the exploitation of ineffectual comedy and dialogue,” read a later review. “The greater part of it could be dropped altogether, and the precious moments thus saved devoted to more singing.” (Evidently this reviewer did not share Julius’ disdain for their voices.) If the boys even read these reviews, it didn’t put them off their new direction. More and more comedy began creeping in, until Julius had developed his first full-blown comic character — “Hans Pumpernickel,” the German butcher boy. He ditched his white suit in favor of a grocer’s apron, a blonde wig (one of Minnie’s cast-offs), blacked-out teeth, and a basket of rubber frankfurters. His star turn was the comedic German song “Ist das Nicht Ein Schnitzelbank?”

From a theater manager’s report: “Four boys, three of them work straight, one eccentric. One of them is a good soloist and their quartet work is acceptable.” 

Top to bottom: Julius, Adolph, Milton, Lou Levy

The very first Marx Brothers comedy sketch, circa 1908, “wasn’t built around much of an idea,” Julius said. “I pretended I was a German comedian. All comedians using German accents were called ‘Dutch comics.’ The accent came easily to me. We lived in Yorkville, a German neighborhood, my uncle, Al Shean, was a Dutch comic, and we were surrounded by breweries… The plot consisted of me as a butcher boy delivering wieners, asking Adolph and Milton (who were dressed as yachtsmen) how to get to Mrs. Schmidt’s house. While Milton pointed me in one direction, Adolph stole the wieners.” 

The famous story of the Marx Brothers switching from a musical act to a full-on raucous comedy act over the course of a single performance in Nacogdoches, Texas in April of 1909 (when the entire audience abandoned the singing quartet halfway through to go observe a runaway mule, and returned to see the singers practically destroying the stage and firing off clever one-liners) is almost pure myth.

But the swing through the South in the spring of 1909 may have been the Brothers’ lowest point. The accommodations were particularly squalid, the hayseed audiences hostile, and the act was growing stale. Adolph: “Down South, we knew we had three strikes against us. One: we were stage folks, in a class with gypsies and other vagrants. Two: we were Jewish. Three: we had New York accents. And, well — strike four: the Four Nightingales weren’t very good.”

In the summer of 1909, Lou Levy departed, replaced by someone called Manuel Frank.

In an attempt to liven things up, Minnie donned a corset and her best wig and joined the boys onstage. For a couple of weeks, they were “Minnie Marx and Her Four Nightingales.” But that didn’t work very well, either. Still, they kept themselves in the papers thanks to Minnie’s incessant promotions and advertising, relying on a confident web of her hyperbole and whopping, bald-faced lies.

Around this time, Adolph discovered his name was one of the most despised in vaudeville. “Adolph Marks” was the name of an attack-dog lawyer hired by the circuit bosses and theater managers to hassle performers for petty violations of their exploitative contracts. It gave Adolph just the excuse he needed to drop his little-loved original name, and begin introducing himself as Arthur. (Contrary to some speculations, he abandoned “Adolph” several years before any world war. He had his name legally changed to Arthur in the fall of 1910.)    

The Four Nightingales gave their final performance on November 13, 1909 in Indianapolis. At the same time, Minnie was engineering a colossal re-location of the entire family’s home base from New York to Chicago. “It would take a combination of bravado, faith, and lunacy to trade New York for Chicago at this time,” noted Groucho’s biographer Stefan Kanfer. “And those were precisely the words to describe Minnie.”

Uncle Julius

Minnie considered the move strategic. Chicago was the central hub of several of the vaudeville circuits. Uncle Al had already established a household in the Windy City. Aunt Hannah and Uncle Julius threw in their lot with the Marxes. Frenchie (who didn’t even pretend to be a tailor anymore) was ordered to pack his stewpot, crate up the piano, and make sure Herbert wasn’t left behind in the confusion. After a brief stint with other relatives, spry old Opie was wrapped in his overcoat and hustled onto the Chicago-bound train. Word eventually reached Leo, wherever he was, that he was invited, too, if he wanted to go. He wandered westward in his own good time. Once everyone was in place, Minnie and her performing sons paced around their rented digs on Calumet Avenue, trying to come up with a fresh direction for the act.  

What they came up with was The Six Mascots. It was really just The Four Nightingales plus two. Minnie concocted the idea of adding two adorable schoolgirls to the act. The kicker was that those adorable schoolgirls would be played by Aunt Hannah, forty-seven, and Minnie herself, forty-five, and now going by the name of “Minnie Palmer.” There was already a well-known stage actress named Minnie Palmer, and the resulting confusion was a deliberate plan. (Advertisements for “Minnie Palmer’s Six Mascots” ran in the Chicago papers.)

Aunt Hannah

The vaguest wisps of a comedic schoolroom routine were starting to come together, but The Six Mascots were still veering all over the map. 

The music-to-comedy ratio was still about 60-40. With Lou Levy and his replacement Manuel Frank both long-gone, seventeen-year-old Chicago native Fred Klute was hired for the lion’s share of straight song-and-dance portions. (Klute is often misidentified as “Freddie Hutchins” for long-lost reasons.) Julius and Milton strummed on ukuleles, and Julius continued to play his “Hans Pumpernickel” butcher boy character (or at least he still wore the costume.) Arthur had a serious piano solo, “The Holy City.” Minnie and Aunt Hannah sang “Two Little Girls in Blue.” Minnie justified their presence by stating it was two more salaries going into the family pot. Aunt Hannah actually turned out to be a good singer. Minnie as a performer…well, she had raw enthusiasm, but her actual talent was on the level of her brother Harry.

The Six Mascots made their debut in December of 1909. Despite the older Marx Brothers having a field day badmouthing the early versions of their act and laughing about how terrible they were, in reality, they were doing pretty well. The surviving reviews were mostly favorable to both the music and comedy, and they were generally near the top of the bill, if not the headliners. But to their own self-critical eyes, The Six Mascots were not cutting it. It was nice to have decent reviews, but bookings were what put cash in pockets, and they were getting harder to come by. Toward the end of another humid tour of the Southern circuit in the summer of 1910, they decided to retool the act, and really lean into the schoolroom routine to provide more structure. 

The Six Mascots: Aunt Hannah, Fred Klute, Julius, Milton, Minnie, and Arthur at the piano

“School” acts, based on Gud Edwards’ 1907 smash hit production School Boys and Girls, featuring the smash hit song “School Days” (“dear old golden rule days”), were so common in vaudeville at that time that all pretense of originality vanished. The routines were stock, the characters were stock. Certainly nothing the Brothers did with the format was groundbreaking — it was just a template. “Most of what we did we stole from other acts,” admitted Milton. They already had their somewhat matronly schoolgirls on board, and now the rest of the cast would create new characters for themselves. Julius became Herr Teacher. He kept the German accent, but ditched the butcher boy outfit in favor of a frock coat, glasses, and a bald wig with a fringe of gray hair on the sides. Milton became “Izzy,” a Jewish boy in a bowler hat (whose solo number was “Yiddle on Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime,” an early Irving Berlin composition the composer probably would like to forget). Arthur put on a curly red wig and dabbed on freckles to become “Patsy,” the Irish class clown, based on a character called “Patsy Bolivar” created by comedian Billy B. Van back in 1896. Soon, vaudeville was full of buffoonish, trouble-making “Patsies.” (At some point the name got mixed up with Patsy Brannigan, a professional boxer of the era, and that’s the name that stuck to Arthur’s version of the character.)  Fred Klute’s persona was unclear, but there is some indication that he was the bullied, Martin Prince-esque “teacher’s pet.”

The Marx Brothers act closed out 1910 in a state of flux, trying out different names, such as “Minnie Palmer and Her Seven Happy Youngsters,” and for one engagement they were even “Julius Marx’s School Kids.” (Based on some hotel and travel records, Robert Bader speculates that even Uncle Julius may have shuffled on stage with them, doing God-knows-what.) Fred Klute dropped out of the act, to be replaced by nineteen-year-old Paul Yale. Yale’s new character was a stereotypical limp-wristed homosexual, another well-worn vaudeville trope, known as “the Sissy,” or “the Nance.” Minnie also dropped out (although she reserved the right to drop herself back in from time to time when the spirit moved her), and was replaced by a pair of actual school-age actresses, Lucy Trexler and Dot Davidson, both sixteen. It was also around this time that Arthur began to learn the harp in honor of his late Omie. “He had to do something!” said Milton. “He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance, and he didn’t talk too well.” 

Julius in his elderly “Herr Teacher” costume, flanked by Dot Davidson and Lucy Trexler. Across the top are (l. to r.) Milton, Paul Yale, and Arthur. Aunt Hannah sits in the foreground

Omie’s original harp was no longer playable, but its replacement wasn’t much better. “We bought a pretty dilapidated harp for $45,” said Arthur. “It was out of tune when I got it. I didn’t know that. I played it the way it was. I can’t play it any other way. When I buy a new harp I have to have it specially mistuned for me.” Once he got started on the instrument, he never stopped, playing it every day, sometimes for hours. (He said if he didn’t play every day, he would lose his calluses and his fingers would bleed.)

No fan of the harp (or the ukulele, really), Julius dedicated himself to mastering classical guitar. He eventually became quite good, but never did it onstage very much, preferring to keep it a personal hobby.

When they hit the stage for their first engagement of 1911, it was as the Three Marx Brothers in Fun in Hi Skule (or Skool). After a period of dedicated practice, Arthur was able to play a harp solo onstage for the first time (the song was “Anna Laurie”). “Play softer, they can still hear you,” was Julius’ mid-solo wisecrack. But the harp was the one element of their act at this stage that was truly novel, and audiences (and critics) loved it. Marx biographer Simon Louvish indicates that reaching performance-level readiness on an instrument like the harp — even for one song — would take at least a year of practice, suggesting Arthur had a much earlier start on the instrument than had previously been thought. (Out of everyone involved, Julius was the only one who remembered Arthur messing around with Omie’s harp for a few years prior to playing it on stage. For once, maybe his memory is the most accurate.)

Left to right: Paul Yale, Dot Davidson, Lucy Trexler, Milton, Aunt Hannah, Julius, and Arthur

“The jaded man or woman who wants to drive dull care away and be taken back to the happy days of childhood should go to the Majestic this week and see the school act which the Three Marx Brothers and three pretty girls are presenting,” said an appreciative Rockford Morning Star. “Here is a rollicking quarter hour’s entertainment which is as full of fun and frolic as anything that has been seen in this theater for a long time. The school act includes seven players; three comedians, three girls, and the ‘schoolmaster’ is also there with the comedy stuff. It is a joy to watch the spirit with which the little play is given, and its brightness and fresh fun is certain to please all children from seven to seventy.”

No doubt about it, the Marx Brothers were now a bona fide hit and had climbed their way to the top of the small-time. For the first time, the act would play the brand-new Pantages Circuit, and tour the West Coast. (Lucy Trexler was replaced by Grace Desmond for the Pantages tour. Dot Diamond was disappearing frequently in the company of Paul Yale, who, in contrast to his character, was very actively heterosexual.) The company would open 1912 on the even more prestigious Loew’s Circuit. 

Comedy was where their heart was now at, but artistic director Minnie (and a lot of other people supposedly in the know) insisted comedy couldn’t be taken pure — it had to be tempered by music, a prejudice that would persist well into the cinema era. From the Kalamazoo Gazette: “The Marx Bros. have an act not unlike many of the other popular schoolroom affairs…they fill their allotted time with hilariousness…but aside from all this, it is the singing of the Marx Bros. Company that lifts them to a plane above the other acts of this kind.”

So, how hilarious was Fun in Hi Skule? To modern ears, not very. No script has survived (if there ever was one), and fragments of the routines only existed in the memories of the Brothers. The bits they have recalled would not be considered worthy of inclusion in a grade-school joke book nowadays.

TEACHER: Why were you late?
PATSY: My mother lost the lid off the stove, and I had to sit on it to keep the smoke in.
TEACHER: What is the shape of the world?
PATSY: I don't know.
TEACHER: Well, what shape are my cufflinks?
PATSY: Square.
TEACHER: Not my weekday cufflinks, the ones I wear on Sundays.
PATSY: Oh. Round.
TEACHER: All right, so what is the shape of the world?
PATSY: Square on weekdays, round on Sundays.

This begs the question, did students hang out with their teachers on Sundays in the early 1900s?

TEACHER: What are the principal parts of a cat?
IZZY: Head, eyes, ears, nose, neck, feet...
TEACHER: So what does a cat have that you don't?
IZZY: Kittens!

This is what had them rolling in the aisles in Kalamazoo in 1911. Maybe it’s all in the delivery. It was very much “rapid fire.” (Remember this whole thing — comedy and songs and instrumental solos — had to be squeezed into about twenty minutes.)

The Three Marx Brothers, 1911

It was decided the act needed a stronger finish. The team spent $27 on an original song written for them by fellow vaudevillian Charlie Van. The result was a ten-verse piece of singalong nonsense called “Peasie Weasie,” that could be neatly condensed or strung out forever and milked for laughs as the situation demanded. (Only six verses seem to be known today.) It was the best $27 they ever spent, as “Peasie Weasie” became a family treasure, sung at parties by the Brothers for decades thereafter. 

Way down by the sad seaside/Sat two lovers side by side/First he sighed and then she sighed/And then they both sighed side by side

CHORUS: Peasie Weasie, what’s his name?/Peasie Weasie, Peasie Weasie, what’s his game?/He will catch you if he can/Peasie Weasie, Peasie is a bold, bad man

My mother called my sister downstairs the other day/“I’m taking a bath,” my sister did say/“Well slip on something quick, here comes Mr. Brown”/She slipped on the top step and then came down

[CHORUS]

Went fishing last Sunday and caught a smelt/Put him in the pan and the fire he felt/Of all the smelts I ever smelt/I never smelt a smelt like that smelt smelt

[CHORUS]

And so on and on, as the cast took solo turns through the verses, and led the audience in unison through the chorus. Then the curtain dropped, the house lights went up, and the audience filed outside, holding their aching sides. The performers, no doubt panting and dripping sweat after sizzling under the primitive electric arc footlights, gear up for a later show, or head back to their threadbare boardinghouse.  

Groucho performs “Peasie Weasie” with Dinah Shore, 1959

So…what’s errant Brother Leo doing during all this?

Leo in his song-plugging days, 1908

Beginning in 1908, he worked as a “song plugger” for the Shapiro Music Publishing Company in Philadelphia. In the days before recorded music was common, the popularity of a song was determined by the sale of sheet music. It was the task of the song plugger to demonstrate the company’s songs to stage producers, performers, and music store owners in the hopes of popularizing a song, or set of songs, and boost sales. A good plugger had to have the personality of a skilled salesman, be willing to travel, be an energetic performer, and be flexible enough to play the songs in a variety of styles. Leo was good enough at it that he was promoted to manager of one of Shapiro’s music stores in Pittsburgh by 1909. It could have been a solid career, but, perhaps inspired by his siblings, he decided he wanted to be on stage. When his boss, company owner Maurice Shapiro, died suddenly in 1911, Leo took the opportunity to get out of the music publishing business. He hooked up with a younger partner, singer Aaron Gordon, finally followed the rest of his family to Chicago, and made his stage debut at that city’s Willard Theater on July 17, 1911. On Minnie’s stage-savvy advice, the duo made the act “ethnic,” and Aaron Gordon became “Gordoni,” an Italian tenor. The few lines Leo spoke were also in a thick Italian accent.

“Marx & Gordoni” didn’t last very long. Gordon claimed he never once received a salary from his senior partner. Leo covered food and lodgings for the pair, and gave Gordon fifty cents a week for a haircut, but gambled away the rest of their earnings. It is a testament to Leo’s charm that Aaron Gordon remained a lifelong friend even after he understandably bailed on the act. Without even a backwards glance, Leo teamed up with his cousin, Lou Shean (Aunt Hannah’s son from her first marriage) with an identical act. Lou would sing a few recent popular numbers and some comedic parodies, while Leo would play piano using all of his tricks — “shooting” the keys, playing blindfolded, playing with a blanket over the keyboard, and other impressive feats.

Leo playing cards with several other Leos, Rockaway Beach, c. 1909

“Marx & Shean” didn’t last long either. The act ended early 1912, when Leo was caught messing around with one of the chorus girls on the bill, who also happened to be dating the theater manager. The manager fined the team. Leo insisted the fine was a “legitimate business expense” that came with the territory (nothing was stopping Lou from messing around with a chorus girl, too, if he so chose) and should come out of their joint pay. Lou did not agree, and Leo was on the hunt for a new partner. Family gatherings were probably a little frosty for the cousins for a while.

Leo’s next partner was the lantern-jawed George Lee, already a veteran vaudeville comedian and vocalist, formerly of the Arlington Four (a comedy-musical act in the vein of The Four Nightingales). Lee could — and often did — get a cheap laugh just by jutting out his big chin. Julius later said it was his only talent. But despite Julius’ carping, it was clear Lee was a gifted performer, and “Marx & Lee” stood a really good chance of striking some sparks in the world of vaudeville. Then Marx & Lee, who stuck strictly to the Midwest, inevitably wound up sharing a bill with the Three Marx Brothers in Fun in Hi Skule on August 22, 1912 at the Grand Theatre in Chicago. Fun in Hi Skule had by now expanded to almost thirty minutes, filling two slots on a typical vaudeville bill. It had also developed two distinct parts — the typical rough-and-tumble schoolroom act where the “students” are ostensibly rehearsing for a big recital, and then the recital itself where the cast got to show off their musical prowess. 

Leo watched the act with a critical eye, and gave it some considered thought, or whatever passed for considered thought in his impulsive mind. He decided what both acts needed was to join forces.

Another revamp of the act was in store. Aunt Hannah, now fifty, took the opportunity to hang up her little blue schoolgirl dress and retire from show business. And what of Minnie? She was content to let Leo steer the ship for a while. After all, he was her favorite. And as Minnie Palmer, “Chicago’s only lady producer” as the newspapers called her, she had other shows in production. Her sons were no longer her only responsibility. She was an impresario herself now. She put a thousand-dollar down payment on a big, comfortable house at 4512 Grand Avenue in Chicago, where the whole clan could live when they were off the road, with a pool table in the basement and a hired maid (who spent a good deal of time avoiding the unwanted attentions of Opie.) 

The Marx house in Chicago as it appears today

By that fall, Marx & Lee had been grafted onto the Three Marx Brothers, and things really began to heat up. The big Brother and prodigal son had returned to the fold, and had a head full of ideas.

A romantic portrait of Julius and his newly-discovered passion — a good cigar, c. 1912

1 Comment

Filed under Film & TV, History

One response to “Stars of Bedlam: The Rise & Fall of the Marx Brothers (Part 2)

  1. Chrystene

    This is excellent. Thank you. What a great read!

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