And I must say that this book of the same title is right up there too. I thought Simon Louvish did an excellent job of digging up the truth on the Marxian tales that have swirled around for many, many years. His research of the ancestral roots of Minnie and Sam "Frenchy" Marx are impeccable.....and Louvish's way of putting the "ages" of the brothers in their proper timeframe is first rate. I think he captured each brother perfectly. I was impressed at his case for giving Chico a hell of lot more credit in steering the brothers to superstardom. Chico was a go-getter, just like his mother Minnie, and I was happy to see Chico portrayed as something more than just the gambling, womanizing, loose cannon type of a guy we all know about (or thought we knew about). That's not to say Chico wasn't like that, it's just good to hear something else about him for a change (I'd kill to have the mathematical mind that guy had!). Harpo is always just the Harpo we all know (just like in "HARPO SPEAKS!") and love. He definitely marched to a beat of a different drummer (Louvish captures that perfectly), Harpo was his own man to say the least. That's a good thing. Groucho, is displayed (like usual) as cantankerous, moody and insulting (well, this IS Groucho we're talking about!). But Louvish gets into the reasons WHY Groucho was that way (let's just say insecurities MIGHT have played a small part in Groucho's disposition).
For me, reading of Zeppo's burden of being so much younger and feeling he was always an afterthought is sad. To be bearing the middle name of his deceased eldest brother, you have to feel some sympathy towards the poor guy. Zep's talents lie elsewhere, as subsequent chapters explain. Louvish's use of prime Marxist dialogue is superb, and he really outdid himself in research at the Libary of Congress, finding several vintage manuscripts just lying there waiting to have their moment in print.......speaking of moments, I was really intrigued by the true story of Margaret Dumont. This woman managed to pull off the ultimate lifelong-practical joke on GROUCHO of all people. Read the book to see what I'm talking about. Everything you'd want to know about the Marxes is here, and there's so much irony in the stories, it's mind boggling. What really got me was the sad way each of their lives ended. None of them (except maybe Gummo) just went along peacefully. Chico died of arteriosclerosis, with practically nothing to show for all the glory years in the movies, Harpo had a heart attack during open-heart surgery (on his 28th wedding anniversary no less), Zeppo died of lung cancer. Groucho's surviving relatives' feud with Erin Fleming (even after Grouch was gone) was a sad closing to an amazing, but sometimes painful life. But it's the laughter that kept the brothers (and brought all of us) together. That's what this book celebrates more than anything. The genius of their comedy, their anarchistic style, they brought THEMSELVES to us, the movie goer. That's why almost 80 years later, we're still interested in them, because there was no one else like them, probably never will be. But it's the legacy of laughter they left behind, the legacy that Louvish writes about so beautifully. First rate book, get this one.