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on 7 July 2000
As a Marx Brothers fan, I've purchased and read many of the biographies/critiques of Groucho and Bros. (and there are a *lot* of them!), and I found this to be one of the most entertaining. We've reached the point in history where first-hand biographies can no longer be written--most of Groucho's friends, collaborators, and family are dead, so Kanfer's is likely the first of books that will study Groucho from a more historical perspective, using newspaper articles, movie reviews, and the books that have gone before (Kanfer points out, a little defensively for my tastes, that Groucho told so many tall tales you couldn't take first-person testimony at face value anyway). "Groucho" makes for an effective (if somewhat detached) bio: overall quite entertaining, not skimping on Marx's low points and somewhat pessimistic worldview as well as his more familiar triumphs. By all accounts, including this one, Groucho was not a guy you'd want to pal around with unless you had the sharpest wit (and even then he'd dislike any attempt to outshine him), and Kanfer does a credible job of portraying Groucho's sourness as well as handling a controversial subject: just how badly Groucho was treated by women in his later years (and to be perfectly fair, his less-than-stellar treatment *of* women throughout his whole life). I have to praise an aspect of this book not many other reviewers have mentioned: it is immensely funny, not because Kanfer is a humorous writer, but because he has the good sense to occasionally step aside and recount some of Groucho's funniest lines or dialogue. Still, the occasional sloppiness in writing and editing (as mentioned by other Amazon reviewers) did make me scowl once in a while as I read it. I wouldn't call this the definite Groucho bio-- but it's an entertaining read and a decent synthesis of the many books I've read before with a slightly fresh spin. Still, given Groucho's disarming, misleading wit about anything personal, can there *ever be* a definitive bio? I'm eagerly awaiting Simon Louvish's "Monkey Business"--given his excellent *and* entertaining W.C. Fields bio, perhaps it's Louvish who can best do justice to the Marxes--but with this enigmatic cult icon whose greasepaint mustache and quick words hid a much more complex man, I wouldn't be surprised if Groucho's up there having a good old laugh on all of us who are trying to analyze his wit rather than just enjoy it.
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on 7 June 2012
As other reviewers have noted, there are a lot of Groucho biogs out there and a lot of books of Marx quotes. This biog is of value to the interested fan who wants to know a lot about Groucho's life but not too much. It's a good, honest account of the man and his talents, faults and personality; his relationships with his brothers, family and contemparies; it is informative about his private life without (IMHO) being too intrusive. The authour's obvious admiration for the man's work doesn't blind him to Groucho's faults and failings. For my money it's greatest strength is in the detailed and generally impartial account of Groucho's relationship with Erin Feming, a stage of his life which tends to make some writers, especially those with a love of the man's work, abandon their objectivity. Read, digest, enjoy, draw your own conclusions.
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on 31 May 2001
This is a very entertaining book, a well-paced documentary of the struggles and eventual success of the Jewish Marx family, interspersed with the glorious skits and waspish lines that mark Groucho Marx as one of the most quick witted, erudite performers of the 20th century. He was a literary man, and had many funny lines relating to literary pursuits:
"From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it."
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
"I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book."
This is a very funny book, perhaps unusually so for a biography, and I thoroughly recommend it to all, but then, to quote Groucho one last time:
"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
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on 9 June 2002
He was funny, he was an icon and yet, so nasty!
This biography pulls no punches in displaying Groucho for all he was- insecure, mean and cruel, but you'll probably love him all the same. This is a comprehensive, unbiased history with a liberal sprinkling of his best gags and lines, as well as anecdotes and pictures.
Makes for an excellent read for any Groucho- or non Groucho- fan.
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on 10 January 2001
I am a 15 year old Marxist, and I own this book. I just finished reading it today... if you love Groucho,you won't read this book. He will get on your nereves and his life is far from plesant to read about! If you are reading a bio on him for the first time,don't get it! Grouch's story's sad!
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on 22 July 2015
Very good
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