Zeppo in 1931
Herbert Manfred Marx
February 25, 1901
|Died||November 30, 1979 78) (aged|
|Other names||Herbert Marx|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, inventor, theatrical agent, singer|
|Known for||Duck Soup , Monkey Business|
(m. 1927;div. 1954)
(m. 1959;div. 1973)
|Parent(s)|| Sam "Frenchie" Marx |
|Relatives|| Chico Marx (brother)|
Harpo Marx (brother)
Groucho Marx (brother)
Gummo Marx (brother)
Al Shean (maternal uncle)
Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx (February 25, 1901 – November 30, 1979) was an American actor, comedian, theatrical agent, and engineer. He was the youngest of the five Marx Brothers. He appeared in the first five Marx Brothers feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent.
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were selected by the American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them in the top twelve. They are widely considered by critics, scholars, and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively.
Zeppo was born in Manhattan, New York City on February 25, 1901. His parents were Sam Marx (called "Frenchie" throughout his life), and his wife, Minnie Schönberg Marx. Minnie's brother was Al Shean. Marx's family was Jewish. His mother was from East Frisia in Germany; and his father was a native of France, and worked as a tailor.
Samuel Marx was the father of the Marx Brothers, and husband of Minnie Marx, who served as the groups manager
Minnie Marx was the mother and manager of the Marx Brothers, wife of Sam Marx, and the sister of vaudeville star Al Shean.
Abraham Elieser Adolph Schönberg, known as Al Shean, was a comedian and vaudeville performer. Other sources give his birth name variously as Adolf Schönberg, Albert Schönberg, or Alfred Schönberg. He is most remembered for being half of the vaudeville team Gallagher and Shean, and as the uncle of the Marx Brothers.
As with all of the Marx Brothers, there are different theories as to where Zeppo got his stage name: Groucho said in his Carnegie Hall concert in 1972 130) that there was a popular trained chimpanzee named Mr. Zippo, and that "Herbie" was tagged with the name "Zippo" because he liked to do chinups and acrobatics, as the chimp did in its act. The youngest brother objected to this nickname, and it was altered to "Zeppo". In a TV Interview, Zeppo said that Zep is Italian-American slang for baby and as Zeppo was the youngest or baby Marx Brother he was called Zeppo.that the name was derived from the Zeppelin airship. Zeppo's ex-wife Barbara Sinatra repeated this in her 2011 book, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank. His brother Harpo offered a different account in his 1961 autobiography, Harpo Speaks!, claiming (p.
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star. A master of quick wit, he is widely considered one of America's greatest comedians.
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who pioneered rigid airship development at the beginning of the 20th century. Zeppelin's notions were first formulated in 1874 and developed in detail in 1893. They were patented in Germany in 1895 and in the United States in 1899. After the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the word zeppelin came to be commonly used to refer to all rigid airships. Zeppelins were first flown commercially in 1910 by Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG), the world's first airline in revenue service. By mid-1914, DELAG had carried over 10,000 fare-paying passengers on over 1,500 flights. During World War I, the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts, killing over 500 people in bombing raids in Britain.
Zeppo replaced brother Gummo in the Marx Brothers stage act when the latter joined the army in 1918. Zeppo remained with the team and appeared in their successes in vaudeville, on Broadway and the first five Marx Brothers films, as a straight man and romantic lead, before leaving the team. According to a 1925 newspaper article, he also made a solo appearance in the Adolphe Menjou comedy A Kiss in the Dark . According to newspaper reviews, he appeared in a minor role.
Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 18th century. A vaudeville is a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation. It was originally a kind of dramatic composition or light poetry, usually a comedy, interspersed with songs or ballets. It became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, but the idea of vaudeville's theatre changed radically from its French antecedent.
Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
The straight man is a stock character in a comedy performance, especially a double act, sketch comedy, or farce. When a comedy partner behaves eccentrically, the straight man is expected to maintain composure. The ability to maintain a serious demeanor in the face of even the most preposterous comedy is crucial to a successful straight man. Whatever direct contribution to the comedy a straight man provides usually comes in the form of deadpan. A straight man with no direct comedic role has historically been known as a stooge. Typically he is expected to feed the funny man lines that he can respond to for laughs, while seeking no acclamation for himself.
In Lady Blue Eyes, Barbara Sinatra reported that Zeppo was considered too young to perform with his brothers, and it was not until Gummo joined the Army that Zeppo was asked to join the act as a last-minute stand-in at a show in Texas. Zeppo was supposed to go out that night with a Jewish friend of his. They were supposed to take out two Irish girls, but Zeppo had to cancel to board the train to Texas. His friend went ahead and went on the date, and was shot a few hours later when he was attacked by an Irish gang that disapproved of a Jew dating an Irish girl.
Milton "Gummo" Marx was an American vaudevillian performer, actor, comedian and theatrical agent. He was the second youngest of the five Marx Brothers. Born in Manhattan, New York City, he worked with his brothers on the vaudeville circuit, but left acting when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War I.
As the youngest and having grown up watching his brothers, Zeppo could fill in for and imitate any of the others when illness kept them from performing. Groucho suffered from appendicitis during the Broadway run of Animal Crackers and Zeppo filled in for him as Captain Spaulding.
"He was so good as Captain Spaulding in Animal Crackers that I would have let him play the part indefinitely, if they had allowed me to smoke in the audience", Groucho recalled.However, a comic persona of his own that could stand up against those of his brothers did not emerge. As critic Percy Hammond wrote, sympathetically, in 1928:
One of the handicaps to the thorough enjoyment of the Marx Brothers in their merry escapades is the plight of poor Zeppo Marx. While Groucho, Harpo and Chico are hogging the show, as the phrase has it, their brother hides in an insignificant role, peeping out now and then to listen to plaudits in which he has no share.
Though Zeppo continued to play it straight in the Brothers' movies for Paramount Pictures, he occasionally got to be part of classic comedy moments in them—in particular, his role in the famous dictation scene with Groucho in Animal Crackers (1930). He also played a pivotal role as the love interest of Ruth Hall in Monkey Business (1931) and of Thelma Todd in Horse Feathers (1932).
The popular assumption that Zeppo's character was superfluous was fueled in part by Groucho. According to Groucho's own story, when the group became the Three Marx Brothers, the studio wanted to trim their collective salary, and Groucho replied "We're twice as funny without Zeppo!"
Zeppo had great mechanical skills and was largely responsible for keeping the Marx family car running. He later owned a company that machined parts for the war effort during World War II, Marman Products Co. of Inglewood, California, later known as the Aeroquip Company. This company produced a motorcycle, called the Marman Twin, [ citation needed ] He invented and obtained several patents for a wristwatch that monitored the pulse rate of cardiac patients and gave off an alarm if the heartbeat became irregular, and a therapeutic pad for delivering moist heat to a patient.and the Marman clamps used to hold the "Fat Man" atomic bomb inside the B-29 bomber Bockscar .
He also founded a large theatrical agency with his brother Gummo Marx. During his time as a theatrical agent, Zeppo and Gummo, although primarily Gummo, represented their brothers, among many others.
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On April 12, 1927, Zeppo married Marion Bimberg Benda.The couple adopted two children, Timothy and Thomas, in 1944 and 1945, and later divorced on May 12, 1954. On September 18, 1959, Marx married Barbara Blakeley, whose son, Bobby Oliver, he wanted to adopt and give his surname, but Bobby's father would not allow it. Bobby simply started using the last name "Marx".
Blakeley wrote in her book, Lady Blue Eyes, that Zeppo never made her convert to Judaism. Blakeley was of Methodist faith and said that Zeppo told her she became Jewish by "injection".
Blakeley also wrote in her book that Zeppo wanted to keep her son out of the picture, adding a room for him onto his estate, which was more of a guest house as it was separated from the main residence. It was also decided that Blakeley's son would go to military school which, according to Blakeley, pleased Zeppo.
Zeppo owned a house on Halper Lake Drive in Rancho Mirage, California, which was built off the fairway of the Tamarisk Country Club. The Tamarisk Club had been set up by the Jewish community, which rivaled the gentile club called "The Thunderbird". His neighbor happened to be Frank Sinatra. Zeppo later attended the Hillcrest Country Club with friends like Sinatra, George Burns, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar and Milton Berle.
Blakeley became involved with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and had arranged to show Spartacus (featuring Kirk Douglas) for charity, selling tickets, and organizing a post-screening ball. At the last minute, Blakeley was told she could not have the film, so Zeppo went to the country club and spoke to Sinatra, who agreed to let him have an early release of a film he had just finished named Come Blow Your Horn . Sinatra also flew everyone involved to Palm Springs for the event.[ citation needed ]
Zeppo was a very jealous and possessive husband, and hated for Blakeley to talk to other men. Blakeley claimed that Zeppo grabbed Victor Rothschild by the throat at a country club because she was talking to him. Blakeley had caught Zeppo on many occasions with other women; the biggest incident was a party Zeppo had thrown on his yacht. After the incident, Zeppo took Blakeley to Europe, and accepted more invitations to parties when they arrived back in the States. Some of these parties were at Sinatra's compound; he often invited Blakeley and Zeppo to his house two or three times a week. Sinatra would also send champagne or wine to their home, as a nice gesture.
Blakeley and Sinatra began a love affair, unbeknownst to Zeppo. The press eventually got wind of the affair, snapping photos of Blakely and Sinatra together, or asking Blakeley questions whenever they spotted her. Both she and Sinatra denied the affair.
Zeppo and Blakeley divorced in 1973. Zeppo let Blakeley keep the 1969 Jaguar he had bought her, and agreed to pay her $1,500 a month for ten years. Sinatra upgraded Blakeley's Jaguar to the latest model. Sinatra also gave her a house to live in.[ citation needed ] The house had belonged to Eden Hartford, Groucho Marx's third wife. Blakeley and Sinatra continued to date, and were constantly hounded by the press until the divorce between Zeppo and Blakeley became final. Blakeley and Sinatra were married in 1976.
Zeppo became ill with cancer in 1978. He sold his home, and moved to a house on the fairway off Frank Sinatra Drive. The doctors thought the cancer had gone into remission, but it returned. Zeppo called Blakeley, who accompanied him to doctor's appointments. Zeppo spent his last days with Blakeley's family.[ citation needed ]
The last surviving Marx Brother, Zeppo died of lung cancer at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage on November 30, 1979, at the age of 78. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
In his will, Zeppo left Bobby Marx a few possessions and enough money to finish law school. Both Sinatra and Blakeley attended his funeral.
Zeppo introduced Jack Benny to his wife Mary Livingstone.[ citation needed ]
Several critics have challenged the notion that Zeppo did not develop a comic persona in his films. James Agee considered Zeppo "a peerlessly cheesy improvement on the traditional straight man".Along similar lines, Gerald Mast, in his book The Comic Mind: Comedy and Movies, noted that Zeppo's comedic persona, while certainly more subtle than his brothers', was undeniably present:
[He] added a fourth dimension as the cliché of the [romantic] juvenile, the bland wooden espouser of sentiments that seem to exist only in the world of the sound stage. ... [He is] too schleppy, too nasal, and too wooden to be taken seriously.
While this seemingly modern reconsideration of Zeppo's comedic contributions could be interpreted as merely a contemporary examination of his role in the Paramount pictures, more astute film reviewers were apparently in on the joke as far back as the release of The Cocoanuts in 1929. The New York Times review of the movie, for example, ranked all four Marx Brothers equally — "When the four Marx brothers are on the screen, it's a riot" [emphasis added] — and went on to describe each of the brothers' unique style of comedy, and praised Zeppo as "the handsome but dogged straight man with the charisma of an enamel washstand."
In her book Hello, I Must be Going: Groucho & His Friends, Charlotte Chandler defended Zeppo as being "the Marx Brothers' interpreter in the worlds they invaded. He was neither totally a straight man nor totally a comedian, but combined elements of both, as did Margaret Dumont. Zeppo's importance to the Marx Brothers' initial success was as a Marx Brother who could 'pass' as a normal person. None of Zeppo's replacements (Allan Jones, Kenny Baker and others) could assume this character as convincingly as Zeppo, because they were actors, and Zeppo was the real thing, cast to type" (562).
Zeppo's comic persona was further highlighted in the "dictation scene" of Animal Crackers . In his book Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo, Joe Adamson analyzed the scene, showing how it revealed Zeppo's ability to one-up Groucho with simple, plain-English rebuttals. In the scene, Groucho dictates a letter to his lawyer, which Zeppo takes down. Adamson noted,
There is a common assumption that Zeppo = Zero, which this scene does its best to contradict. Groucho dictating a letter to anybody else would hardly be cause for rejoicing. We have to believe that someone will be there to accept all his absurdities and even respond somewhat in kind before things can progress free from conflict into this genial mishmash. Groucho clears his throat in the midst of his dictation, and Zeppo asks him if he wants that in the letter. Groucho says, 'No, put it in the envelope.' Zeppo nods. And only Zeppo could even try such a thing as taking down the heading and the salutation and leaving out the letter because it didn't sound important to him. It takes a Marx Brother to pull something like that on a Marx Brother and get away with it. 114:
In the same book, Adamson noted Zeppo's position as the campy parody of the juvenile romantic in his analysis of Horse Feathers . This tongue-in-cheek observation bolstered the theory of Zeppo's stiffness as a deliberate comic persona:
Each Marx Brother has his own form of comedy. Zeppo is at his funniest when he opens his mouth and sings. It has taken forty years, of course, for the full humor to come across. For a normal comedian this may be bad timing, but for a Marx Brother it's immortality. Almost every crooner of 1932 looks stilted and awkward now, but with Zeppo, who was never very convincing in the first place, the effect crosses the threshold into lovable comedy. "I think you're wonderful!" he oozes charmingly to Thelma Todd, and we know he never met her before shooting started. 191:
Allen W. Ellis wrote in his article "Yes, Sir: The Legacy of Zeppo Marx":
Indeed, Zeppo is a link between the audience and Groucho, Harpo and Chico. In a sense, he is us on the screen. He knows who those guys are and what they are capable of. As he ambles out of a scene, perhaps it is to watch them do their business, to come back in as necessary to move the film along, and again to join in the celebration of the finish. Further, Zeppo is crucial to the absurdity of the Paramount films. The humor is in his incongruity. Typically he dresses like a normal person, in stark contrast to Groucho's greasepaint and 'formal' attire, Harpo's rags, and Chico's immigrant hand-me-downs. By most accounts, he is the handsomest of the brothers, yet that handsomeness is distorted by his familial resemblance to the others—sure, he's handsome, but it is a decidedly peculiar, Marxian handsomeness. By making the group four, Zeppo adds symmetry, and in the surrealistic worlds of the Paramount films, this symmetry upsets rather than confirms balance: it is chaos born of symmetry. That he is a plank in a maelstrom, along with the very concept of 'this guy' who is there for no real reason, who joins in and is accepted by these other three wildmen while the narrative offers no explanation, are wonderful in their pure absurdity. 'To string things together in a seemingly purposeless way,' said Mark Twain, 'and to be seemingly unaware that they are absurd, is the mark of American humor.' The 'sense' injected into the nonsense only compounds the nonsense.
In a eulogy for Zeppo written in 1979 for The Washington Post , columnist Tom Zito wrote:
Thank goodness for Zeppo, who never really cracked a joke on screen. At least not directly. He just took it from Groucho, in more ways than one. ... If Groucho, Chico and Harpo were the funny guys, Zeppo was the Everyman, the loser who'd come running out of the grocery store only to find the meter maid sticking the parking ticket on his Hungadunga.
Zeppo performances produced this tribute from a prominent fan, written in Marc Eliot's 2005 biography of Cary Grant. Grant, a teenager performing in vaudeville under his real name, Archie Leach, loved the Marx Brothers. And as Eliot put it,
While the rest of the country preferred Groucho, Zeppo, the good-looking straight man and romantic lead, was Archie's favorite, the one whose foil timing he believed was the real key to the act's success.
In his book The Anarchy of the Imagination: Interviews, Essays, Notes, noted filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder included Zeppo on his list for the ten greatest film actors of all time.
In a June 2016 review of an Off-Broadway revival of I'll Say She Is , The New Yorker 's Adam Gopnik wrote:
Matt [Walters], becoming Zeppo, is a reminder that the Marxes were never quite as good again after they lost their one straight man. The object of the Marxes' comedy is anarchy, but its subject is fraternity: they are in it together to the end. Zeppo's inclusion in the family made the others less like clowns and more like brothers.
In the 1974 Academy Awards telecast, Jack Lemmon presented Groucho with an honorary Academy Award to a standing ovation. The award was also on behalf of Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo, whom Lemmon mentioned by name. It was one of Groucho's final major public appearances. "I wish that Harpo and Chico could be here to share with me this great honor," he said, naming the two deceased brothers (Zeppo was still alive at the time). Groucho also praised the late Margaret Dumont as a great straight woman who never understood any of his jokes.
On the television series Cheers , Lilith Crane said Zeppo was her favorite Marx brother.
A third season episode of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer was titled "The Zeppo". This episode focuses on the perspective of the character Xander Harris; his position as ostensibly the least impressive or capable member of the cast is compared to Zeppo Marx.
Animal Crackers is a 1930 Pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding. A critical and commercial success on its initial release, filming took place at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York City.
Duck Soup is a 1933 pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, and directed by Leo McCarey. First released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred what were then billed as the "Four Marx Brothers" and also featured Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy. It was the last Marx Brothers film to feature Zeppo, and the last of five Marx Brothers movies released by Paramount Pictures.
Arthur "Harpo" Marx was an American comedian, actor, mime artist, and musician, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho Marx and Chico Marx, Harpo's comic style was visual, being an example of both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blonde wig, and never spoke during performances. He frequently used props such as a horn cane, made up of a lead pipe, tape, and a bulbhorn, and he played the harp in most of his films.
Leonard "Chico" Marx was an American comedian, musician, actor and film star. He was a member of the Marx Brothers. His persona in the act was that of a charming, uneducated but crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. On screen, Chico is often in alliance with Harpo, usually as partners in crime, and is also frequently seen trying to con or outfox Groucho. Leonard was the oldest of the Marx Brothers to live past early childhood. In addition to his work as a performer, he played an important role in the management and development of the act in its early years.
Margaret Dumont was an American stage and film actress. She is best remembered as the comic foil to the Marx Brothers in seven of their films. Groucho Marx called her "practically the fifth Marx brother".
Horse Feathers is a 1932 Pre-Code comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. It stars the four Marx Brothers and Thelma Todd. It was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote some of the original music for the film. Several of the film's gags were taken from the Marx Brothers' stage comedy from the 1900s, Fun in Hi Skule. The term "horse feathers" was a colloquial American expression for "nonsense" in the 1920s and 1930s but is now archaic.
The Cocoanuts is a 1929 musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. Produced for Paramount Pictures by Walter Wanger, who is not credited, the film stars the four Marx Brothers, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, and Margaret Dumont. It was the first sound film to credit more than one director, and was adapted to the screen by Morrie Ryskind from the George S. Kaufman Broadway musical play. Five of the film's tunes were composed by Irving Berlin, including "When My Dreams Come True", sung by Oscar Shaw and Mary Eaton.
Monkey Business is a 1931 American Pre-Code comedy film. It is the third of the Marx Brothers' released movies, and the first with an original screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of their Broadway shows. The film also features Thelma Todd, Harry Woods and Ruth Hall. It is directed by Norman Z. McLeod with screenplay by S. J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone. Much of the story takes place on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Room Service is a 1938 RKO film comedy directed by William A. Seiter, based on the 1937 play of the same name by Allen Boretz and John Murray. The film stars the Marx Brothers and also features Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Alexander Asro, and Frank Albertson.
Hawkshaw the Detective was a comic strip character featured in an eponymous cartoon serial by Gus Mager between 1913 and 1922 and again from 1931 to 1952. The name of Mager's character was derived from the common American slang of the time, in which a hawkshaw meant a detective—that slang itself derived from playwright Tom Taylor's use of the name for the detective in his 1863 stage play The Ticket of Leave Man.
I'll Say She Is (1924) is a musical comedy revue written by brothers Will B. Johnstone and Tom Johnstone (music). It was the Broadway debut of the Marx Brothers. A revival of I'll Say She Is, as "adapted and expanded" by the writer-performer Noah Diamond, was seen Off Broadway at the Connelly Theater in 2016.
Minnie's Boys is a musical with a book by Groucho Marx's son Arthur Marx and Robert Fisher, music by Larry Grossman, and lyrics by Hal Hackady.
Brett Marx is an American movie and television actor and producer who appeared as Jimmy Feldman in the Bad News Bears movies.
Marx is a German surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Deputy Seraph was an unfinished pilot for a television series in 1959 featuring the Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, and Harpo. The title was a pun on seraph and sheriff, reflecting the Western shows that were popular on TV at the time.
Joe Adamson is an author of several books, including:
Zeppo Marx, the surviving member of the Marx Brothers comedy team who left the quartet in 1934 for other businesses, died yesterday at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif. The youngest of the brothers, he was 78 years old and had lived in Palm Springs ...
The final curtain rang down on the Marx Brothers comedy team here today when the last survivor, Zeppo, died at the age of 78 ...