Strange but true: this is the first authentic account of the Marx Brothers, their origins and of the roots of their comedy. First and foremost, this is the saga of a family whose theatrical roots stretch back to mid-19th century Germany. From Groucho Marx's first warblings with the singing Leroy Trio, this book brings to life the vanished world of America's wild and boisterous variety circuits, leading to the Marx Brothers' Broadway successes, and their alliance with New York's theatrical lions, George S. Kaufman and the 'Algonquin Round Table'. Never-before-published scripts, well-minted Marxian dialogue, and much madness and mayham feature in this tale of the Brothers' battles with Hollywood, their films, their loves and marriages, and the story of the forgotten brother Gummo.
Told with tremendous style and sparkle, Louvish's composite portrait of the Marx Brothers offers an indispensable overview of the actors' saga. Decked out with photographs and sprinkled with excerpts from reviews, interviews, memoirs, film dialogue and hitherto unpublished skits and scripts, this biography captures the sheer exuberance of the foursome as they conquered vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood. Louvish gives equal billing to all the brothers�Julius (Groucho), Leonard (Chico), Arthur (Harpo), Herbert (Zeppo), plus Milton (Gummo), who left the act to become a Hollywood agent�and vibrantly re-creates a supporting cast of characters that includes George Kaufman, Irving Berlin, Irving Thalberg, S.J. Perelman and Margaret Dumont. Yet the biographer of W.C. Fields (The Man on the Flying Trapeze) maintains critical detachment in assessing the brothers' onstage/onscreen antics and their often messy private lives. Groucho, for one, comes off as a lot more likable than in Stefan Kanfer's Groucho (Forecasts, Mar. 20). While Louvish fully acknowledges the abusive behavior that drove Groucho's first wife to alcoholism, Julius Marx seems more forgivably human here, and Louvish depicts Groucho's relationship with daughter Miriam as loving and solicitous. His fresh research clears up all manner of myths, embellishments and omissions in previous biographies and in the brothers' autobiographies. In this invigorating reappraisal, the Marx Brothers, more than "Minnie and Sam's boys who never grew up," are timeless satirists of pretension, folly, privilege and snobbery, in the tradition of Cervantes, Rabelais and Mark Twain. The "Four Horsemen of the Apoplexy," they embody an authentic acceptance of life's absurdity as well as a desperate need to leave one's mark. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Thomas Dunne Books
September 24, 2001
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