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Collected Quotations from Chairman Groucho

 

A bunch of choice quotes from You Bet Your Life:

He had a housewife on who said she had seven children.  Groucho said, "Seven? That many?"
She blushed, and said, "Well, I love my husband. "
Groucho came back with, "I love my cigar, too, but I TAKE it out once in a while. "

Groucho was interviewing a rather eccentric woman who suddenly said to him, "I have heard voices from another planet. "
"Really," said Groucho.  "What other planet?"
"I'm not at liberty to tell you," said the woman.
"It's a wonder you're at liberty at all," Groucho shot back.

Man: I'm from Rising Sun.
Groucho: I have a rising son.  His name is Arthur and he usually rises about two in the afternoon.

Groucho: How did you meet your wife?
Man: A friend of mine.
Groucho: Do you still regard him as a friend?

Groucho: Where did you meet your wife?
Man: In my delicatessen.
Groucho: Was she pickled at the time?
Man: She kicked me under the table.
Groucho: She kicked you under the table? And did you remain there?

Man: Oh, it's right on the edge of my tongue.
Groucho: Well, stick your tongue out.

Groucho: Where is your office, Doc?
Man: In Wilmington, Groucho, in the Los Angeles harbor.
Groucho: Oh well, that's the place for a doc--down in the harbor.

Nurse Donna: "Oh, Groucho, I'm afraid I'm gonna wind up an old maid. "
"Well, bring her in and we'll wind her up together. "

Nurse Donna: "Do you believe in computer dating?"
"Only if the computers really love each other.

 

 

 

Fragments


At a restaurant, Groucho grew impatient for the main course, and told the waiter: "If I'm not waited on right away, I'll leave in a huff.  Will someone please call me a huff?"

Did I ever tell you when we had just started to be successful, Harpo and I went to a fancy restaurant in Oklahoma City? They gave a long menu to Harpo, and he looked at it and said, 'Yes, and a cup of coffee. ' So we had everything on the menu.  And a cup of coffee.

One thing that Groucho loved about living in Southern California was the great amount of time during the year he could dedicate to gardening, which was a favorite relaxing activity of his.  Of course, in fashionable Beverly Hills, no one did their own gardening; they all had gardeners, nearly all of whom were Japanese.  During the war years, Japanese were hard to come by, seeing as how they were mostly interred in prison camps.  One day Groucho was out doing his own yard work.  A woman of high social status who herself was looking for a gardener pulled up in her car to talk to Groucho.  She clearly didn't recognize him, in grubby clothes and without his greasepaint makeup.  She asked him, "How much do you get paid to take care of this yard?" To which he replied, "Oh, I don't get any money.  I just get to sleep with the lady of the house!"

Steve Stoliar, who was Groucho's personal secretary for four years in the '70s, wrote a great book entitled Raised Eyebrows.  I can't recommend it highly enough, so I won't.  All I can say is that if you've got $19. 95, go buy it.

Among many other things, Stoliar wrote about Harpo almost speaking in Go West:
I was reading through one set of notes from a performance at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles when I ran across this matter-of-fact remark: "After Harpos's solo in the last show Sunday evening, Harpo made the following speech. " I stopped and read the sentence over again just to make sure I hadn't misread it.  And then, incredibly, there was the transcript of a long, rambling speech by Harpo Marx.

For the record, here is what the "silent" Marx Brother had to say that night: "Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate to the fullest this outburst and applause which conclusively proves my knowledge of dramatic arts.  I would indeed be ungrateful were I not to acknowledge even in this inarticulate manner your generous yet wholly spontaneious (sound of a gun shot).  That'll never stop me! And in conclusion, may I not have the rather unusual privilege tendering to you, my audience, the warm congratulations which are rightfully yours for the keenness and perspicacity which you have shown in recognizxing true genius, accomplished artistry, and monumento-monumania.  Thank you. "

In the midst of Harpo's speech, Groucho blurts out: "Now you know why he never talked!"

 

And a couple of anecdotes about Groucho's attitude towards stupid questions from reporters:

Reporter: "Why are you so big all over again?"
Groucho: "I'm only five-seven. "
Reporter: "Do you enjoy being called a living legend?"
Groucho: "Yes. "
Reporter: "Why?"
Groucho: "Because I'm dead. "
Reporter: "You're going to be eighty-five soon.  How does it feel?"
Groucho: "Sixty-nine felt better. "

Stoliar wrote: "I was often dismayed at the relative ignorance of some of the reporters who came to Groucho's house.  It seemed to me that it was a rare privilege for them to be able to share some of Groucho's increasingly precious time and I felt the least they could do was come prepared.  I'd sit there thinking to myself, You schmuck.  Don't ask him that.  Any movie book can tell you that.  Ask him something interesting.

*

Reporter: "What was it like making movies back then?"
Groucho: "It was hard work.  They didn't have restrooms near the sound stages.  I guess they didn't think actors were human.  But all that's changed now. "
Reporter: "Oh? How so?"
Groucho: "People don't piss anymore!"
[ . . .  ]

Reporter: "What are you doing with your time?"
Groucho: "Wasting it talking to you. "

*

On one occasion, Groucho treated a reporter to a couple of songs before the actual interview began.  Unfortunately, the reporter hadn't realized that music had been a part of the Marx Brothers' performances since their earliest vaudeville days.
Reporter: "Where'd you learn to sing?"
Groucho: "That's a stupid question.  I've been singing all my life.  Where'd you learn to write - or maybe you haven't?"

Groucho: "Enough about me.  What do you do for amusement?"
Reporter: "I go to the movies, play backgammon and dance. "
Groucho: "At the same time?"

*

 

(For the following series of stories are borrowed shamelessly from Arthur Marx's excellent book, My Life with Groucho.  If he wants to sue me, he'll have to deal with the law firm of "Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, and McCormack. ")

 

"Groucho had serious problems with insomnia, especially after the stock market crash of 1929.  After trying several remedies, he spoke with Robert Benchley, who was an insomnia expert himself.  Groucho told Benchley, 'If I don't get some sleep soon, I think I'll kill myself. '

Benchley suggested to Groucho that he try taking a hot bath scented with pine needles every night before turning in.  Willing to try just about anything, Groucho bought a bottle of the pine needle solution on the way home, and tried it in a hot bath before going to bed.  This appeared to be the answer.  Almost immediately, the soaking and the smell of the pine needles relaxed him.  Within fifteen minutes his eyelids started to feel heavy, he became drowsier and drowsier, and finally he fell asleep in the tub.  When his wife heard a gurgling sound coming from the bathroom, she rushed in, pulled his head out of the water before he could drown, and helped resuscitate him.

'What happened?' he asked gruffly.

'You nearly drowned,' said his wife.  'Don't you ever try this again. '

Groucho yelled, 'Get my bathrobe.  Quickly! I want to get to bed before I wake up. '

But by the time he got to the bed, he was no longer tired, and spent another sleepless night.

'That's a fine insomnia cure,' he told Benchley the next time he saw him.  'I fell asleep in the tub and almost drowned. '

'Who said it was an insomnia cure?' exclaimed Benchley.  'You said if you didn't get some sleep you wanted to kill yourself.  Well I was just expediting things. '"

*

One night, in his desperation to make it to the theater on time, Groucho made an illegal left turn.  ". . . of course a policeman stopped him.  One look at Groucho dressed as Napoleon was enough to convince the gendarme that he was a refugee from Bellevue's psychiatric ward.

'But I tell you I'm one of the Marx Brothers,' insisted Groucho.  'And I'm due on the stage right this minute. '

'If you're one of the Marx Brothers,' said the skeptical cop, 'let's hear you say something funny. '

'If you're a policeman, let's see you arrest somebody!' retorted Groucho.

There was no reason why that line shouldn't have landed him in the nearest jail, but evidently the policeman felt that only a Marx Brother would have the nerve to say such a thing, and not only let him go, but escorted him back to the theater. "

*

When he was living in Great Neck New York, Groucho decided to join a beach club.  "After investigating a number of them, he drove us over the Sands Point Bath and Sun Club, filled out an application and handed it to the manager.

'Are you Jewish?' asked the manager, not at all impressed that the applicant was a celebrity enjoying huge success on Broadway.

'Not a practicing one,' replied Groucho.  'Actually, I'm an American. '

'Well, we're very sorry, Mr.  Marx,' said the manager, 'but we don't allow Jews to swim at our beach. '

'What about my son?' retorted Groucho.  'He's only half-Jewish.  Would it be all right if he went into the water up to his knees?'

*

Groucho always observed the Christmas season.  On Christmas Eve, he would read his version of "The Night Before Christmas. "

"Twas the night before Christmas,

And all through the house,

Not a customer was stirring,

Not even a louse.

Because Christmas week has always

Been a drop dead week in the theater.

The stockings were hung on

The chorus girls with care,

In hopes that some rich playboys

Soon would be there.

The children were home,

Fast asleep in their beds,

With visions of B. B.  guns (with which to maim their parents)

Dancing round in their heads.

Mother, of course, was fast asleep, too,

Dreaming of mink coats that she wanted to come true.

But poor old Father was still wide awake,

Thinking of the bills and getting a bad stomach-ache. "

 

A pool story

 

Groucho was invited to use the pool of Archie Mayo, a famous Hollywood director.  So Groucho and his family wasted no time taking advantage of Mayo's pool.  As they were luxuriating in the water, they saw "a rather nice-looking, matronly woman, who seemed quite incensed about something.

'Who are you?' she demanded.  'What are you doing here?'

I suppose this was a fair question, in view of the fact that in bathing trunks, and without his mustache, Groucho was completely unrecognizable, except to his family and his closest friends.  And we had never seen this woman before.  But Groucho was annoyed at her because he felt her manner was unnecessarily hostile.

'I'm swimming,' replied Groucho.  'What are you doing here?'

'It so happens I have a right to be here,' she answered, with indignation.  'I'm Mrs.  Dellar, and Mr.  Mayo, who owns this house, is my brother-in-law. '

'In that case, take off your clothes and come on in for a swim.  Maybe I'll take mine off and we'll have a nude party. '

'Don't you know this is private property?' said Mrs.  Dellar, ignoring his invitation.  'Who gave you permission to swim here?' Miriam [Groucho's daughter] and I were a little nervous by this time, and we hoped he would tell her the truth and vindicate all of us.  But Groucho had no such intentions.

'No one gave us permission,' he said, looking Mrs.  Dellar straight in the eye.

'Then what are you doing here?'

'Swimming.  I told you. '

'That's not what I mean.  Who said you could swim here?'

'No one.  The kids and I just happened to be loitering in the alley when we saw your pool, so we thought we'd go for a dip.  After all, no one else is using it.  It's silly to have it going to waste. '

Mrs.  Dellar was livid.  'Well, you just pick up your things and get out of here before I call the police,' she threatened.

'We're not hurting anything,' said Groucho.  'Why should we?'

'That's not the point,' she snapped.  'This is private property, and we won't have just anyone off the street dropping in here. '

'That's the trouble with you rich,' said Groucho.  'You get a little money and right away the people off the street aren't good enough for you.  Well, we're not budging.  This is a free country, and I insist on standing up for our rights. '

With that he removed his glasses, put down his cigar and nonchalantly swam three lengths of the pool, as Mrs.  Dellar watched, transfixed.  Then he climbed out again and started to dry.

'If I'm going to swim here,' he said in a complaining tone, 'I wish you'd see that water is heated.  It's a little too cold for my blood. '

Mrs.  Dellar bridled indignantly and stormed off in the direction of the house next door, announcing that she was going to phone the police.

'Do you think she will?' asked Miriam.

'Probably,' said Groucho, stretching out on a towel, unconcerned.

'I'm scared,' said Miriam, who was only six.  'I'm going home. '

'That's right,' said Groucho.  'Desert your father when he's about to be thrown in the jug. '

He finally persuaded the two of us to stick around, and then, when he saw Mrs.  Dellar return from making the call and go inside the Mayo house, apparently to wait for the police, he stood up and beckoned us to follow him.

He sauntered inside the house, and found Mrs.  Dellar admiring the freshly painted and papered living room.  It was really a beautiful room and the last word in luxury, despite the fact that it still contained no furniture.

Groucho cast an appraising eye around the empty room, then turned to Mrs.  Dellar and said, 'That's Hollywood for you! People can't even afford furniture, and they have to have a swimming pool. '

Mrs.  Dellar turned so white I thought she was going to have a heart attack, but two policemen arrived at that moment, and she managed to pull herself together.

'Here they are,' she said.  'I want you to arrest these people for vagrancy. ' I was sure that Groucho would divulge his identity then, and tell them how we happened to be swimming there, but he double-crossed me by pulling the Julius H.  Marx routine again, and stuck to it until they were actually herding us into the squad car.  Then he glanced down at his bathing trunks and said:

'Would you mind terribly if I ran across the street and changed into something more formal?'

The officer looked at him as if he were out of his mind, and stiffly informed him that Groucho Marx lived in that house.

'I know,' said Groucho.  'Sometimes I go by that name, too. '

 

 

 

The Groucho Marx Contest

 

 

1.  At the age of five, Groucho accompanied his mother, Minnie, and his brother, Chico, on a trip to Minnie's home town.  What is the name of the town and who financed the trip?

    The town the three traveled to was Dornum, Germany, courtesy of a cousin by the name of Samuel Wolfenstein (The Groucho Phile)

2. Groucho made his performing debut with what traveling group?

    The Leroy Trio (The Groucho Phile [correcting the earlier "Groucho and Me" entry where Groucho changed the name to protect the guilty])

3. One of Harpo's first jobs was as a piano player, though he only knew two tunes.  How did he manage to get this job?
    By impersonating Chico

4. What was Gummo's first job in show business?
    He masqueraded as a ventriloquist's dummy in an act with his uncle, Henry

5. In the 1910s, the Marx Brothers performed on Vaudeville's Orpheum Circuit.  They were followed on the bill for a time by a young fiddle player who later became famous.  Who was he?
    Benny Kubelski, a. k. a.  Ben Benny, a. k. a.  Jack Benny (any combination of these will do)

6. Harpo actually had a "speaking" role (without his brothers) in a silent film in 1925.  What was the title of the film?
    TooMany Kisses

7. Name the characters played by each of the Marxes in the stage version of "The Cocoanuts"
    Groucho: Henry Schlemmer; Zeppo: Jamison; Harpo: Silent Sam; Chico: Willie The Wop (from an original program from the play)

8. Who was the choreographer for the stage version of "Animal Crackers," and what famous dance team is he known for having founded?
    Russell Markert, in addition to acting as choreographer for this play, also founded "The Rockettes" (Hector Arce's "Groucho")

9. After the Marxes became popular on the New York stage, Groucho bought a home on Long Island.  What was the address?
    21 Lincoln Road, Great Neck, NY (The Groucho Phile)

10. What was the title of the first Marx Brothers film ever produced?
    Humor Risk (no points off for spelling. . . I've never figured out for sure how it's actually spelled either)

11. What is the most significant and unusual feature of the bellboys in the Marx Brothers' movie, "The Cocoanuts?"
    They were girls (sometimes it is the easy one)

12. Before moving to Hollywood in 1931, at which studio were The Marx Brothers' films shot?
    Paramount's Astoria Studios in Queens (sometimes called "Kaufman Astoria Studios")

13. In "Horsefeathers" what is unusual about the blocks of ice Baravelli and Pinky deliver to Wagstaff in his office?
    They contain liquor bottles.

14. When the Screen Actors Guild was founded in 1933, what office did Groucho hold?
    He was Treasurer (Hector Arce's "Groucho")

15. Harpo Marx travelled to the USSR in the fall of 1933 for a brief tour.  As an American performer n the Soviet Union, what was the most significant thing about Harpo's trip?
    He was the first American performer to appear in the Soviet Union after the revolution (some people pointed out that he performed some covert activities while performing there and, while this is certainly true, I was going for his significance as an American performer, not simply as an American)

16. In 1933, Leo McCarey directed "Duck Soup" for the Marxes (which was a flop at the box office but has since become a classic).  In 1944, McCarey won an Oscar for Best Director.  What was the film and who was the star?
    "Going My Way" starred Bing Crosby.

17. For the production of "Duck Soup," Paramount borrowed an actor from the Hal Roach studio.  What was the actor's name?
    Edgar Kennedy

18. The brother of the actor in the question above was also featured in a Marx Brothers film.  What was the name of the movie and who was the actor?
    "Monkey Business" featured Tom Kennedy.

19. Charles Drake and Sig Ruman both appeared in "A Night In Casablanca. " What other film (without the Marxes) do they have in common?
    "The Glenn Miller Story. "

20. Zeppo left The Marx Brothers (as a performer) when they lost their Paramount contract after the failure of "Duck Soup. " What business did he go into?
    He became an agent.

21. Thelma Todd appeared in two Marx Brothers films.  In 1931 she appeared in a film based on a book that was again adapted for the screen several years later as a starring vehicle for another actor.  What title did both pictures share, and who was the star of the second version?
    Both films were named for the book upon which they were based, "The Maltese Falcon. " The second version starred Humphrey Bogart.

22. In 1937 Groucho co-wrote a screenplay that was never produced.  Who was his co-writer, who was the intended star of the film, what was the title of the screenplay, and what is the chief reason it was never produced?
    Ken Englund co-wrote the screenplay for "Madcap Mary Mooney," which was supposed to feature Carole Lombard in the lead role.  The screenplay was never produced, mainly because of the death of Amelia Earheart.  (I think that covers everything. . . And in case you're wondering, I found this out from Robert S.  Bader's outstanding foreword to "Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales. ")

23. In 1940, Groucho was working with Irving Brecher on a situation comedy for radio for which he was the intended star.  The pilot never sold.  What was the intended title of the show, and under what title did it eventually appear starring what actor?
    "The Flotsam Family" was retitled "The Life of Riley," which starred William Bendix (Jackie Gleason is also an acceptable answer for the star)

24. Nat Pendleton appeared in two Marx Bros.  films, "Horse Feathers" and "At The Circus. " He was also featured in the first starring vehicle for another famous comedy team.  What was the comedy team in question, and what was the name of the film?
    Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's "Buck Privates. "

25. Groucho and Chico did a radio program together in 1932/33.  What was the original name of the show?
    Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle

26. Who presented Harpo with a Harp strung with barbed wire?
    Salvador Dali

27. The Marx Brothers reportedly got into a bit of hot water with Warner Brothers over one of their movies.  What was the name of the film and what caused the controversy?
    Warner Brothers was miffed because they thought the title of "A Night In Casablanca" infringed on their rights (i. e. , it contained the name "Casablanca")

28. During their career as a team, The Marx Brothers starred in only one film that wasn't written especially for them.  This film was remade several years later as a musical.  What was the title of the film, what was the title of the remake and who was the star in the remake?
    "Room Service" was remade as "Step Lively" starring Frank Sinatra.

29. Besides Margaret Dumont and the Marxes themselves, what actor or actress appeared in the most Marx Brothers films and how many films did he or she appear in?
    Sig Rumann appeared in three films: "A Night At The Opera," "A Day At The Races," and "A Night In Casablanca. "

30. There is only one hit song commonly associated with a Marx Brothers film.  What song was it and how long did it top the charts?
    According to Hector Arce's "Groucho," "Alone" was number one for 17 weeks in 1936.  However, one person pointed out that Zimmerman's book shows "Alone" at the top of the "Lucky Strike" charts for 16 weeks, while another claimed it topped the "Your Hit Parade" charts for 5 weeks.  Since I didn't point out which charts I was referring to, as long as you get the song right you get full credit.

31. What was the first feature film Groucho appeared in without his brothers?
    As some have pointed out to me, Groucho was an extra in "Yours For The Asking" in 1936.  I was actually looking for "Copacabana," which was his first starring role without his brothers.  However, this isn't the way the question was worded, so I'll accept either answer.

32. Harpo Marx once had a pet seagull.  What was the name of this bird?
    Siegel

33. Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont appeared together for the last time on what television program in what year?
    The Hollywood Palace, 1965.

34. The original audition record for "You Bet Your Life" featured an announcer who was better known as the announcer of another popular radio program of the time.  Who was the announcer, and on what program did he regularly appear?
    Jack Slattery was the regular announcer on Art Linkletter's "House Party. " (The Secret Word Is Groucho)

35. The voice of "You Bet Your Life" announcer George Fenneman was regularly featured on what popular drama?
    Jack Webb's "Dragnet" (The Secret Word Is Groucho)

36. Who was the original musical director of "You Bet Your Life" and why was he finally discharged. 
    Here I was looking for Jerry Fielding, who was discharged for reasons stemming from his investigation by the U. S.  government during the McCarthy "witch hunt. "However, several people have pointed out to me that he was not the first musical director of the program -- rather the third.  Billy May was the first.  So I'll give credit for either one, even though my answer is clearly incorrect.

37. During the run of "You Bet Your Life," George Fenneman hosted what short-lived radio program for ABC?
    "The Perfect Husband" (The Secret Word Is Groucho)

38. Elgin American was the first sponsor of "You Bet Your Life. " Why did the company terminate its sponsorship?
    Due to the popularity of the program, they sold out their entire product line.  (The Secret Word Is Groucho)

39. What 1960s TV father starred in what film written by which offspring of which Marx Brother?
    Ozzie Nelson starred in "The Impossible Years," penned by Arthur Marx, Groucho's son.

40. In 1969, Groucho's photo was used on the album cover of a popular recording comedy group.  What was the name of the group and what was the title of the album?
    The Firesign Theatre's "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All?"

41. Groucho's son, Arthur, was a competitor in what sport?
    Tennis

42. Groucho was constantly trying to get his younger daughter, Melinda, into the entertainment business, but she hated it.  What popular musical motion picture did she appear in?
    "Bye, Bye Birdie"

43. Ann Ronell composed the musical score for the Marxes' last picture, "Love Happy. " Ronell's first work for film was as lyricist for what famous song (the title of which was also the title of the film in which it appeared)?
    "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" (This according to a Lincoln Center Library exhibit of Ronnell's work. . . She lost a court battle over the credit for this piece, however. ) Unfortunately, my parenthetical remark in this question was a bit misleading, because the movie the song appeared in was actually called "The Three Little Pigs. " Sorry about that.

44. What was the original title of "Love Happy?"
    "Diamonds In The Sidewalk" (certain variations are also acceptable, provided you got the idea across)

45. "Love Happy" is considered by many to have been a pioneering film in the use of product placement (i. e. , the view or mention of a product or brand name in a film in return for financial backing).  But the Marx Brothers' films featured "product placement" (without the financial backing) long before this movie was produced.  What brand name was mentioned in what song from "Animal Crackers" and who was the singer?
    "Frigidaire" is mentioned in "Why Am I So Romantic?" sung by Lillian Roth.

46. The Chico Marx Orchestra at one time featured a young singer who later became famous.  Who was the singer?
    Mel Torme

47. Groucho was a long-time fan of the work of Gilbert and Sullivan.  What was the name of the actor who introduced Groucho to the work of this duo?
    Edward Metcalf, who worked with the Marxes on the stage and in the movies.  (Hector Arce's "Groucho")

48. Norman Krasna wrote a play loosely based on the lives of Groucho and his family.  What was the title?
    "Dear Ruth"

49. In February 1950, Harpo appeared at the opening of a hotel with Jack Benny and Danny Kaye.  For this appearance he agreed to be paid in supposedly oil-rich land that was later discovered to be worthless.  What was the name of the hotel and in what city was it constructed?
    The Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas (Hector Arce's "Groucho")

50. In 1974, Groucho performed his one-man show, "An Evening With Groucho," at Carnegie Hall.  Who was his piano accompanist?
    Marvin Hamlisch (and the year was 1972. . . my oops)

 

 

 

Words from the gentleman with the cigar

 

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