comedy, they're one of the most important pieces of modern American Cinema history. In thirteen feature films, the comedy troupe broke barriers and let "edgier," sophisticated material into American comedy. In a Marx Brothers movie, nothing was sacred: sex, patriotism, morality, and everything in between were fodder for jokes. So, read on and find out who the hell the Marx Brothers are.
Generally considered the leader of the Marx Brothers bunch, Groucho was born Julius Marx in 1890. It was Groucho (so named for his grouchy disposition) who got brothers started in comedy after a bad show (the brothers started off as a vaudville music troupe) in Texas for a particularly rowdy crowd. Frustrated by the crowd's behavior, Groucho began insulting the audience with what would become his famous off-the-cuff one-liners. Instead of getting angry, the crowd ate it up, and it was clear to everyone that maybe it wouldn't hurt to try adding a few more jokes to their vaudeville act. Once they got their careers going with Hollywood movies, Groucho was famous for slipping risque one-liners past the sensors–in "Duck Soup" Groucho's character, "Rufus," managed to get an incredibly filthy-for-it's-time line into the 1930s Hollywood movie. That line? "All I can offer you is a Rufus over your head." Try that in a bar and see if you get lucky.
Born Arthur Marx, Harpo is the silent clown of the group. Put another way, if the Marx Brothers were a boy band, Harpo would be the "cute" one. He never, ever speaks, opting instead to cause mischief by running wild around the stage (and later, on screen), honking a bicycle horn, cutting people's ties off, and pulling God-knows-what out of his oversized pockets. In some of their movies, it almost seems like he's some kind of trickster god, commiting antics very similar to those of Bugs Bunny or Marvel Comics supervillain Loki.
Leonard Marx, the oldest of the brothers, earned his nickname because of his womanizing ways ("Chico" is actually pronounced "Chick-o," get it?). Women were not his only vice, however, he was also something of a gambler. In fact, the last Marx Brothers movie, "A Night in Casablanca," was produced pretty much only because Chico needed some cash. On screen, Chico is probably the most charming brother, using his phony Italian accent and his genuine piano playing skills to gain people's trust. Probably a lot like the off-screen Chico, except without the Italian accent.
Herbert Marx is pretty much the Marylin Munster of this group. In other words, he's the "straight man," the normal guy and sometime romantic lead who tolerates and reacts to the other brothers' antics. Supposedly, he was the funniest brother off-screen, but that didn't keep him from leaving the group after they made the switch from Paramount to MGM.
Now you know just a little bit about the Marx Brothers. The only thing left to do now is actually watch their movies–so what are you waiting for?