Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx

by Stefan Kanfer
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Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx by Stefan Kanfer

This definitive biography of one of the world’s greatest comedians unflinchingly yet affectionately uncovers the man behind the cigar.

Here is the amazing career of the man the world recognized as Groucho: the improbable disasters of the vaudeville years; the Marx Brothers, an act so funny W.C. Fields refused to follow it; the unprecedented Broadway success of The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers; the cinematic triumphs of Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera; and the marvelous come-back career as king of the game show hosts with You Bet Your Life. Here, too, is the man himself: a lonely middle child who aspired to be a doctor; a man who sabotaged three marriages; a father alternately indulgent and cruel. Intelligent and thorough, hilarious and sad, Groucho is a spectacular biography of the century’s most influential comedian.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375702075
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/08/2001
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 819,965
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Stefan Kanfer's books include The Eighth Sin, A Summer World, The Last Empire, and Serious Business. He was the primary interviewer in the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Line King. A former writer and editor at Time and a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library, he has been a writer-in-residence at the City University of New York, the State University of New York at Purchase, and Wesleyan University. He lives in New York and on Cape Cod.

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Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I learned of Stanley Kanfer biography through Dick Cavett's review in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Cavett was Mr. Marx's friend during his later year. His familiarity with Mr. Kanfer's subject only adds credibility to his praise. I was not disappointed. Simply stated, Kanfer's biography of Groucho Marx is superb. His book is one of the best biographies I've every read. It's extraordinarily precise, entertaining, readable and educational. His insights into Marx's personality are splendidly lucid and forthright. He holds no punches, much as he greatly admires Mr. Marx. I found his analyses of the entertainer's personality quick, frank and admirably honest. There are few faults this reader can report. It's clearly obvious that Mr. Kanfer leaned heavily on previous sources, but their precise origins remain unidentified. I wish the author had included more photographs, but I'm grateful for those chosen. There are, without doubt, other ways to see them. Marx's early life receives rather less attention than his later years, but I believe that's a consequence of the available information. Still, this reader remains unsure that Marx's mother Minnie can be blamed almost entirely for his phobias, neuroses and family antagonisms. Mr. Kanfer shares his understanding of the entertainment industry willingly with his readers without vanity or hubris. His remarkably deep knowledge base, obvious background friendships and Hollywood contacts no doubt assisted his writing. The reader gravitates to these points rather than being dragged or battered by them. In fact, I only questioned how the author included so many intimate details of Marx's life without being physically present, yet I never questioned if they were imagined. The book's last section on the battle over Mr. Marx's fortune is reviewed in great detail. Fifty-five pages are devoted to Erin Fleming's influence and legal squabbles. They read rather like the script of a soap opera and are somewhat less satisfying than the prior 383 pages. That being stated, these incidents were still greatly important in Mr. Marx's life, death and legacy. His survivors and Ms. Fleming were left devoid of parts of their sanity and significant financial resources following this protracted battle. This reader was left saddened by the section, yet Mr. Kanfer never shirks from this sordid part of Marx's history. In summary, there is much to praise and little to criticize. Julius (Groucho) Marx receives splendidly honest treatment and analysis as one of America's great comedians. His wit, intelligence, timing, work and devotion to his craft made him incomparable. And thanks to Mr. Kanfer, now I know where to find his star in the galaxy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Groucho is not your basic straight-through about comedy. It goes deep into the history of the Marx brother going back as far mid 19th century Germany. From there you travel from the slum of the Lower East Side, to the Upper East Side of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Plus it tells in detail the insecurites that effect both Groucho and Chico's relationships with their wives and children. It was interesting to read; just be ready to feel that you are going to tested later on the material you have read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This biography of Groucho is actually an excellent history of the Marx Brothers and their entertainment era. The writing is fluid and face-paced, with just the right amount of personal and show biz information to keep things interesting. Groucho comes alive in these pages, perhaps better than in any other book I've read on the subject (and I've read quite a few). You get a real sense not only of what he did and with whom, but why: his position in the family (smack in middle of the brood of five boys), the influence of his amazingly tenacious and ambitious mother, the adversity of his early years in Vaudeville (where, several times, he was fleeced by con men and colleagues) and so on and so forth. Particularly illuminating is the sad last chapter played out after his death in the bitter battle between his children and the Bank of America on side, and Ms. Erin Fleming on the other. I loved the man for his talent and intelligence before I read this bio and I love him even more now. To wit: if you are by any definition a fan of Groucho and all things Marx, you must read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mostly, this book is a rehash of the same old anecdotes we've heard before. Only a few details have been changed to make them appear fresh. The book give no new insight into the Marx Brothers. From Kanfar's descriptions, one wonders if he ever even saw a single Marx Brothers film.