The Marx Brothers

Brothers, Marx

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, Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935), in the top fifteen. 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 Classical Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively.

The brothers are almost universally known by their stage names: Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo. There was a sixth brother, the first born, named Manfred (Mannie), who died in infancy; Zeppo was given the middle name Manfred in his memory.

The core of the act was the three elder brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho, each of whom developed a highly distinctive stage persona. After the group essentially disbanded in 1950, Groucho went on to a successful second career in television, while Harpo and Chico appeared less prominently. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, never developed their stage characters to the same extent as the elder three. Both left the act to pursue business careers at which they were successful, and for a time ran a large theatrical agency through which they represented their brothers and others. Gummo was not in any of the movies; Zeppo appeared in the first five films in relatively straight (non-comedic) roles. The early performing lives of the brothers owed much to their mother, Minnie Marx (the sister of vaudeville comic Al Shean), who acted as their manager until her death in 1929.

The Marx Brothers were born in New York City, the sons of Jewish immigrants from Germany and France. Their mother Miene “Minnie” Schoenberg (professionally known as Minnie Palmer, later the brothers’ manager) was from Dornum in East Frisia, and their father Samuel (“Sam”; born Simon) Marx was a native of Mertzwiller, a small Alsatian village, and worked as a tailor.[1][2] His name was changed to Samuel Marx, and he was nicknamed “Frenchy”.[3] The family lived in the Yorkville district of New York City’s Upper East Side, centered in the Irish, German and Italian quarters. The brothers are best known by their stage names:

Stage name Birth name Born Died Age Death
Chico Leonard Joseph March 22, 1887 October 11, 1961[4] 74 Arteriosclerosis
Harpo Adolph (after 1911: Arthur) November 23, 1888 September 28, 1964[5] 75 Heart failure
Groucho Julius Henry October 2, 1890 August 19, 1977[6] 86 Pneumonia
Gummo Milton October 23, 1892[7] April 21, 1977[8] 84 Cerebral hemorrhage
Zeppo Herbert Manfred February 25, 1901 November 30, 1979[9] 78 Lung cancer


Films with the four Marx Brothers:

Films with the three Marx Brothers (post-Zeppo):

Solo endeavors:

Albums Featuring this Artist