Wednesday, April 30, 2014



Somewhere around the letter “Q” I realized I had forgotten (I REALLY do very little planning, when I write) to pay homage to the Marx Bros., probably one of the funniest and most innovative of comedy teams of all time. Since this is the last day of the A-to-Z Challenge, I performed and end-run and decided to pick Zeppo Marx for my final entry.

Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx, born February 25, 1901, died November 30, 1979, was the youngest of the five (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Gummo) Marx Bros. and was an American actor, theatrical agent, and engineer(!) He appeared in the first five Marx Bros. feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent. Zeppo became a multi-millionaire due to his engineering efforts.

Groucho and Zeppo Marx, in I'm Against It, in "Horse Feathers" (1932)

Zeppo initially performed with his brothers, during their vaudeville years, occasionally stepping in as Captain Spaulding for his brother Groucho, who recalled, “He was so good in Animal Crackers that I would have let him play the part indefinitely, if they had allowed me to smoke in the audience”. However, Zeppo was never able to develop a comic persona of his own that could stand up against his brothers'. Although he accompanied his brothers in the first five films, he left shortly after to pursue his other interests: theatrical representation through an agency that he founded with his brother Gummo and a machining parts company, known as the Aeroquip Company. This company produced a motorcycle, called the Marmat Twin and the Marman clamps used to hold the “Fat Man” atomic bomb inside the B-29 named Bockscar. Zeppo also invented a wristwatch that would monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients and give off an alarm of the heartbeat became irregular.

All of the Marx Brothers were excellent musicians, and self-trained. Harpo did start taking lessons with a renowned harpist in NYC, but ended up teaching her his method of playing.

Surprising facts about a brother I only knew as someone who was overshadowed by his more talented brothers, Zeppo had a foot in both worlds, artistic and scientific, something rarely heard of, with the exception of Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr, during the hey-day of vaudeville, silent films and into black-and-white movies!
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