We love the rapid-fire repartee and lovably shady characters that will forever be associated with Lee Tracy, born 122 years ago today. Tracy’s one of the few actors whose involvement in a picture is sufficient to convince us to watch. Show us his name in the credits, and we’re on board, no questions asked.
Big news! This month only, we’re sharing our TCM Tip Sheet for the month of August with the whole wide world! It’s live now on our Patreon page.
This is a perq that’s usually only available to our Patreon supporters at the $5-per-month level and higher, but this month only, we’re making it available to all, so that some of you might consider joining us as a Patreon supporter for the first time or, for those of you who already support us but at something under $5 a month, that you might consider upping your support a bit. As you may know, our monthly costs have doubled (due to an increase in licensing costs for the music we play) and while we’re getting close to the amount we need to cover those costs, we’re not there yet.
In August, TCM is running its Summer Under the Stars festival, with a different star featured daily for 24 hours, and as it does every month, our Tip Sheet will help you sort through all those offerings by recommending at least one movie per day that is worth watching and/or recording.
We had a Patreon supporter tell us recently that she loves our monthly TCM Tip Sheet, even though she doesn’t even own a television and can’t watch the movies. We considered that high praise, and we hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
The immortal Groucho Marx was born Julius Henry Marx 126 years ago today on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He is, for us, in the show-business pantheon, perhaps the funniest man who ever lived. We loved him with a passion while he was still with us, and we miss him dearly today.
Here are 10 GM Did-You-Knows:
- Groucho and his four brothers were first-generation New Yorkers. His mother, Minnie, was from northern Germany; His father, Sam, came from Alsace in France (hence the affectionate name he was given: Frenchie). Sam and Minnie met in New York, married and raised a clan of sons that left an indelible mark in the worlds of vaudeville, musical theatre, movies, radio and television.
- People know of the exploits and accomplishments of Groucho, Harpo and Chico, and there are some who are familiar with Zeppo‘s 18-year stint in the family act. A few even know of Gummo‘s brief participation while the brothers were still working in vaudeville, but few are aware of Manfred, Sam and Minnie’s first-born son, who was born in 1886 but lived just seven months.
- Groucho was a lifelong insomniac, which he blamed on the financial bath he took when the stock market crashed in 1929.
- Groucho was very much a middle child, pining for his mother’s affection throughout his life. Minnie doted instead on Chico (perhaps understandable, since he was the first child born after the painful loss of Manfred).
- Groucho and his brothers were nephews to Al Shean, Minnie’s brother, who was a huge success in vaudeville as half of the headlining act Gallagher and Shean.
- In the early years of the brothers’ vaudeville career, Groucho played a “Dutch” or German character, a familiar role during the heyday of ethnic humor.
- Though he dreamed of being a doctor, Groucho’s years of formal education were brief, and in 1905, he was the first of the five sons to enter show business—but as a singer, not a comedian. He answered an ad in the New York World for an audition being conducted by one Gene Leroy at his apartment at 281 Third Avenue (the building is still there, as is, one assumes, the apartment). Groucho was hired to tour with the Leroy Trio, but was soon abandoned in Colorado when Leroy and the third member of the trio, Johnny Morris, absconded with all the money the threesome had earned. Minnie had to wire Groucho money to get back to NYC. Groucho’s lifelong worries over money (even after he was successful and financially very stable) is often attributed to the aforementioned losses he suffered in the Crash of ’29, but we’re inclined to think his traumatic first experience on the road in vaudeville had as much, if not more, to do with it.
- The self-educated Groucho was an avid reader and admired writers much more than performers. His own humorous prose was frequently published in The New Yorker and other periodicals of the day. He also authored several books.
- Groucho was a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado and was thrilled when he was given the opportunity to portray Ko-Ko in a 1960 television production of The Mikado on NBC.
- Groucho introduced Johnny Carson as the new host of The Tonight Show on October 1, 1962, and was Carson’s first guest on the show.
Happy birthday, Groucho, wherever you may be!