This biography uncovers the man behind the character, looking at his complicated life dominated by personal and professional satisfaction. Why was he so scared of ending up in poverty, why were his relationships with women often so destructive, and what of his complex relations with his brothers? Groucho Marx, like Stefan Kanfer's biography, ...Read MoreThis biography uncovers the man behind the character, looking at his complicated life dominated by personal and professional satisfaction. Why was he so scared of ending up in poverty, why were his relationships with women often so destructive, and what of his complex relations with his brothers? Groucho Marx, like Stefan Kanfer's biography, consists of much more than just throwaway jokes. Beneath the most famous Marx Brother's one-liners and carefree attitude was a life dominated by deep sadness, professional dissatisfaction and personal turmoil. Now, for the first time, one of the most influential and revered comedians of the 20th century is revealed in all his fascinating complexity. Beginning with the Marx Brothers' family heritage and their youth in turn-of-the-century New York, we see Julius and his brothers Adolph and Leonard become Groucho, Harpo and Chico. We go backstage as they develop their routines in Vaudeville, on Broadway and, finally, in Hollywood. Groucho's story unfolds against the backdrop of the changing world around him and his star-studded milieu, which includes other classic comic figures such as Charles Chaplin, and W.C. Fields, as well as great names like George Gershwin and T.S. Eliot. Kanfer delves into Groucho's complicated relationships with the people around him - his failed marriages, his destructive behaviour with his children, and his clashes with the self-indulgent Chico. The Brothers become the biggest movie stars in the world - a success bitterly followed by slow decline as age, years of profligacy and ego all catch up with them. Finally, we witness Groucho's extraordinary resurrection as he comes back from the career-dead to host the television quiz show "You Bet Your Life" and cements his legendary status in popular culture.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2000-03-20 According to this engrossing, exhaustively researched biography, Groucho Marx (1890-1977) was a grouch who merged his raffish public persona with his dour, peevish private self. Former Time cinema critic Kanfer presents Julius Henry Marx as a browbeating spouse who drove his three wives to alcoholism or heavy drinking, and to divorce. Though he could be an endearing parent, his aloofness and fault-finding alienated his son and two daughters, in Kanfer's verdict. Groucho remained a perpetually insecure "infantile grownup," Kanfer avers, because of his troubled relationship with his aggressive stage mother, Minnie, who took eldest son Chico (Leonard) as her pet, and thought Groucho unattractive and let him know it. This is not a debunking biography; on the contrary, Kanfer calls Groucho the father of modern comedy, whose influence extends from M*A*S*H to Jerry Seinfeld to Woody Allen to daily conversation. Although Kanfer tries to warm up to his subject on a personal level, Groucho comes off as a thoroughly dislikable misogynist who nursed lifelong grudges against his children, wives, managers and compatriots. Long stretches of this bio make for painful, even depressing reading, despite a truckload of gemlike anecdotes, incisive mini-biographies of all the Marx Brothers and invaluable film and stage criticism. Still, the book's first half, which follows the brothers' comic quartet from struggling vaudeville act to stardom, is exhilarating. Photos. Agent, Kathy Robbins. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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