How much did you know about the quintet, then quartet and then trio?
For the record, that’s (left to right) Groucho, Chico and Harpo above. They pretty much comprised the driving force of the Brothers’ act which started out in vaudeville and flourished in the movies (13 films from 1921 to 1957).
Ok, on to the answers to our Brothers Quiz. Much to cover. Here we go:
1) Question: Which one of the following was NOT considered a member of the Marx Brothers? a) Milton (Gummo); b) Adolph (Harpo); c) Leonard (Chico) or d) Herbert (Zeppo).
1) Answer: a) Milton (Gummo) was really not part of the Marx Brothers act, at least not a core member. For example, he does not appear in any of the Brothers’ movies. Adolph (Harpo), Leonard (Chico) and Herbert (Zeppo) were core members as was, of course, Julius (Groucho).
2) Question: Groucho once affectionately described this non-relative performer as “the fifth Marx Brother.” Can you name this person? a) Ed Wynn; b) Bert Lahr; c) W.C. Fields or d) Margaret Dumont.
2) Answer: d) The fabulous Margaret Dumont was considered by Groucho to be “the fifth Marx Brother.” She, of course, played the formidable society doyenne in so many Marx Brothers pictures, the butt of Groucho’s innuendos and insults. Her imperturbability is based on the placid knowledge that she is stronger than Groucho, that all his insult is childish prattle, wrote critic David Thomson.
3) Question: Harpo is famous for remaining the silent Marx Brother. How come he never uttered a word onstage or in movies? a) He was struck dumb in his Twenties; b) He reacted to a negative review from a critic in Champaign, Illinois; c) He was order to clam up by his forceful stage mother; or d) He simply enjoyed working sans dialogue.
3) Answer: b) A vaudeville critic reviewing the Brothers’ act praised Harpo’s mimicry, but badmouthed his performance “when he speaks.” Harpo took it hard, and vowed then and there never to speak onstage or in the movies. I went silent. I never uttered another word, he wrote.
4) Question: How did Arthur Marx get the stage name “Harpo?” a) That was his father’s nickname; b) Because he took up the stringed harp to liven up the boys’ vaudeville act; c) Because he was given a surprise gift by his mother; d) He just liked the sound of the moniker.
4) Answer: Both b) and c). Harpo was surprise gifted by mother Minnie of a battered, fifth-hand stringed harp in order to liven up the boys’ comedy act. It worked, especially since Harpo was a talented if totally unschooled musician. He fully mastered the instrument to the astonishment of even fully tutored classic musicians.
5) Question: Which of the following was Marx Brothers’ final Hollywood movie? a) Love Happy; b) A Night at the Opera; c) A Day at the Races; or d) A Night In Casablanca.
5) Answer: a) The final Marx Brothers Hollywood movie is 1949’s Love Happy, a musical comedy featuring Ilona Massey, Vera-Ellen, a young Raymond Burr and an even younger Marilyn Monroe.
6) Question: Who gave Julius Marx the “Groucho” nickname, which he professed to hate? a) His Uncle Julius, for whom he was actually named; b) A fellow vaudeville performer named Art Fisher; c) His mother Minnie in commenting on Marx’s dour personality; or d) His brother Adolph.
6) Answer: b) Art Fisher, a traveling monologist who worked with the Marx Brothers in vaudeville. Popular comic strip characters of the day often tacked an “o” onto words and names, notes author Stefan Kanfer. Julius became “Groucho” because he was the dour one. Leonard became “Chicko” (later “Chico”) because he was a womanizer. Adolph, the musical brother, became became “Harpo” and so on.
7) Question: The brother’s mother mother, the former Minna Schoenberg, was the subject of a short lived Broadway musical in 1970. Can you name the show and the actress who played her?
7) Answer: Minnie’s Boys opened on Broadway in 1970, starring Shelley Winters as Groucho’s mother Minna. The show flopped.
8) Question: Although brought up with scanty formal education, Harpo became a celebrated member of the so-called Round Table group of intellectuals at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. Who was his closest Round Table pal? a) George Kaufman; b) Dorothy Parker; c) Bernard Baruch; or d) Alexander Woollcott.
8) Answer: d) Writer-critic Alexander Woollcott, who worshipped Harpo’s talent and also became a lifelong friend.
9) Question: Harpo Marx’s most famous comic expression was known as a “gookie.” What exactly was it and who was it named after?
9) Answer: Harpo’s “gookie” was his most reliable facial expression, rarely failing to get a laugh. It was named for and borrowed from a professional cigar roller in Harpo’s boyhood New York City neighborhood, working out of the front window of a cigar store on Lexington Ave. Gookie got so involved in his work that he made strange faces — his tongue lolled out in a fat roll, his cheeks puffed out, and his eyes popped out and crossed themselves. Harpo, an excellent mimic even as a child, picked up the expression and employed it throughout his career.
10) Question: Of all the Marx brothers, Harpo was the most romantically and sexually active, and never really settled down. a) True; or b) False.
10) Answer: b) False. Although Harpo played around as a bachelor, he settled down in 1936 to a long (until his death in 1964, at age 75) and happy marriage to Susan Fleming. The couple adopted four children.