Summary

Birth:
25 Feb 1901 1
New York, New York 2
Death:
30 Nov 1979 3
Nov 1979 1
Eisenhower Medical Center Palm Springs, California 3
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Herbert Manfred Marx 2
Full Name:
Herbert Marx 1
Also known as:
Zeppo Marx 2
Birth:
25 Feb 1901 1
New York, New York 2
Male 2
Death:
30 Nov 1979 2
Nov 1979 1
Eisenhower Medical Center Palm Springs, California 2
Cause: lung cancer 2
Residence:
Last Residence: West Hollywood, CA 1
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Marriage:
Barbara Blakely 3
18 Sep 1959 3
Divorce Date: 1972 3
Marriage:
Marion Benda 3
12 Apr 1927 3
Divorce Date: 12 May 1954 3
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Occupation:
Comedian, Actor, Inventor, Theatrical Agent 2
Social Security:
Card Issued: California 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-5905 1

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Stories

Bio

The handsome straight man of the Marx Brothers, Zeppo was the last to join the group and left at the height of their fame in 1933. The baby of the family, Zeppo (born Herbert) took to the stage after brother Gummo left the act in 1919. He toured with his older brothers Chico, Harpo and Groucho in vaudeville in the early 1920s. The quartet first gained national attention in the zany revue "Ill Say She Is" (1923-1925). Their long-running hit "The Cocoanuts" (1925-1928), written by George S. Kaufman with an Irving Berlin score, assured their stardom. During the run of "The Cocoanuts", they made the independently-financed comedy "Humorisk", which was never released and has been lost.

On the strength of their next Broadway hit, "Animal Crackers" (1928-1929), the team was signed to a five-picture contract by Paramount. Although the limitations of early sound technology forced the Marxes to subdue their energetic comedy style and penchant for improvisation, the movie public flocked to "The Cocoanuts" (1929) and "Animal Crackers" (1930).

The final three Marx Brothers Paramount releases, "Monkey Business" (1931), "Horsefeathers" (1932) and "Duck Soup" (1933), did not perform well at the box office, although they are now regarded as the team's most inspired comedies. The Paramount vehicles de-emphasized typical Hollywood storylines and romantic subplots, simply providing screen space for the Marxes to perform their routines. The nearly plotless "Monkey Business" features them as shipboard stowaways who wreak havoc on a luxury liner, while "Horsefeathers" is a similar free-form romp through a college campus while "Duck Soup", usually considered the team's absurdist masterpiece, is a satire on the politics of war, as the brothers run the country of Freedonia into the ground.

By the time the brothers left Paramount for MGM in 1935, Zeppo had left the act and posterity has downplayed his impact on the group. "He was a lousy actor, and he got out as soon as he could," was Groucho's unfair assessment. Zeppo did tend to get lost in the chaos; the only normal-looking brother (he used no special make-up, wig or costume), he represented the voice of normality. Taking his brothers' antics perfectly seriously, Zeppo provided a bridge between the "real world" of the other characters and the Marxian world of his brothers. A handsome and affable actor, on his own Zeppo might have been as competent a juvenile lead as David Manners or Charles Starrett.

While Zeppo did not share the later radio and TV fame of his brothers, he also did not share the eventual downslide of the lesser films (Zeppo never made a bad movie, which is more than Groucho could say). After leaving the act, he became an airplane parts manufacturer and citrus grower. In 1937, he and Gummo opened a successful talent agency, Marx, Miller & Marx. Zeppo was the last of the brothers to die, in 1979.

 

Bio

Marx was born in New York City. His parents were Sam Marx (called "Frenchie" throughout his life), and his wife, Minnie Schoenberg Marx. Minnie's brother was Al Schoenberg, who changed his name to Al Shean when he went into show business. He was half of Gallagher and Shean, a noted vaudeville act of the early 20th century. Marx's family was Jewish. His mother was from Dornum in East Frisia; and his father was a native of Alsace, and worked as a tailor

There are different theories as to where Zeppo got his stage name: Groucho said in his Carnegie Hall concert in 1972[4] that the name was derived from the Zeppelin airship. Zeppo's ex-wife Barbara Sinatra repeats this in her 2011 book, Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank. His brother Harpo offers a different account in his 1961 autobiography, Harpo Speaks!, claiming (p. 130) that there was a popular trained chimpanzee named Mr. Zippo, and that "Herbie" was tagged with the name "Zippo" because he liked to do chinups and acrobatics, as the chimp did in its act. The youngest brother objected to this nickname, and it was altered to "Zeppo."

Marx appeared in the first five Marx Brothers movies, as a straight man and romantic lead, before leaving the team. According to a 1925 newspaper article, he also made a solo appearance in the Adolphe Menjou comedy A Kiss in the Dark, but no copy of the film is known to exist, and it is not clear if he actually appeared in the finished film.[5]

In Lady Blue Eyes, Barbara Sinatra claims that Marx was considered too young to perform with his brothers, and it wasn't until Gummo joined the Army that Marx was asked to join the act as a last-minute stand-in at a show in Texas. Marx was supposed to go out that night with a Jewish friend of his. They were supposed to take out two Irish girls, but Marx had to cancel to board the train to Texas. His friend went ahead and went on the date, and was shot a few hours later when he was attacked by an Irish gang that disapproved of a Jew dating an Irish girl.

As the youngest and having grown up watching his brothers, Zeppo could fill in for and imitate any of the others when illness kept them from performing.

The Marx Brothers (from top, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo Marx)

"He was so good as Captain Spaulding [in Animal Crackers] that I would have let him play the part indefinitely, if they had allowed me to smoke in the audience," Groucho recalled.[6] However, a comic persona of his own that could stand up against those of his brothers did not emerge. As critic Percy Hammond wrote, sympathetically, in 1928:

One of the handicaps to the thorough enjoyment of the Marx Brothers in their merry escapades is the plight of poor Zeppo Marx. While Groucho, Harpo and Chico are hogging the show, as the phrase has it, their brother hides in an insignificant role, peeping out now and then to listen to plaudits in which he has no share.[citation needed]

Though Marx continued to play straight in the Brothers' movies at Paramount, he did occasionally get to be part of classic comedy moments in them—in particular, his role taking dictation from Groucho in Animal Crackers (1930). He also played a pivotal role as the love interest of Ruth Hall in Monkey Business (1931).

The popular assumption that his character was superfluous was fueled in part by Groucho. According to Groucho's own story, when the group became the Three Marx Brothers, the studio wanted to trim their collective salary, and Groucho replied "We're twice as funny without Zeppo!"[7]

Offstage, Marx had great mechanical skills and was largely responsible for keeping the Marx family car running. Marx later owned a company which machined parts for the war effort during World War IIMarman Products Co. Inglewood, CA, later known as the Aeroquip Company. This company produced a motorcycle, called the Marman Twin[8] and the Marman clamps used to hold the "Fat Manatomic bomb inside the B-29 bomber,Bockscar.[9] He also founded a large theatrical agency with his brother Gummo, and invented a wristwatch that would monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients and give off an alarm if they went into cardiac arrest.[9]

During his time as a theatrical agent, he and Gummo, although primarily Gummo, represented their brothers, among many others.[10]

On April 12, 1927, Marx married Marion Benda. The couple adopted two children, Timothy and Thomas, in 1944 and 1945, and later divorced on May 12, 1954. On September 18, 1959, Marx married Barbara Blakeley, whose son, Bobby Oliver, he wanted to adopt and give his surname, but Bobby's father would not allow it. Bobby simply started using the last name "Marx".

Blakeley claims in her book, Lady Blue Eyes, that Marx never made her convert to Judaism. Blakeley was of Methodist faith and claims that Marx told her she became Jewish by "injection".

Blakeley also claims in her book that Marx wanted to keep her son out of the picture, adding a room for him onto his estate, which was more of a guest house as it was separated from the main residence. It was also decided that Blakeley's son would go to military school which, according to Blakeley, pleased Marx.

Marx owned a house on Halper Lake Drive in the Rancho Mirage, California, which was built off the fairway of the Tamarisk Country Club. The Tamarisk Club had been set up by the Jewish community, which rivaled the gentile club called "The Thunderbird". His neighbor happened to be Frank Sinatra. Marx would later attend the Hillcrest Country Club with friends like Sinatra, George BurnsJack BennyDanny Kaye, and Milton Berle.

Blakeley became involved with the Cedars-Sinai hospital, and had arranged to show Spartacus (featuring Kirk Douglas) for charity, selling tickets, and organizing a post-screening ball. At the last minute, Blakeley was told she could not have the film, so Marx went to the country club and spoke to Sinatra, who agreed to let him have an early release of a film he had just finished calledCome Blow Your Horn. Sinatra also flew everyone involved to Palm Springs for the event.[citation needed]

Marx was a very jealous husband, and hated for Blakeley to talk to another man. Blakeley claims that Marx grabbed Victor Rothschild by the throat at a country club because she was talking to him. Blakeley had caught Marx on many occasions with other women; the biggest incident was a party Marx had thrown on his yacht. After the incident, Marx took Blakeley to Europe, and accepted more invitations to parties when they arrived back in the States. Some of these parties were at Sinatra's compound; he often invited Blakeley and Marx to his house two or three times a week. Sinatra would also send champagne or wine to their home, as a nice gesture.

Blakeley and Sinatra started to see one another behind Marx's back. The press eventually caught up to Blakeley, snapping photos of her and Sinatra together, or asking Blakeley questions whenever they would spot her.

Marx and Blakeley divorced in 1973. Marx let Blakeley keep the 1969 Jaguar he had bought her, and agreed to pay her $1,500 a month for ten years. Sinatra upgraded Blakeley's Jaguar to the latest model. Sinatra also gave her a house to live in.[citation needed] The house belonged to Eden Hartford, Groucho Marx's third wife. Blakeley and Sinatra continued to date, and were constantly hounded by the press until the divorce between Marx and Blakeley became final. Blakeley and Sinatra would later marry.

 

Marx became sick with cancer in 1978. He sold his house, and moved to a house on the fairway off Frank Sinatra Drive. The doctors thought the cancer had gone into remission, but it came back. Marx called Blakeley, who took him to the doctor's office. Marx spent his last days with Blakeley's family.[citation needed]

The last surviving Marx Brother, Zeppo died of lung cancer at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage at the age of 78. His remains were cremated and scattered over the Pacific Ocean.[11]

 

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