After a journey interrupted by a bomb scare on the Jubilee Line, our May guest speaker, Nick R Thomas, made his way to Burnham on Crouch to talk about The One and Only Groucho Marx.
The Marx family were European Jewish immigrants who settled in New York where they raised their five sons, Julius, Adolph, Leonard, Herbert and Milton – later to be known by stage names: Groucho, Harpo, Chicco, Zeppo and Gummo.
Nick talked about the early years with their Father, an unsuccessful tailor. and their Mother Minnie who was to be their agent up until her death in 1929. She was determined her sons were going to succeed, and indeed they honed their craft working on the vaudeville circuit, their humour becoming increasingly zany and unpredictable. Groucho was to try different personas before settling on his trademark bushy moustache, glasses, big cigar and distinctive walk. He was the crazy scheming fixer, king of the smart remark and witty aside.
In the 20s the Marx brothers’ careers took off, earning them large sums of money from Broadway successes and a series of popular comedy films. Groucho lost a fortune during the Wall Street Crash, and Chicco was a compulsive gambler, but the films brought them wealth and fame and they remain amongst America’s most popular entertainers of all time.
Nick pointed out that Groucho had to combat antisemitism, and one of his most famous cracks “I refuse to join any Club that would have me as a member” was made in a letter resigning from a Club where he had experienced prejudice.
Groucho’s death in 1977 went practically unreported, overshadowed, by the death at the same time, of Elvis Presley.
Our June guest speaker will present “An Audience with King Henry Vlll (alias Actor Tony Harris ) a costumed account of this famous monarch!