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The Marx Brothers: A Resource Guide

Created by Mark F. Hall, Digital Reference Specialist

Poster for The Marx Brothers in Duck SoupThe 4 Marx Brothers in Duck Soup
Color lithograph poster, 1933
Prints & Photographs Division
Copyright deposit, 1933 (154.11a)

The Marx Brothers were one of the most successful performing acts of the twentieth century. The brothers--Leonard (Chico), Adolph/Arthur (Harpo), Julius (Groucho), Milton (Gummo), and Herbert (Zeppo)--were primarily comedians, but had musical and literary talents and successes, as well. From their beginnings in vaudeville, they went on to success on Broadway and briefly worked with silent pictures before achieving worldwide fame in talking motion pictures. Their performing reach, collectively and individually, carried over to radio, and even into the early years of television. The Library of Congress is home to a variety of invaluable resources for the study of the Marx Brothers’ lives and work.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

American Memory Historical Collections

American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

The Marx Brothers career began in vaudeville. While the American Variety Stage collection does not contain any of the Marxes' own work, it does contain samples of material by vaudvillians closely connected to the Marx Brothers:

Gallagher & Shean - Edward Gallagher and Al Shean, were among the giants of vaudeville. Shean was the Marx Brothers' uncle (the sister of their mother, Minnie Marx), and he helped guide the brothers into show business. The collection contains two of Shean's scripts Kidding the Captain and Quo Vadis Upside Down.

Ned Wayburn - Wayburn ran a vaudeville training school, attended by Groucho and Gummo in 1907. An early incarnation of the Marx family performing group was billed as Ned Wayburn’s Nightingales, later the Nightingales, Four Nightingales, Six Nightingales, and ultimately the Four Marx Brothers and the Marx Brothers. The American Variety Stage collection contains Wayburn's A musical comedy in one act and three scenes entitled Melodyland.

Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920

Sheet music to "Sailin’ Away on the Henry Clay" from the Marx Brothers' 1917 production of Home Again. Features an early picture of the Marx Brothers on the cover page.

Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

This collection contains a recording of the Gallagher & Shean trademark song "Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean" performed by Edward Meeker and Steve Porter. "A comedy patter song, introduced by the vaudeville team of Gallagher and Shean in the musical Ziegfeld Follies of 1922.

Digital Collections & Services

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view selected historical American newspaper pages. They contain a variety of references to the Marx Brothers, such as, a newspaper account of the Marx Brothers’ first (now lost) foray into filmmaking, from the New-York Tribune (New York [N.Y.]), April 10, 1921, page 6: “The four Marx Brothers, of vaudeville fame, have made their cinema debut.  Julius, Arthur, Leonard, and Herbert are the Marx Brothers' Christian names, and they are being featured in a series called 'Comedies sans Custard.'  The first comedy is called Humor Risk.”

Also, The Tacoma Times (Tacoma, Wash.), September 20, 1913, page 3, includes an early picture of the Marx Brothers who "Have Big Act."

For more results, primarily performance listings and reviews, from the Search Newspaper Pages, select "All Newspapers," use "Enter Search" with "...as a phrase" using the term Marx Brothers.

 

Exhibitions

American Treasures of the Library of Congress - Top Treasures

A digital presentation of some of the Library's most noted treasures. Sections featuring the Marx Brothers include:

Groucho Marx donated his papers to the Library and among those materials are a rich trove of letters to and from the comic, literary, and political luminaries of his day. Included in the collection is a series of letters between poet, playwright, and critic T.S. Eliot and Marx.

In 1933 Paramount Pictures released the rollicking Marx Brothers' comedy Duck Soup. It was the fifth and last film to feature the four brothers--Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. (Gummo had dropped out of the act during the vaudeville days, his place taken by Zeppo). Their eight remaining films starred only Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

Bob Hope and American Variety

Contains an image of the Marx Brothers in the section on comedy teams from Hope's vaudeville days. In the section on Bits & Sketches, there's a sample page from the 1932-33 NBC radio show Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel that starred Groucho and Chico. Unrecorded and long thought lost, the scripts were discovered in the Copyright Office in the 1980s.

Journeys & Crossings

Marvin Kranz on Manuscript Division holdings

Former Manuscript Division Historical Specialist Marvin Kranz shows and discusses [also, a transcript] some of the treasures in the Manuscript Division, including the famed correspondence between Groucho Marx and the Warner Brothers legal department regarding the rights to the terms “Casablanca” and “Brothers.”

Prints & Photographs Division

Search the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC). Search using the term "Marx Brothers" or individual names, e.g. "Marx, Groucho." Some images will display only as small, thumbnail (.gif) images when searching outside the Library of Congress; larger .jpeg and .tiff images of such images will display when searching inside the Library of Congress and can be downloaded at public reading room workstations or when using the Library's wireless network. Some groups of images are not available in digital form and must be viewed onsite by coming to the Prints & Photographs Reading Room and submitting a call slip.

Manuscript Division

Groucho Marx Papers

Groucho Marx, at the Library's request, donated his papers to the Manuscript Division. A finding aid to these papers is available online.

Motion Picture, Broadcast, and Recorded Sound Division

The National Museum of American History Collection of Groucho Marx materials

This collection is mainly made up of The Best of Groucho syndicated version of the television series, You Bet Your Life. Also includes miscellaneous films, including trailers for Marx Brothers films. A detailed catalog record for this collection is available online. The collection was transferred to the Library from the National Museum of American History in February 1988.

Webcasts

The Marx Brothers As Social Critics

Author Martin A. Gardner discussed his work The Marx Brothers As Social Critics: Satire and Comic Nihilism in Their Films (McFarland & Co., 2009), on Thursday, July 15, 2010.

Wise Guide

June 2010

A digital magazine designed to introduce users to the many fascinating, educational, and useful resources available on the Library's Web site. The June 2010 Wise Guide includes an article on Carl Reiner which mentions the Groucho Marx Papers, and features an image of the Marx Brothers.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Harpo's Place: The Official Arthur Harpo Marx Family Online Collection.

Site maintained by Harpo Marx's son, Bill Marx. Contains text, old photos, as well as newer photos and footage of props and other ephemera related to Harpo's career.

The Internet Movie Database

Contains biographies and filmographies for each of the brothers, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo.

The Marx Brothers: Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, Zeppo

A virtual encylopedia to Marx Brothers-related topics, including their films, plays, and other productions. Also, now the host site for the similarly encyclopedic Mikael Uhlin's Marxology and Frank Bland's Why A Duck? sites.

Utah State History

In 1935, the Marx Brothers returned to the stage, touring and testing material for their upcoming film A Night at the Opera. Information about the tour's stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, including photos, news clippings, and recollections can be found on this site from the Utah Department of Community and Culture.

Walking Off the Big Apple

Contains a number of walking guides to areas of New York City related to the Marx Brothers, including the East 90s, where they grew up; the theaters they played on their rise to the top; and the locations where their earliest films were made.

 

Selected Bibliography

Primary Sources Listed in the Library of Congress Catalog

Barson, Michael, ed. Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers’ Lost Radio Show. New York: Pantheon, c1988.
LC call number: PN1991.77 .F59 1988 [Catalog Record]

Johnstone, Tom. I'll Say She Is: A Musical Review . [n.p.] [c1924].
LC call number: ML50.J692 I5 1924 [Catalog Record]

Kaufmann, George S. Animal Crackers, [A Musical Comedy in Two Acts]. [n.p., n.d.].
LC call number: ML50.K292 A5 1929 [Catalog Record]

Books by the Marx Brothers and Other Marx Family Members

Marx, Arthur. Life with Groucho. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 M3 [Catalog Record]

-----. My Life With Groucho: A Son’s Eye View
. New York: Parkwest, 1991.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 M32 1991 [Catalog Record]

-----. Son of Groucho
. New York: D. McKay Co., [1972].
LC call number: PN2287.M525 A3 [Catalog Record]

Marx, Bill. Son of Harpo Speaks. Albany, GA: BearManor Media, c2007.
LC call number:PN2287.M54 M37 2007 [Catalog Record]

Marx, Groucho. Beds. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. [c1930].
LC call number: PN6161 .M385 [Catalog Record]

-----. Groucho and Me. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989, c1959.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 A3 1989b [Catalog Record]

-----. The Groucho Letters. London: Joseph, 1967.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 A4 1967b [Catalog Record]

-----. Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales. Edited by Robert S. Bader. Boston: Faber and Faber, c1993.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 A25 1993 [Catalog Record]

-----. The Groucho Phile: An Illustrated Life. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, c1976.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 A34 [Catalog Record]

-----. Love, Groucho: Letters from Groucho Marx to His Daughter Miriam. Edited by Miriam Marx Allen. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1992.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 A4 1992 [Catalog Record]

-----. Many Happy Returns: An Unofficial Guide to Your Income-Tax Problems. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942.
LC call number: PN6161 .M387 [Catalog Record]

-----. Memoirs of a Mangy Lover. New York: B. Geis Associates; distributed by Random House [1963].
LC call number: PN6162 .M27 [Catalog Record]

-----, with Richard J. Anobile. The Marx Brothers Scrapbook. London; New York: W. H. Allen, 1974.
LC call number: PN2297.M3 M3 1974 [Catalog Record]

-----, with Hector Arce. The Secret Word is Groucho. New York: Putnam, c1976.
LC call number: PN1992.77.Y63 M3 1976 [Catalog Record]

Marx, Harpo, with Rowland Baxter. Harpo Speaks! New York: Limelight Editions, 1985, c1961.
LC call number: PN2287.M54 A3 1985 [Catalog Record]

Marx, Maxine. Growing Up with Chico. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, c1980.
LC call number: PN2287.M526 M37 1980 [Catalog Record]

Books about the Marx Brothers

Adamson, Joe. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo: A History of the Marx Brothers and A Satire on the Rest of the World. New York: Simon and Schuster, [1973].
LC call number: PN2297.M3 A4 [Catalog Record]

Chandler, Charlotte. Hello, I Must Be Going: Groucho and His Friends. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978.
LC call number: PN2287.M53 C5 [Catalog Record]

Eyles, Allen. The Marx Brothers, Their World of Comedy. New York: A. S. Barnes, [1969].
LC call number: PN2297.M3 E9 1969 [Catalog Record]

Gardner, Martin. The Marx Brothers As Social Critics: Satire and Comic Nihilism in Their Films. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2009.
LC call number: PN2297.M3 G37 2009 [Catalog Record]

Louvish, Simon. Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, with Added Gummo. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000, c1999.
LC call number: PN2297.M3 L68 2000 [Catalog Record]

Motion Pictures

Humor Risk (1921)

The Cocoanuts
(1929) [Catalog Record]

Animal Crackers (1930) [Catalog Record]

Monkey Business (1931)

Horse Feathers (1932) sheet music only: [Catalog Record]

Duck Soup (1933) [Catalog Record]

A Night at the Opera (1935) [Catalog Record]

A Day at the Races (1937) [Catalog Record]

Room Service (1938) [Catalog Record]

At the Circus (1939)

Go West (1940)

The Big Store (1941)

A Night in Casablanca (1946)

Love Happy (1950) [Catalog Record]

You Bet Your Life (television program) - A radio and television game show hosted by Groucho Marx, with 130 episodes listed in catalog under title "Best of Groucho."

Sound Recordings

Christmas Greetings - "Presents a humorous Christmas greetings from self-proclaimed "Santa Claus Woollcott" [i.e. Alexander Woollcott] in which he announces a rendition of Nevin’s The rosary, sung by Reinald Werrenrath, accompanied on the harp by Harpo Marx." [Catalog Record]

An Evening With Groucho. - Songs and monologues by Groucho Marx ; Marvin Hamlisch, piano; introduction by Dick Cavett. Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York; C. Y. Stephens Auditorium, Iowa State University; and Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco. [Catalog Record]

Harp by Harpo. Harpo Marx, harp; with Raymond Sinatra’s Orchestra. [Catalog Record]

War Bond Show, March 22, 1945, featuring Chico Marx on piano. [Catalog Record]

Additional catalog listings for recordings may be found by searching the name "Marx Brothers" and their individual names in the Sound Online Inventory & Catalog (SONIC).

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  May 13, 2014
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