Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 2015 - Biography & Autobiography - 162 pages
From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a trenchant examination of an iconic American figure that explores the cultural and psychological roots of his comic genius

Born Julius Marx in 1890, the brilliant comic actor who would later be known as Groucho was the most verbal of the famed comedy team, the Marx Brothers, his broad slapstick portrayals elevated by ingenious wordplay and double entendre. In his spirited biography of this beloved American iconoclast, Lee Siegel views the life of Groucho through the lens of his work on stage, screen, and television. The author uncovers the roots of the performer's outrageous intellectual acuity and hilarious insolence toward convention and authority in Groucho's early upbringing and Marx family dynamics.

The first critical biography of Groucho Marx to approach his work analytically, this fascinating study draws unique connections between Groucho's comedy and his life, concentrating primarily on the brothers' classic films as a means of understanding and appreciating Julius the man. Unlike previous uncritical and mostly reverential biographies, Siegel's "bio-commentary" makes a distinctive contribution to the field of Groucho studies by attempting to tell the story of his life in terms of his work, and vice versa.

About Jewish Lives:

Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.

In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award.

More praise for Jewish Lives:

"Excellent" -New York Times

"Exemplary" -Wall Street Journal

"Distinguished" -New Yorker

"Superb" -The Guardian
 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Welsh_eileen2 - LibraryThing

Although his films are rather outdated these days, Groucho Marx was genius when it came to writing comedy. This insightful biography tells of the life of a man who strove to be as good as he could in ... Read full review

Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

Born in October 1890, Julius Henry Marx was the third of five surviving sons, and he would grow up to become Groucho, the most famous of the Marx Brothers. Drawing heavily on previous biographies and ... Read full review

Contents

A Fateful Condition
1
Nothing Will Come of Nothing
15
Human All Too Human
32
Fathers and Sons
56
A Match Made in Heaven
72
Words
84
Beyond the Pleasure Principle
91
Groucho the Jewish Aristocrat
108
Groucho the Jewish OutsiderPhilosopher
121
Gone Today Here Tomorrow
138
A Note on Sources
145
Acknowledgments
153
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2015)

Lee Siegel, author of six books and the recipient of a National Magazine Award, has written about culture and politics for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

Bibliographic information