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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Monkey Business

Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers by Simon Louvish

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (September 25, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0312283822

Amazon: From Publishers Weekly
Told with tremendous style and sparkle, Louvish's composite portrait of the Marx Brothers offers an indispensable overview of the actors' saga. Decked out with photographs and sprinkled with excerpts from reviews, interviews, memoirs, film dialogue and hitherto unpublished skits and scripts, this biography captures the sheer exuberance of the foursome as they conquered vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood. Louvish gives equal billing to all the brothersAJulius (Groucho), Leonard (Chico), Arthur (Harpo), Herbert (Zeppo), plus Milton (Gummo), who left the act to become a Hollywood agentAand vibrantly re-creates a supporting cast of characters that includes George Kaufman, Irving Berlin, Irving Thalberg, S.J. Perelman and Margaret Dumont. Yet the biographer of W.C. Fields (The Man on the Flying Trapeze) maintains critical detachment in assessing the brothers' onstage/onscreen antics and their often messy private lives. Groucho, for one, comes off as a lot more likable than in Stefan Kanfer's Groucho (Forecasts, Mar. 20). While Louvish fully acknowledges the abusive behavior that drove Groucho's first wife to alcoholism, Julius Marx seems more forgivably human here, and Louvish depicts Groucho's relationship with daughter Miriam as loving and solicitous. His fresh research clears up all manner of myths, embellishments and omissions in previous biographies and in the brothers' autobiographies. In this invigorating reappraisal, the Marx Brothers, more than "Minnie and Sam's boys who never grew up," are timeless satirists of pretension, folly, privilege and snobbery, in the tradition of Cervantes, Rabelais and Mark Twain. The "Four Horsemen of theApoplexy," they embody an authentic acceptance of life's absurdity as well as a desperate need to leave one's mark.

I recently read another book by this author and liked it so much I wondered if it was really as good as I thought, and so I thought I'd try a second book by Simon Louvish.

The first book was "Stan and Ollie". I knew I enjoyed Laurel and Hardy when young, but I also know I seem to be hit and miss on Biographies and Autobiographies. Most of the time I just get a book on a celebrity that I absolutely love, but Laurel and Hardy were just a fun memory. ... I loved the book!

This one, Monkey Business, is about The Marx Brothers. One of the things I think I like about both books is that they are about more than one person, and so the author not only talks about the people involved but what it was like in the past in the vaudeville and movie industry and even a bit of "name dropping" mentioning other stars that, if you are into old movies, you recognize.

Although these books are by no means cliff hangers, I have found them very interesting indeed.

But let me have the book do a little speaking for itself... here are some quotes right out of the book...

Quote 1: The three movies the Brothers made at Paramount- Monkey Business 1931, Horse Feathers 1932, and Duck Soup 1933- are, to many, the acme of their cinematic are, though their first two MGM movies, A Night at the Opera 1935 and A Day at the Races 1936, jostle for a place on the podium. Here are the Marx Brothers unbound, freed from the limitations and necessities of the stage and unleashed upon an unsuspecting mankind.

Quote 2: Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel abounded with lines and bits of business taken from earlier Marx scripts, like the entire musicians' dialogue from Animal Crackers in episode 1:

"What do you get and hour?"

"Well for playing I get ten dollars an hour"

"What do you get for not playing?"

"Twelve dollars and hour... Now for rehearsing I make a special rate, fifteen dollars and hour"

"What do you get for not rehearsing?"

"Oh, you can't afford it"

Quote 3: ....The funny man with the fake moustache was in turmoil over the fate of his country, and no doubt the grisly state of the country his grandparents had emigrated from, the Germany his mother had always considered her Fatherland. War in Europe deepened Julius Marxs's (Groucho) concerns with American democracy, leading him to suggest to Sheekman that he might vote for the Repubican candidate Wendell Wilkie in 1940, as a protest against any President, even Roosevelt, holding power for a third term in office. "I think the only reason Roosevelt wants to run again," Groucho wrote his friend, "is th at it prevents Mrs Roosevelt from getting him alone. He can always say, "Eleanor, you know I'm crazy about your body, but I have to meet the Spanish ambassador tonight and discuss the Czechoslovakia situation."

I found both Simon Louvish books very well written, informative and enjoyable. Though if I had to choose one over the other I think I enjoyed Stan and Ollie just a little more than Money Business. Maybe because I liked Laurel and Hardy more than the Marx Brothers... maybe. I do know that this author knows how to keep things moving and keep them interesting.

I know most who read my blog are not big into old movies or movie stars, but if you do have an interest you should give a try to any of Simon Louvish's books.

Here's a little Marx Brother's moment for you to enjoy.


Blogger Nicola said...

Hey DesLily, Just wanted you to know I'm a regular reader of your blog and I LOVE your old movie/actor posts. I grew up watching all the classic b/w movies on TV with my Dad and even though it's not my generation I miss the time when movie stars had class!

I've added many of the bios you've read onto my tbr list as I love old-time celebrity biographies.

I'd sure miss these posts if you stopped doing them!

9:17 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Nicola: well I don't plan on much lol .. Now and then I read a biography, but as you can tell mostly I read Fantasy Fiction. I do, on ocassion enjoy mentioning an old movie I've seen or book I've read.. they will always be tossed in the mix I'm sure! Thanks for commenting here!

10:04 AM  
Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It's funny about The Marx Bros. I liked them, but I cannot say I was a huge fanatical fan the way so very many people were and still are. I always loved Harpo the most....! I'm sure I'm not alone in that....There was a sweetness about him.
In the small world department: Gregg Marx is a good friend. His mother was married to Bob Marx...Gummo's son, and when I met her back in 1961, she was married to a wonderfully talented painter named Irving Block, who was Gregg's step-Dad, and to whom she remained married until his death in the late Eighties...Gregg was just a kid back in 1961...6 or 7 years old..He became a lovely actor and mostly now does Voice Overs---a very lucrative kind of "acting" work, as you know....AND, he is a WONDERFUL WONDERFUL Singer, too. The Marx talent continues.....!

3:53 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Hi Naomi: wow, how interesting! I love to hear when the kids of creative people wind up being creative also, even if not exactly the same.
Harpo was my favorite too lol. But I wasn't crazy over the Marx brothers.. I enjoyed them but thought others were funnier, like Laurel and Hardy, and I thought Buster Keaton was hysterical.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Cath said...

We watched heaps of old films on the TV when I was a kid but the one thing my mum really wouldn't watch was... The Marx Brothers. And I have to admit, when I finally got to see them I wasn't all that struck either... not keen on the chaos I think. My favourite silent star back then was Buster Keaton.

6:15 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Cath: I liked them but they weren't my "all time favs" either.. but this Simon Louvish really writes well and keeps the book interesting. Like I said in the post I liked Laurel and Hardy better and that book was really better too.. everyone seemed to have missed the post on that book... lol

6:20 PM  
Blogger Carl V. said...

Great post! Lots of wonderful entertainers here. I am a HUGE fan of the Thin Man series. I've watched these films many a time. My wife got me the boxed set a few years ago and it was so great to have them all in DVD quality to watch. Really nice extras on each disc as well.

I am also a big fan of the Andy Hardy movies. I have a couple on DVD and hope at some point that they do a big set of these as well. They are so much fun.

12:17 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Carl: I envy your dvd collection! I recently found out the Charlie Chan series is on dvd..but a bit out of my price range in order to get them... so I can hope they turn up on TCM sometime.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Carl V. said...

I just realized I scrolled on down reading and missed the fact that these are actually 2 separate posts! Oh well!

12:37 PM  

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