Groucho Himself -- from the fleeting appearances he makes in Marx literature such as Steve Stoliar's excellent Raised Eyebrows, Hector Arce's trailblazing Groucho, and Charlotte Chandler's rambling Hello, I Must Be Going. Andy Marx (son of Arthur) was a regular presence in Groucho's home during the "living legend" period, and we love him for two principal reasons. First, he did a great deal to ease the tensions of Groucho's final years, acting as an emollient on the abrasion between Arthur Marx and Erin Fleming (Groucho's volatile, mercurial "companion" from 1970 until his death in 1977). Secondly, and more happily, Andy was Groucho's frequent piano player, accompanying his grandfather through countless renditions of "Hello, I Must Be Going," "Show Me a Rose," "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," and others.
Here, courtesy of the indispensable Mr. Marx Brothers' YouTube Channel, is a lovely recent video of Andy Marx (and his daughter Gracie) introducing a screening of A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.
While we're on the subject, here's a recent video from the American Film Institute in which the great Mel Brooks discusses A Night at the Opera. Brooks is surely one of the Brothers' spiritual descendants; he once described them as "the healthiest of all the comics," and his films contain frequent tributes (such as his character's middle name being Harpo in High Anxiety). But his comments about A Night at the Opera somewhat miss the mark. They give the impression that Brooks is conveying common wisdom -- that the Thalberg/MGM films are the Brothers' best because Thalberg gave them a conventional storyline and so forth -- without having recently revisited the plainly superior Paramount films which preceded them. Still, Brooks' heart is in the right place, and it's nice to hear him acknowledge the Marxes.
Here's another AFI video in which Billy Crystal pays tribute to the Brothers. Like Brooks, Crystal probably hasn't seen the Paramount films in a while, and he follows tradition by overpraising A Night at the Opera. But he does tell some stories with which all Marxists can identify -- such as a teenage memory of emulating Groucho, saying to his "dowdy" high school principal, "Ah, Mrs. Rittenhouse, won't you lie down?" Crystal also reveals that while shooting the awkwardly silent eating scene in When Harry Met Sally ("Two mixed green salads...") he was thinking of Harpo's tour de force of mastication in Room Service.
Both Brooks and Crystal make the common mistake of pronouncing Chico's name Cheeko (the correct pronunciation is Chicko). For more on that, and many other Marxian subjects, I refer you to another wonderful series of videos posted by Mr. Marx Brothers, in which Bill Marx (son of Harpo) and Dick Cavett conduct a Q&A session after a screening of Animal Crackers. You can find that here.
And finally -- if you'll forgive the plug: A reminder that on January 29, 2011, you can see me as Groucho in the first performance of a new show called Groucho on the Air. It's sure to be the funniest evening of the new year, and if you're going to be anywhere near New York City on January 29, then hello, you must be going. At the show's official website, you can get information, buy tickets, watch video, and learn the fascinating inside story of ZVBXRPL Radio. (Which is, as you know, a reference to the Tootsie-Fruitsie scene in A Day at the Races -- and that brings us full circle.) Plug concluded!
Happy New Year, folks.