On this Day in Movie History, August 19, 1977: Groucho Marx Dies

On June 22, 1977, Groucho Marx was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for pneumonia. He would stay there for the next few weeks as he struggled to recover, but on August 19, 1977, he died at the age of 86. His death marked the end of a 72-year career in show business.

Known as a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era, his rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers and imitators.

Although he dreamed of becoming a doctor as a child, Groucho was roped in by his mother to form a performing trio with his younger brother and sister. While the trio fared poorly with audiences, the group took off in 1910 when Groucho’s older brothers Chico and Harpo joined the troupe. From then on, there was no stopping him or them.

The brothers cut their teeth performing vaudeville all over the country, and then eventually made their way to Broadway with the help of playwright George S. Kaufman. In the thirties, Hollywood brought them out to make talkies, and for a more than a decade they were among the funniest things on film (including Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera and The Big Store) He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers.

The Marx Brothers (as a film ensemble) ended their career in the mid-40s. Groucho also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life.

He was cremated and the ashes were interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Groucho had the longest lifespan of all the Marx Brothers and was survived only by younger brother Zeppo, who outlived him by two years. Sadly, Groucho’s death was somewhat overshadowed by the death of Elvis Presley, which occurred three days earlier.

In an interview, he jokingly suggested his epitaph read: “Excuse me, I can’t stand up.” His mausoleum marker bears only his stage name, a Star of David, and the years of his birth and death.

Contrary to what some insist, the Marx brothers were not related to Karl Marx.

1903 – Claude (Legrand) Dauphin (Franc-Nohain) (actor: Les Miserables, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Is Paris Burning, April in Paris; died Nov 16, 1978)

1906 – June Collyer (Dorothea Heermance) (actress: A Face in the Fog, The Ghost Walks, Drums of Jeopardy; died Mar 16, 1968)

1915 – Ring Lardner Jr. (Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, Jr.) (Academy Award-winning screenwriter: Woman of the Year [1942], MASH [1970]; A Star Is Born [1937], Brotherhood of Man, The Cincinnati Kid, Semi-Tough; died Oct 31, 2000)

1916 – Marie (Katherine Elizabeth) Wilson (actress: My Friend Irma, Babes in Toyland [1934], Rookies on Parade, Shine On, Harvest Moon, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation; died Nov 23, 1972)

1921 – Gene (Eugene Wesley) Roddenberry (creator, producer: Star Trek; writer: Have Gun Will Travel; died Oct 24, 1991)

1933 – Debra Paget (Griffin) (actress: Tales of Terror, The Ten Commandments, Omar Khayyam, Love Me Tender, Prince Valiant)

1938 – Diana Muldaur (actress: A Year in the Life, The Tony Randall Show, The Survivors, Star Trek: The Next Generation, McCloud, L.A. Law, Born Free)

1940 – Jill St. John (Oppenheim) (actress: Diamonds are Forever, Come Blow Your Horn, The Oscar, Burke’s Law)

1947 – Gerald McRaney (actor: Simon & Simon, Major Dad, Murder by Moonlight, Blind Vengeance, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story)

1952 – Jonathan Frakes (actor: Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?; director: Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Klingon, Star Trek: Insurrection, Total Recall 2)

1955 – Peter Gallagher (actor: Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Man Who Knew Too Little, American Beauty)

1956 – Adam Arkin (actor: The Doctor, Heat Wave, Necessary Parties, Fourth Wise Man, Chicago Hope, Northern Exposure, A Year in the Life, Teachers Only, Busting Loose, Big Wave Dave’s)

1963 – John Stamos (Stamotopoulos) (actor: General Hospital, Full House, You Again?, Born to Ride, The Disappearance of Christina, Never Too Young to Die)

1965 – Kevin Dillon (actor: Platoon, No Escape, A Midnight Clear, The Blob, Remote Control; actor Matt Dillon’s brother)

1965 – Kyra Sedgwick (actress: Phenomenon, Something to Talk About, Murder in the First, Family Pictures, Born on the Fourth of July, Kansas, Tai-pan, War & Love)

1969 – Matthew Perry (actor: Friends, Fools Rush In, The Whole Nine Yards, Servicing Sara)


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