It was on this day, October 11, 1961, Leonard “Chico” Marx, the oldest of the Marx brothers died. His persona in the act was that of a dim-witted albeit crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes, and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat.
Chico adopted the Italian dialect routines no doubt from the many Italian immigrants he grew up with in his New York City neighborhood. An avid gambler and womanizer (chasing “chicks” some say is how he got his nickname), he was an accomplished pianist with his own unique finger pecking style.
Chico was the brother who guided the Marxes to stardom. Taking over the act’s management (amicably) from their mother, Minnie, and through audacity and charm, Chico secured the Brothers their first international (London) booking, their first Broadway show and their MGM contract with Irving Thalberg, among other successes.
Chico Marx died of arteriosclerosis on October 11, 1961 at his Hollywood home: he was the eldest brother and the first to pass away. During his lifetime, his year of birth had commonly been given as 1891 instead of the true year of 1887; as a result, obituaries reported his age at the time of his passing as 70 rather than 74.
Marx is entombed in a crypt in the Freedom Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Chico’s younger brother Gummo is in a crypt across the hall from him
1918 – Jerome Robbins (Rabinowitz) (Academy Award-winning director: West Side Story ; Tony Award-winning choreographer: Fiddler on the Roof , West Side Story , High Button Shoes ; Tony Award-winning director: Fiddler on the Roof , Jerome Robbins’ Broadway ; died July 29, 1998)
1921 – Linda Stirling (Louise Schultz) (actress: Jesse James Rides Again, Rio Grande Raiders, Zorro’s Black Whip, Cyclotrode “X”; died July 20, 1997)
1953 – David Morse (actor: St. Elsewhere, Stephen King’s The Langoliers, The Getaway, The Brotherhood of the Rose)
1962 – Joan Cusack (actress: Saturday Night Live, Addams Family Values, Broadcast News, Married to the Mob, My Bodyguard, Sixteen Candles, Working Girl, Toys)
1965 – Luke Perry (actor: Beverly Hills 90210, Terminal Bliss, 8 Seconds, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sweet Trash)