Groucho Marx Archive of (200) Signed Letters, Postcards, a...
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DescriptionGroucho Marx Archive of (200) Signed Letters, Postcards, and Telegrams to his Daughter Miriam (1890-1977). Vintage original personal collection of 200 personal, handwritten and typed letters, postcards, greeting cards and telegrams from legendary comedian Groucho Marx to his beloved daughter Miriam, with many on his personal letterhead and signed alternately "Groucho," "Padre" and "Hackenbush" (his character from the classic film A Day at the Races). Most are written and dated during the 1940's and 1950's and include the original transmittal envelopes and corresponding clippings and articles. Typed letters are often annotated by Groucho's own hand. Miriam saved virtually every letter her father wrote her, and the letters amply display his famous wit and word play while providing a rare glimpse of the very human and complex man behind the mustache. Many of these letters were
published in Love, Groucho: Letters from Groucho Marx to His Daughter Miriam, but some have never been publicly viewed.
Here in letter form is an extraordinary father-daughter relationship that unfolds week by week, year by year, weathering the ups and downs of Groucho's film, radio and television careers, two divorces and two re-marriages and Miriam's often tumultuous young adulthood. Groucho shares a Hollywood insider's view referencing brothers Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, humorists George S. Kaufman and Robert Benchley, Dinah Shore, Tyrone Power, Frank Loesser, comic contemporaries Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle and George Burns, Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Olivia de Havilland, Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and many more.
From Miriam: "Groucho's letters to me are different from the others. Groucho tended to let his hair down quite a bit more in his letters to me. He told me things he would not tell even some of his best friends."
In his own inimitable fashion, Groucho advises his daughter about schoolwork, writing, career choices, girlfriends, boyfriends, marriage, growing up and growing old, family feuds and her problems with alcohol. He also discusses theater, film, books, politics, current events, baseball and taxes with surprising candor. The letters expose facets of a man many may know only through his film roles and as the quipping quizmaster of You Bet Your Life. The letters reveal a man deeply concerned with holding his family together and as a sometimes firm, always loving father who never hesitated to say exactly what he thought. As Groucho admits in one of his letters, "There is another side of this nauseating character...the father and stern parent, head of household, bulwark of the American home, ready at a moment's notice to fight for Old Glory and the land he loves."
Some excerpts from the letters:
Dear Mir – Just came back from a long walk, down the Boston Commons where the Minute Men were fired upon in 1776. The Minute Men are all dead, but most everything else is still the same...They finally gave Danny Kaye the air. While he was on, they were secretly negotiating with Cantor, America's leading double-crosser. Warwick and Legler engineered the whole thing. I question whether Cantor will do as well Friday night on a beer program as he did Wednesday with a physic [sic], although I must say there's not a great deal of difference between the two products... I am sorry I wrote you such an angry letter last week, but I have a lot of things to contend with. I won't enumerate them, I believe I did that in my previous letter. However when you are angry at Arthur, (Miriam's brother) for example, don't write me about it, write Arthur, this is what I mean, and what I wrote you... Kay (Groucho's 2nd wife) went and bought Melinda a Springer Spaniel for Christmas and a Parakeet. They are calling the dog, Groucho. I'm sure there's a resemblance. I have never seen this animal, but I do look like all dogs...Dear Mir and Gordon: These infrequent letters are going to be even more infrequent now that I have to write Mir and Gordon as compared to the good old days when I just had to write, Dear Mir. I'm not implying that I disapprove of the marriage but writing two names involves considerably more labor on my part, and I may have to ask for overtime, a guaranteed annual wage and fringe benefits... Finally got a brief letter from you written with a carbon so dim that I had to drink a whole bottle of cod liver oil Vitamin A before I could distinguish the letters. Are you now using the ribbon from your hair for the machine? Or have I finally gone blind...Just a line to enclose this fascinating photograph of your father and two girls. I really have a mustache. The smear on the upper lip by no means represents the actual foliage, but was placed there by a jealous scoundrel... I broke down yesterday and took a golf lesson...I played with Benny and George Burns. Burns' outfit consisted of a pair of kaki shorts and he looked like Mahatma Gandhi without his toupee. There we were – three comedians who get paid for amusing people, all moaning and cursing...it proves there's nothing comic about golf, or, perhaps, about us...As you know, I was embarrassed about doing a quiz show (You Bet Your Life), for it is considered the lowest form of radio life, but all of my friends, the ones who make big salaries and listen to Information Please and the other erudite programs, are nuts about this. I just don't understand it, but apparently the quality of ad libbing on the air is so low that if anyone comes along with even a moderately fresh note he's considered practically a genius. Don't be surprised, but I think your old man has finally arrived in radio. You could knock me over with a microphone...Dear Miriam, I don't know why I should write you again. This is the third letter and no mail from you since that bombshell of no car descended. Are you angry with me, disappointed or are you just too busy to pound out a few words? At any rate, I'm enclosing your check for April. For a few days, I desirously toyed with the idea of not sending you any money but the picture of you being arrested for vagrancy in the swamps of Vermont melted my stony heart; hence the check...[on Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas stationery, handwritten]...It's one of the newer gambling hells and it's beautifully done in modern motif...they all have four of five owners who prowl around tirelessly watching each other in addition to the customers. The players are a nondescript looking lot, ranging from well dressed to early Arkansas, and most of them sit expressionless as their chips gradually disappear... It's a fascination that fortunately I have never acquired...Gambling too is a sickness and people like Chico and Zeppo have to remain away from these places lest they be ruined – unfortunately as far as Chico is concerned, it's too late, the boat has gone, and all they could get from him would be his trousers - ... Dear Miriam,...I had a long letter from Dr. Fleming...If I didn't care about you, I would say the hell with the whole thing and let you shift for yourself, but plus my affection for you, I sincerely believe you are worth rehabilitating...To be specific, Dr. Fleming recommends that you remain in the hospital for five or six months, receiving during this time whatever analytical treatment is necessary...Saturday Night: Dear Mir,...Melinda, (Groucho's youngest daughter) as you know can walk now and has set a sort of cross walk between Karloff stiff legging his way through a graveyard and a sailor stewed with two days shore leave. She is mad about me/but then, who isn't?...Dear Pooch,...All in all, I had a very fine Xmas, I even got a frozen turkey from my sponsor, and what is more important seven weeks on the Dinah Shore show...I am a pretty lucky fellow, and I am very thankful for all I have. My marriage is turning out fine, my kids are too, I am working, I have my health, a house, a car, Capehart, and we are keeping Gerald K. Smith in check...Last night I went to the Gershwins to a Xmas Eve party, and had a long talk with Dotty Parker and she asked about you, and she was happy to hear you're becoming so hep politically...Dear Mir, Last night I saw the Gershwin picture and enjoyed it a lot...Jolson at the age of sixty-two still evidences what a great talent is his...I get the impression that Gershwin was an extremely ego-centric character and that his brother is a nice fellow. Levant was a little tough for me to take for I don't care fort the gent in any form. You can have his comedy too as far as I'm concerned. He has a brittle hardness and rudeness that just irritates me; however, the seats were comfortable, I had chewing gum and two cigars and the music was beautiful. If you expect to see a great story, duck it. If you are interested in two hours of Gershwin music, don't miss it...
Miriam, an alcoholic, had her last drink in 1977, the year her father died at 86 said, "I just felt I wanted to keep every part of him I could, and he wrote me so many letters, which was great. I held onto them even when I was drunk. I carried them around in a laundry bag."
She kept Groucho letters "because I loved him so much." Miriam passed away in 2017 at age 90. Accompanying the archive is a vintage 8" x 10" personal photo taken of Groucho with Miriam. From the personal collection of Groucho Marx's daughter, Miriam. COA from Heritage Auctions.
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