Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers have conquered all media, from the vaudeville scene to the big screen. Today we take our hats off (and draw our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, on the 50th anniversary of Groucho’s death.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STOB TO COMEDY.

Julius, Milton and Arthur Marx originally aspired to become professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “Les Trois Rossignols”. Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble has performed covers of popular songs in theaters across the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling without an unruly equine. During a 1907 concert at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule is coward!” Immediately, the crowd rushed to watch the newly released animal. Back inside, Julius was seething. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience on their return. “The moron is the most beautiful flower in Tex-ass!” He cried, among many other improvised blows. Rather than boo, the customers burst out laughing. Word of his mind quickly spread and the demand for these Marx brothers increased.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic book character known as “Sherlocko the Monk”, he decided that the boys could use new nicknames. Leonard was obvious. Given his crazy girlish and “chick-hunting” lifestyle, Fisher nicknamed her “Chicko” (later this was abbreviated as “Chico”). Arthur liked to play the harp and thus became “Harpo”. An affinity for soft rubber shoes has earned Milton the nickname “Gummo”. Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen carrying a “grumpy bag” – in which he kept small items like marbles and candy – around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, no one knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo”.

3. GROUCHO WEARED HIS MUSTACHE TO GREASE PAINT BECAUSE HE HATES MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives / Hulton Archives / Getty Images

Sticky fake facial hair can be painful to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a mustache and exaggerated eyebrows on his face. However, the mustache he rocked later as the host of his famous quiz You bet your life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO was a self-taught harpist.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), Marx’s second older brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” wrote his son, Bill Marx. “Maybe the first multitasking ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS FILM WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Funded by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was shot in 1921. Accounts differ, but most researchers agree that the silent film, which would have served as the family’s first film, was never completed. Despite this, a first screening of the work in progress would have taken place in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production stopped. By Marx Brothers standards, this would have been an unusual movie, with Harpo playing a heroic sleuth facing an evil Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO HAVE BECOME AGENTS OF TALENT.

World War I forced Gummo to leave the scene. After returning home, the veteran decided the show was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo – the youngest brother – then took on Gummo’s role as the outspoken foil of the troupe. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually parted ways to found the arts agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which became Hollywood’s third largest, depicting superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball and, of course, the three other Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was tasked with handling the needs of Groucho, Harpo and Chico.

7. CHICO HAS ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between the films of the Marx brothers to make the dream of a lifetime come true. A few months before The big shop Released in cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a jazz swing group that lasted until July 1943. Short-lived, however, the group managed to recruit incredible talents, including singer / songwriter Mel Tormé. , who will participate in the writing of “The Christmas song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED NEW MATERIALS FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being written, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in places like Seattle, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the laughter that followed, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on the film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A night at the operaproduction period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] climbed onto the set and let the cameras roll.

9. GROUCHO HOSTED TEMPORARILY THE EVENING SHOW.

Jack Paar said his farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star left, NBC offered Paar Tonight show sits in Groucho, who had established himself as a keen and appreciated guest during You bet your life‘s 14 year race. Although Marx turned down the network, he was then a guest host for two weeks as Johnny Carson prepared to take over. When Carson finally made his Tonight show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who presented it.

ten. TO SPY THE MAGAZINE USED A FILM BY MARX BROTHERS TO COMPLAIN WITH US AT CONVENTION.

Duck soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country chaired by eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho). In 1993, 60 years after the film’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staff To spy got in touch with about 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking them for some variations of the question “Do you approve of what we are doing to stop the ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers have taken the bait. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Florida) said she approved of the US presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of these situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to help people. Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) agreed. “Yes,” he said, “it’s a different situation than in the Middle East.”