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Getting To Know Groucho—And His Brothers—book reviews

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin April 5, 2012 at 1:00AM

I avoided reading Steve Stoliar’s 'Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House' when it was first published in 1996 because I didn’t want to learn about an aging, diminished Groucho Marx, and I wasn’t interested in rehashing the exploits of Erin Fleming, the controversial woman who took control of the comedian’s life.

I’m sure some fans will feel the way I did back in 1996 and would rather remember Groucho Marx at the peak of his powers. All I can say is that I found this book surprisingly involving. Perhaps as I’ve grown older, and had somewhat similar experiences watching some of my heroes age, I have more empathy than I did sixteen years ago.

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The year 1996 also saw the publication of The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia by British comedy expert and scholar Glenn Mitchell. I was pleased to provide a foreword to this fine reference guide, and now I’m happy to report that Titan Books has released a revised and expanded edition. Here you will find entries on each of the Brothers’ vaudeville acts, Broadway shows, and famous films, most of their collaborators on and off-screen (from Margaret Dumont to Irving Thalberg), as well as entries on such varied subjects as wigs, continuity errors, working titles, deleted scenes, the harp, impersonators, and documentaries about the brothers. Extensively illustrated and featuring many rare photos and vintage advertisements, The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia is a handy fingertip guide for all things Marxian. The discovery of color footage shot on the set of Animal Crackers and snippets of long-missing scenes from A Night at the Opera are just a few of the newly-minted nuggets Mitchell has added to his original volume. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the Marxes, you’ll enjoy browsing through this thick paperback, as I did, dipping into various entries, and admiring the illustrations. Nice work!

This article is related to: Book Reviews, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, The Marx Brothers