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Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo: A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World (A Touchstone book) Paperback – April, 1983


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Product Details

  • Series: A Touchstone book
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Paper) (April 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671470728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671470722
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,847,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By W. Gary Wetstein on November 18, 1997
Format: Hardcover
It's rare for a book on a specific subject to be so extremely well-written that it's worth recommending to people on that basis alone. This is a book which would be entertaining and even hilarious to people who aren't Marx Brothers fanatics. Even the classic anecdotes that Marxophiles have read a thousand times are told with such wit and energy that they feel new. Adamson's work has served to greatly enhance my already fanatical interest. And yes, even the footnotes are funny.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By mike duffy on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are two ways to write about comedians. The way which sometimes works is to play straight man and let the funny people be funny. The way which always fails is to try to be funnier than the material. Adamson has the annoying habit of doing this, and it ruins an otherwise well-researched and otherwise decently written book. Tons of pictures, lots of great Marxist dialogues, a great (if slightly obsolete) bibliography.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book contains more about the making of the Marx Brothers movies than one could ever want to know. It contains many snippets of dialogue which may bring a smile or even an occasional laugh. But it also has an intruding authorial voice which tries to be more funny than the Marx brothers material itself. This authorial voice weakens the work, and makes one feel one is reading a subjective indulgence rather than a more objective interpretation of the Marx brothers.
As a fan of the movies I was much looking forward to reading this work. But it did not prove to be as good as I had hoped.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 1997
Format: Paperback
Adamson does more than just write a biography of the Marx Brothers -- he legitimately thows how their early lives influenced their movies, and then goes full circle to show how the movies influenced their lives. Most of the book is a literary critique of the movies, in which Adamson shows keen insight. A key point that he drives home is that the boys were best when unencumbered by a plot, and that they lost nearly all of their appeal when asked to do a script not specifically written for them. Much attention is given to the other people in their lives, especially Margaret Dumont (who really DIDN'T get the jokes on her, quite often!) and Irving Thalberg
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Cohen on February 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This exhaustively researched, well considered and very funny book is exactly what the Brothers would have said if they hadn't been so busy making the movies that are examined here so thoroughly. Adamson displays a keen sense of humor and a clear-eyed view of the work of these comic greats. If you only want one book on the Marx Brothers, make it this one. You won't be disappointed.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roger Lynn on July 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
The man who wrote this book is an unfunny man who thinks his writing is rather funny. He must also think that he is more credible if he doesn't laud the team, but launches an "attack" (he writes poorly) on the Marx Brothers. He seems to think that by pointing out their flaws, he must be comedically superior to them.

This book is supposed to be factual and informative. This man has done some research, but writes of his personal feelings. Adamson knows very little of Chico, and, in my opinion, he writes him off as part of the comedy team. There is an incredible amount of nit-picking in this book, and in the case of Chico, Adamson has to prove that the line "It's better to have loft and lost than to never have loft at all" is a poor pun. He looks over the bigger picture which includes in this scene a crazy man yelling and throwing things from a hay loft and that Chico is very reluctant to get any nearer to this guy. At this point Chico's eager to employ any excuse to leave, and he actually delivers the line superbly.

Most unforgivable is Adamson's failure to recognize "I'm Daffy Over You" as an original composition of Chico's, first appearing in Animal Crackers. He associates Chico with "Sugar In the Morning". That song was published in 1957 and was written by men who weren't even alive when Chico first played his piece. I wouldn't be surprised if he pronounced Chico's name "Cheeko" instead of "Chick-o".

In an attempt at humor, Adamson explains that logic is illogical. Anything that is a certainty will only be contradicted by another certainty and that his statement isn't a certainty or it would contradict itself. I think that deserves a nomination for the most idiotic and inane string of words in the English language. What a pointless half a page!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Cohen on December 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The best of the Marx books by far, it is the book that one of the brothers SHOULD have written. Exhaustively researched and written with wit and style, it is the one book you should own if you are a Marx Bros. fan. Don't miss it, under any circumstances. It's funny enough to be a must-read for anyone, not just Marx fans.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Gabree on March 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
The best thing about this exhaustively researched and jauntily written critical biography is the anecdotes: Groucho once "attended a spritualists' meeting and answered a call for questions to the Great Spirit by standing up and asking, 'What's the capital of North Dakota?'"

Adamson, a college professor, brings an academic's seriousness of purpose and breadth of knowledge to bear on the Marx Brothers' lives and work. He also brings -- and this sets off this volume from most Hollywood hagiography -- an irreverent and entertaining prose style. He is serious but never stuffy.

Although he touches on every stage of their career, Adamson wisely concentrates on the '30s, when the Marx Brothers were at their creative peak. He examines almost scene by scene such movie classics as "The Coconuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races," demonstrating how and why the comedy team was funny.

Adamson also records their decline, more in the style of a documentary than a Hollywood expose. The book is packed with photographs and movie stills and dozens of excerpts of the madcap dialog that made them famous. And more anecdotes: Groucho "was probably not aware of everything he was saying when a 'You Bet Your Life' contestant stated that she had 13 children and could explain it only by proclaiming, 'I love my husband!' 'I like my cigar too,' said Groucho, 'but I take it out once in a while.'"
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