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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Absolute Best Book on Groucho
This classic collection of Groucho Marx's correspondence, which was donated to the Library of Congress, at their request, gives the best glimpse into who Groucho Marx was. Not only do we see his letters to his family and friends, who included some of the century's most famous people, but we get to see what people wrote in return. Groucho's personality and wit shine...
Published on December 7, 2002 by D. Movahedpour

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good collection but not definitive.
This collection of Groucho's correspondence illustrates a number of things about the man. His wit was not limited to performance, his relationships with his friends were long lasting, and he wrote a number of warm and humorous missives to his children. You get the feeling that this collection is just the tip of the iceberg and a more complete portrait of the man could be...
Published on February 7, 2001 by J. Carroll


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Absolute Best Book on Groucho, December 7, 2002
This classic collection of Groucho Marx's correspondence, which was donated to the Library of Congress, at their request, gives the best glimpse into who Groucho Marx was. Not only do we see his letters to his family and friends, who included some of the century's most famous people, but we get to see what people wrote in return. Groucho's personality and wit shine through, and these letters are a rare treasure.
With little formal education, Groucho could construct a letter better than most people with college degrees. He shows himself as witty, acerbic, sometimes sentimental and, yes, often grouchy. The book starts off with his infamous exchange with the legal department at Warner Brothers, who claim they own the rights to the movie title "Casablanca." Groucho responds that, perhaps, since the Marx Brothers were famous before the Warner Brothers, that perhaps they owned the rights to use "Brothers"?
We see Groucho's exchanges with many of his friends, but not much between the brothers themselves, since they were almost always together and there was no need of correspondence. We see Groucho's complaints and his praise. The most memorable part of the book is Groucho's legendary correspondence with the poet, T.S. Elliot. Groucho is clearly in awe of the poet, who seems equally in awe of the comic. It takes several years for this predecessor of the modern "Email friendship" to become a "real life friendship" when Groucho and his wife fly to London to meet "Tom" and his wife. We find out about the evening via a letter Groucho sent to another person. We also see a letter where Groucho mourns T.S. Elliot's passing.
This collection of letters is never out-dated, and never becomes boring. There is always something to read, somewhere in the book. It is not a book that you will read, then forget about. It's an amazing, historical collection of wit, sarcasm and genuine tenderness that is essential to any humor library.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will cure what ails you!, December 17, 2002
By 
Diana S. Walsh "Diana" (Palm Springs, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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I received this book after major surgery some years back and Groucho's wit really helped pick up my spirits and take my mind off of my body. This was one of the best gifts that I've ever received and I'm pleased to see that it's back in print. If you could have a dinner party and invite any historical figures that you wanted, wouldn't Groucho be on the list? This collection of his intimate correspondence is the next best thing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It loses one star because I want more!, July 12, 2001
By 
Algernon D'Ammassa (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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For some, a criterion of great art is: it makes you feel creative. Reading Groucho's letters makes one look around for pen and paper.
It is a pity Groucho Marx's prose isn't better known, because it was quite good. He found a voice all his own, with due influence or inspiration from Robert Benchley and, most certainly, S.J. Perelman.
This collection of letters ranges from warm and teasing, to wry and satirical, to scathing (a section entitled "Short Shrift" showcases letters designed to sting and fly away, like a wasp). Yet throughout, Marx's wit is belied by a language that is literate and witty but uses an ordinary vocabulary. They reflect the man himself, who had a third-grade education and hit the books in later years. His willingness to address himself to unknown corporate officers, well-known politicians, or to put on a major film studio work the way much of Groucho's humor worked: he comes from the level of the ordinary person, caring not a whit for ceremony or status; and he is willing to talk circles around just about anybody, to their vexation and our delight.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and fun collection of letters by a truly great comic and writer, March 14, 2009
This review is from: The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx (Paperback)
If you are a fan of Groucho Marx, this collection of letters to and from him will only deepen your appreciation of him. These are not the scribblings of a comic actor who is funny in his films merely because he can transform the writings of others into laughs. These are the letters of a deeply gifted and dedicated writer. In every letter in this collection it is clear that Groucho is striving to write as well as he possibly can. These are letters practiced as an art form. Or rather, art forms, since Groucho can adapt his letters to the demands of the occasion. A letter written to a friend has an entirely different tone than one written to someone he barely or does not know. He can write long, eloquent letters, or short, terse ones (my favorite in the later vein might be the one to the governor of Idaho, which begins, "Thanks for the potatoes.").

Groucho is at his best not when writing other comics (I found his correspondence with Fred Allen to be perhaps the least interesting part of the book), but other writers, like Norman Krasna, Harry Kurnitz, and Nunnally Johnson. There are also a number of unexpected exchanges of letters. The ones that he exchanged with T. S. Eliot are delightful primarily for the degree to which the two fawn over each other, with Groucho delighted that the great poet is a fan of his, while the poet is as giddy as the most avid devotee. They began their correspondence rather late in Eliot's life and as a result they did not write each other for very long, but it is one of the book's highlights to see how excited each was to know the other.

Many of Groucho's correspondents are well known, like Eliot, Fred Allen, James Thurber, James Reston, and Harry Truman, but some of the best are not famous today at all. I really loved the letters he exchanged with Northwestern professor Bergen Evans, who hosted a talk show in which famous celebrities (such as Groucho) formed a panel to discuss words. In these letters you see just how deeply Groucho, who to this day is perhaps the greatest verbal comedian America has produced, cared about words.

I have always differed from most males in that I'm not only heterosexual but also heterosocial. Virtually all of my closest friends are and have always been female. Not so Groucho. His biographers have long noted that he did not have deep friendships with women and romantically was drawn to rather unintelligent, pretty, young women. He was not seeking a meeting of the minds in his relations with women (though it has to be added that he seemed to be passionately devoted to his daughters). Groucho didn't dislike women, but he did not seem capable of being close friends with them. As a result, his correspondence is dominated by letters to and from men. In this way Groucho seems in many ways old fashioned, of an earlier generation. For instance, though quite liberal politically in his instincts, he had a deep distrust of politicians and government. He declined to call himself a Democrat; it is rather that he found Republicans far more loathsome (he says that he votes for individuals rather than parties, but inevitably he would vote for Adlai Stevenson over Eisenhower, Kennedy over Nixon, and Johnson over Goldwater, whom he detested. He hated paying taxes and makes no bones about it. It isn't that he dislikes a large central government; he just doesn't want to pay for it. Yet he thought McCarthy was evil and was baffled by the Communist witch hunters. In other words, Groucho was a mish mash (which he points out in one letter is pronounced "mish mosh"), and all the more loveable for it.

I've recently finished reading Arthur Schlesinger's magnificent three-volume history of the New Deal, which are given the group title THE AGE OF ROOSEVELT. So, I got a kick out of several letters in which Groucho in the early sixties is passionately recommending the third volume in the series, THE POLITICS OF UPHEAVAL 1935-1939, to several of his friends, alongside a new comedy LP by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Another felicitous moment for me was when he writes a thank you note to Edward R. Murrow, who had sent Groucho a set of recordings of the speeches of Churchill. In the letter Groucho laments the recent death of two great liberals, "Sherwood and DeVoto," and regrets they both died young while the Father Coughlins and McCarthys never die (the vile Father Coughlin, who was censured by the Church, was the Rush Limbaugh of his day). "Sherwood" is, of course, Robert E. Sherwood, a great liberal writer and a member, with Groucho's brother Harpo, of the Algonquin Round Table. "De Voto" [sic] is Bernard DeVoto, one of my personal heroes, a great writer and perhaps the most underrated environmentalist in American history. While not usually thought of as comparable to John Wesley Powell, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold, DeVoto actually achieved the greatest victory in favor of conservation in the nation's history. Following WW II the cattle industry (with support from other special interest groups like the mining industry) engineered what is known as "the land grab," whereby virtually all the public lands in the United States would have been privatized. It would, had it been successful, been the largest shift of land from the public sector to the private in U.S. history. Initially almost no one seemed to be aware of what was happening except for DeVoto, who in his well-known Harper's column, "The Easy Chair," almost single-handedly fought for the preservation of public lands. Eventually the American people became conscious of what the cattle and mining industries were attempting to do, and Congress thwarted their efforts. I was delighted to see Groucho mentioning his death with appreciation. By the way, Bernard DeVoto was one of the most brilliant letter writers in our nation's history. His student and disciple Wallace Stegner edited a now out-of-print collection of his letters entitled simply THE LETTERS OF BERNARD DeVOTO. I strongly recommend them to anyone who wishes to explore a great American writer at his best. Sadly, as Groucho noted, DeVoto died far sooner than he should have, dying in 1955 at the age of 58.

But back to Groucho. These letters make for absolutely delightful reading. They are funny, witty, and highly literate. And in them we get to know better one of America's greatest cultural figures
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun & interesting must-read for all Groucho/comedy fans, October 2, 1997
By 
J. Tomeny (New Orleans, LA) - See all my reviews
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While visiting a friend about ten years ago, I happened to pull a copy of "The Groucho Letters" from his bookshelf. After thumbing through it, and reading several letters, I new I needed to own the book. I looked for it every now and again at various bookstores over the years, but could never find it. I did find it at Amazon.com (excuse the gratuitous bootlicking). It was worth the wait. This book is an engrossing look into the private thoughts of perhaps the century's greatest comedic thinker and communicator.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You Bet Your Life", May 30, 2009
By 
Thomas J. Burns (Apopka, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx (Paperback)
I wonder how many young people today--that is, anyone younger than 50--know or enjoy Groucho Marx. A product of the Vaudevillian Age, Groucho with his brothers Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo starred in a series of memorable slapstick films in the 1930's and 1940's. It was the age of Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges, but Marx Brothers films--full length features--were in a class by themselves.

While Zeppo never looked entirely comfortable in the quartet, Harpo and Chico were pure slapstick performers. Groucho enjoyed physical slapstick and was not above heaving a pie or sliding down a fire escape in his films, but his true talent was "verbal slapstick" and his one-liners have taken their place in American cultural history. [My personal favorite: "I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member."] After World War II Groucho's verbal dexterity made him a natural to ease into the medium of television, and he remained a celebrity of the small screen through the 1960's.

This collection of letters is drawn primarily from the television years, though gratefully the full correspondence [undated, in the text] between Marx and the legal department of Warner Brothers is retained in full. Warner Brothers contended that the Marx Brothers' proposed film, "A Night in Casablanca" was an impingement upon the studio's film, "Casablanca," made famous five years earlier by the performances of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. An outraged Groucho put pen to paper alleging that Warner Brothers' claim to exclusive rights to the name of the city of Casablanca was overreaching. By the end of the first letter he had outrageously undermined the rights of Harry and Jack Warner to their own names, pointing out to Jack that another Jack, Jack the Ripper, "cut quite a figure in his day." [15]

However, the Warner Brothers correspondence is the highlight of what is generally a modestly humorous survey of letters, ranging from 1939 to 1966. The majority are post-1950 when Marx enjoyed success with his long-running "You Bet Your Life" TV venture. Marx shows considerable ambivalence about television. His own show required little heavy lifting and made him a fair amount of money. But Marx in his correspondence, particularly with men of letters, belittles the medium as a junkyard. His letters to aging classic actors express sympathy that television, as a rule, did not cultivate significant artistic performance. Marx was evidently a voracious reader and he worried that the children of his day were losing interest in books because of the popularity of television.

Marx does not write much, if anything, about his wives. The reader is left to his or her own devices to figure out the makeup of the Marx household from year to year. He has Jerry Seinfeld's eye for the humor of daily life, such as misadventures with repairmen and large companies. He seemed to have enduring problems with the IRS, which crop up incessantly in the texts. He maintained good relations in writing with all his brothers. Harpo, in particular, was a fair writer in his own right. Curiously, Groucho, with his eternal leer and infamous double entendres on film and TV, reveals a bit of a prudish side in his letters. The writer who hoped to do a film with Mae West "if she doesn't die from curvature of the bed" [168] expresses in other letters his disgust over Broadway plays that have crossed the line of good taste into crudity and vulgarity. The moral boundaries of the noted wit are somewhat amorphous, to say the least.

In his preface to the collection, Arthur Sheekman compares Groucho Marx to Falstaff as "the cause of wit in other men." This is remarkably on target. One of the strengths of this work is the inclusion of letters written to Groucho. Throughout the wide range of correspondences with actors, writers, politicians and the like, one sees a tendency in Marx's correspondents to slip into "Groucho-ese" so to speak, a wit mixed with attention to detail and mild self-deprecation. The sheer breadth of correspondents from the higher echelons of show business--George S. Kaufman, Abe Burrows, Irving Berlin, David Susskind, S.J. Perlman, Arthur Sheekman, Leo Rosten, to cite but a few--give evidence of the old saying that the entertainment world is indeed a small town.

It speaks well of Marx's way with words that the book is an amusing read despite its being dated and peopled from several generations past. It is too eccentric to be called a genuine history, but it serves as an entertaining timepiece for an era when an aging actor could captivate the nation's television viewing audience with no props but a good cigar and a dagger wit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gift for a fan (and his girlfriend who still reads it), January 3, 2000
I bought this book for my boyfriend and he LOVED it. It's easy to read, filled with interesting tales and a must-have for any Groucho Marx fan. I, while not a Marx Brothers fan for all my life, found myself picking up the book again and again. Very enjoyable. Very easy to digest. It was read by us both within a couple of days of his unwrapping the gift.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good collection but not definitive., February 7, 2001
By 
This collection of Groucho's correspondence illustrates a number of things about the man. His wit was not limited to performance, his relationships with his friends were long lasting, and he wrote a number of warm and humorous missives to his children. You get the feeling that this collection is just the tip of the iceberg and a more complete portrait of the man could be seen with a more complete collection of his letters. Until the day an unedited and complete collection is released, fans can make do with this look at some of the funniest letter writing ever to be printed for public consumption.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, June 19, 2001
By 
tzefirah "tzefirah" (Media, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This book is one of the greatest epistolic volumes ever published. I've reread it several times over the last couple of decades. I had to buy it again because someone I loaned mine to never returned it -- which I'll take as a compliment!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Wit Of All, April 29, 2000
By 
The Reluctant Critic (Orlando, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
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These letters are a treasure. I'm glad someone saved all of these. I wonder if Groucho copied all of them, or if all these people kept them after all of these years?
Groucho's wit shines through in these letters. He is a good writer, and you learn a little about history while you read these entertaining letters.
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The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx
The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx by Groucho Marx (Paperback - August 14, 2007)
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