Groucho Marx is arguably the most famous, iconic comedian of all time. "You Bet Your Life" began on radio in 1947, ostensibly as a game show, and became a huge hit television program and as big a part of Grouchos legacy as the amazing movies he made with his brothers earlier in his career.
After the start on radio, the show ran through 423 episodes from 1950 1961. These 18 episodes are some of the absolute best from over a decade of popular TV, restored for the highest quality sound and picture possible. They feature guest stars like Phyllis Diller, Edgar and Candace Bergen, Joe Louis, Johnny Weismuller, Frankie Avalon, Groucho's daughter Melinda Marx, Harpo Marx and the first appearance of the show's trademark duck.
DVD extras include three Groucho pilots including "What Do You Want", "Tell It To Groucho" and the never-before-seen "The Plot Thickens," plus tons of outtakes and bloopers.
The secret word for Groucho Marx fans is "DVD." This three-disc set collects a priceless archive of 18 complete and uncut episodes filmed between 1950 and 1960. The surprise success of the radio incarnation of You Bet Your Life
assured for Groucho that there would be life after the Marx Brothers, whose film career came to a sad end with 1950's Love Happy
. The television series would be an even bigger hit, and make Groucho a household name. You Bet Your Life
was ostensibly a quiz show, but it was more just a forum for Groucho to crack wise with the contestants. These were mostly ordinary people with oddball jobs or interests, or extraordinary talents, like the man who blows up a tire's inner-tube on an episode included on disc 2. Knowing now that the program was carefully planned does not diminish the fun. There are many precious spontaneous moments, such as the trombone-playing female contestant who practically swoons over Groucho's announcer/straight man George Fenneman.
Appearances by some "special guests" add to this set's nostalgia value. Former Western star Hoot Gibson, Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller, and former boxing champion Joe Louis play the game, as do future stars Candice Bergen (age 11-1/2) and comedian Phyllis Diller in her first television appearance. Marx Brothers fans will cherish the now-poignant cameo by Harpo (hawking his autobiography, Harpo Speaks!) and the Creamy Prom commercials featuring Harpo and Chico. Screen and songwriter Harry Ruby, who looms large in Marxian folklore (he co-wrote Horse Feathers and Duck Soup), sings a delightful duet with Groucho, "The Window Cleaners." This set's special features aren't horse feathers either. There are rare pilots for some failed post-You Bet Your Life quiz shows, vintage commercials, and so-called "stag reels," featuring mildly risqué humor that censors cut from final broadcast. And now, to quote Fenneman, it's time to sit back, and relax, and enjoy the best of Groucho. --Donald Liebenson