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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

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great copy of a very well written book. I need a new one because my original copy from decades ago was literally falling apart. The seller shipped quickly and arrived in excellent condition and now I have a great new copy for my library. Thanks very much.
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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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Format: Paperback
There's a lot of great material in this book; there's no denying that. There are wonderful sections on not only the brothers' movies and vaudeville shows but also the people who worked behind the camera, the screenwriters, and details on the original drafts of some of the movies, showing the changes they went through before they became the final movie versions we know and love today. However, all of those great things can be overwhelmed at times by a number of things, such as Adamson's insistence on trying to be really funny and witty. This was also a problem with Simon Louvish's more recent 'Monkey Business' (although that book had far more of a professional approach to the material apart from the at times annoying writing style). You don't really have to have a funny writing style or constantly make jokes when the people you're writing about are funny enough on their own already. This book could also stand an updated edition; since it was published in 1973, many of the people being talked about (including Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo) were alive and well, and so are referred to in the present tense. Adamson also describes a number of things, events, or remarks as "recent" and "current," and over 30 years later they're obviously no longer that recent or current! However, those are really minor quibbles in comparison to the overwhelming problem with this book, or at least how Adamson chose to present the material.

It's perfectly alright for a writer to occasionally work his or her opinion into a work of nonfiction. However, Adamson does it so often that it just comes across as biased and unprofessional, like he couldn't put aside his own prejudices or views in the interest of writing a balanced neutral account.
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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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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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