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New and Noteworthy

In the last few years new books about the Marxes have been arriving at a fairly steady rate (unfortunately, the books going out of print have been keeping pace pretty well). Here are a few titles that have become available in the last several months.

Harpo Speaks...About New York
by Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber, with a new introduction by E.L. Doctorow, Hardcover, Little Bookroom, 2001.

This slim, moderately-priced coffee table book is basically an abridged version of Harpo's 1961 autobiography, Harpo Speaks!, featuring only the sections dealing with New York. The new introduction by E.L. Doctorow is richly descriptive and entertaining.

Arthur Marx's Groucho: A Photographic JourneyArthur Marx's Groucho: A Photographic Journey
by Arthur Marx (edited by Frank Ferrante), Hardcover, Phoenix Marketing Services, 2001.

This book features plenty of photos (many never-before seen) reproduced wonderfully on high-quality paper. Many will find it worth the admittedly steep asking price for this alone, and certainly all compleatists will want to own it. But while Arthur's photo captions are descriptive and entertaining, if want new information about Groucho, this isn't the place to look.

As Long As They're Laughing: Groucho Marx and You Bet Your Life As Long As They're Laughing: Groucho Marx and You Bet Your Life
by Robert Dwan, Paperback, Midnight Marquee Press, Inc., 2000.

This book is a wonderful companion to the long-out-of-print "The Secret Word Is Groucho," by Groucho Marx and Hector Arce. While both concern themselves with Groucho's long-running quiz show, "You Bet Your Life," this book (written by Robert Dwan, director of You Bet Your Life on radio and television throughout its run) shows a more personal side of the program, concentrating on the author's relationship with Groucho and on the personalities who worked on the show and wound up as contestants. Dwan was responsible for editing each of the programs and has an extensive collection of scripts and rare outtakes from which to draw his narrative, and he consistently keeps the reader entertained. Especially enjoyable are excerpts of dialog removed from the broadcast version of the program, often for being a bit too risque for 1950s audiences. And as an especially fine treat, Dwan details his journey with Groucho and his daughter to Groucho's mother's home town of Dornum, Germany, and the strange, magical occurrences during this trip. This book belongs in the collection of all Groucho fans.

The Essential Groucho: Writings By, For, and About Groucho Marx The Essential Groucho: Writings By, For, and About Groucho Marx
by Groucho Marx and Stefan Kanfer, Paperback, Vintage Books, 2000.

This collection differs in a couple of important respects from a similar collection, "Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales," (edited by Robert Bader). First, it is not only a book of Groucho's articles and essays, but also includes writings about Groucho, letters, and excerpts of film scripts. As such, it does an admirable job in introducing the reader to the various sides of Groucho. The other difference is a lack of notes on the source material, with which the Bader book is fairly brimming. If you're looking for a quick introduction to the work of Groucho Marx, this is a good choice. But if you're looking for an extensive, well-researched and -annotated collection Groucho's writing, Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales is the one to which all others should be compared.

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
by Stefan Kanfer, Hardcover, Knopf, 2000.

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
by Stefan Kanfer, Paperback, Knopf, 2001.

Here is the first major biography about Groucho since Hector Arce's "Groucho" appeared in 1979, and it seems a perfect reason for bringing out the former definitive work again. Don't get me wrong, Kanfer is an excellent writer. Unfortunately, this book is little more than a cobbled-together collection of material from other books. Kanfer has also, on a few occasions, taken heresay and apocrypha and presented it as fact, with very few notes on sources. So if you're hungry for information about Groucho, there's plenty in here to keep you entertained until Arce's book is back in print. But keep those grains of salt handy and check your local library for a copy of the real thing, or try to find a copy of Groucho through this or another out-of-print book service.

Monkey Business Monkey Business
by Simon Louvish, Hardcover, St. Martins Press, 2000.

Without a doubt (at least in my mind) the best book ever about the Marxes as a team, even surpassing Joe Adamson's Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo: A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World (now, unfortunately, out of print, but due for a major rewrite in the near future). Louvish did extensive research to clear up a lot of myths and misunderstanding about the brothers and to debunk a lot of legend and heresay. He also cleared up a lot of grey areas in the Marxes' early lives. Some readers have found his writing a bit dry at times, and others have complained that he tries too hard to be funny himself. Both statements may be true, but I don't think this gets in the way of the narrative, and the extent of Louvish's knowledge more than makes up for any problems with style. This book is an absolute godsend for serious fans.

Ron Goulart's Marxist Fiction

Ron Goulart and his Marxist Mysteries

When Groucho died in the summer of 1977, we were greatly saddened by the loss of one of the world's greatest comedians. Of course, we can still enjoy all the film, television and radio appearances he left behind, but the possibility of anything new coming across has been pretty slim. Until now, that is. Ron Goulart, a comic book historian and mystery writer, has latched onto a wonderful bit of fiction, putting Groucho on the radio in the late 1930s and making him an amateur sleuth. As implausible as this may seem, Goulart's light style, sense of humor, and knowledge of Marx history make the whole thing plausible.

Groucho Marx, Master Detective Groucho Marx, Master Detective
by Ron Goulart, Hardcover, Thomas Dunne/St. Martins Press, 1998.

In this novel, Ron Goulart takes us back to Hollywood in 1937. Groucho Marx is embarking on his latest venture, a radio program titled, aptly enough, Groucho Marx, Master Detective. In this book we are introduced to Frank Denby, an ex-crime reporter who has been hired to script Groucho's new show. Groucho reads about the death of up-and-coming actress Peg McMorrow and, convinced the death was not a suicide, as the police claim, teams up with Denby to solve the "murder." The plot takes us through a number of twists and turns involving irate sponsors, crooked cops, movie moguls, and a fair number of Hollywood's more sinister characters. With all this running around and getting shot at, not to mention the fact that he has a brand new radio show to get on the air, Groucho certainly has his hands full!

Groucho Marx, Private Eye Groucho Marx, Private Eye
by Ron Goulart, Hardcover, St. Martins Press, 1999.

In the sequel to "Groucho Marx, Master Detective," Goulart takes us back in time once again. Groucho has a new program title, a new sponsor, and a new crime to deal with...the murder of a prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. As it turns out, the prime suspect is Frances London, actress and mother of Polly Pilgrim, Groucho's awful supporting actress in his new show. Once again, Groucho goes against cops and thugs (sometimes it's hard to tell the two apart in these books) to solve the crime.

Elementary, My Dear Groucho
by Ron Goulart, Hardcover, Minotaur Books, 1999.

The third installment in Ron Goulart's series puts Groucho on the set of a Sherlock Holmes movie where the director has just been killed. This time we see a more serious side of Groucho as we find that Hollywood Nazis are involved in the death of this Jewish director. Still, another brisk, enjoyable mystery from Goulart.

Groucho Marx and The Broadway Murders
by Ron Goulart, Hardcover, Minotaur Books, 2001.

The fourth book of this series has Groucho temporarily relocating to Manhattan for a run on Broadway in "The Mikado." But even this can't keep Groucho out of trouble as he becomes involved in yet another movie murder of the gangland variety.

Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost Radio Show
by Michael Barson, Paperback, Pantheon Books, 1988.

This book contains the scripts from the program (originally called "Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle"). The program ran for about six months, from November 1932 through May 1933, and featured Groucho as Waldorf T. Flywheel, Attorney at Law, and Chico as Emmanuel Ravelli, his assistant. Lifting gags from the films, this is a wonderful collection from a little-known episode in the history of the Marxes (and radio, for that matter). It also contains many screenshots from the Marxes' films.

The Four Marx Brothers in Monkey Business and Duck Soup
by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, Paperback, Faber & Faber, 1989.

Scripts from both films.

by Hector Arce, Paperback, Perigree, 1980.

This book is considered by many fans to be the definitive biography of Groucho.

Groucho and Me
by Groucho Marx, Paperback, Da Capo Press, 1995.

The history of the Marxes is widely disputed, especially between the brothers themselves. To get Groucho's version of the story you must have this book.

Groucho and W.C. Fields: Huckster Comedians (Studies in Popular Culture) -- Hardcover
Groucho and W.C. Fields: Huckster Comedians (Studies in Popular Culture) -- Paperback
by Wes D. Gehring, University Press of Mississippi, 1994.

"Gehring compares these two comedians by their lives, the characters they played and their films." -- Stefan Timphus

Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo: A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World
by Joe Adamson, Paperback, Pocket Books, 1976.

If Arce's "Groucho" is the definitive Groucho Marx biography, this heads the list of biographies of all four of the brothers. Meticulously researched and very funny to boot!

The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx
by Groucho Marx, Paperback, Da Capo Press, 1994.

To truly get into the mind of Groucho Marx, you must read this book. With letters to such luminaries as Irving Berlin, Howard Hughes, Fred Allen, T.S. Eliot, Thurber, as well as Groucho's brothers and other family members, this book is delightfully funny and often touching.

Groucho Marx (Pop Culture Legends)
by Peter Tyson, Library Binding, Chelsea House, 1995.

Aimed at adolescents, this is a wonderful introduction to a great comedian.

Cover Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales -- Paperback
by Groucho Marx, edited by Robert S. Bader, 1996.

A collection of the funniest essays, columns, and letters composed by Groucho. The cassette version is read by Carl Reiner.

Growing Up With Chico
by Maxine Marx, Paperback, Proscenium, 1986.

Written by Chico's daughter Maxine, this book shows Maxine's love for her father while offering frank coverage of his gambling and womanizing.

CoverHarpo Speaks!
by Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber, Paperback, Proscenium, 1988.

This is, hands down, my favorite book by or about the Marx Brothers (of course it fits into both categories). Harpo tells some of the most wonderful stories about growing up with his wacky family, his career with and without his brothers, and his participation in the infamous Algonquin Roundtable. As an editor at put it, "To Marx Brothers fans who have yet to read this book: Put it off as long as you can, because once you are finished, you will wish you could read it again for the first time."

Hello, I Must Be Going: Groucho and His Friends
by Charlotte Chandler, Paperback, Viking Press, 1979.

Charlotte Chandler put a lot of work into this unusual account of the life of Groucho Marx. Only a few years before his death, Ms. Chandler set herself the task of interviewing not only Groucho, but also many of his friends and acquaintances. The book contains transcripts of interviews with George Burns, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Goodman Ace, Jack Lemmon, and Zeppo and Gummo to name but a few. This happens to be my personal favorite book on Groucho.

Language-based Humor in the Marx Brothers Films
by Peter Meijes Tiersma, Paperback, Indiana University Linguistics Club, 1985.

Here's a book I haven't read, but at a price like this I'll be ordering it soon, at which time I can describe it in some detail. Basically it is the author's analysis of humor in Marx Brothers films that is specifically related to language and its clever manipulation as a comedic tool. And as I always say when I mention someone involved with Indiana University (my alma mater) at this site: Go IU!

Love, Groucho: Letters from Groucho Marx to His Daughter Miriam -- Paperback
Love, Groucho: Letters from Groucho Marx to His Daughter Miriam -- Cassette
Edited by Miriam Marx Allen, Paperback, Faber & Faber (Cassette: Publishing Mills), 1993.

The title implies the content. This book gives us a glimpse into Groucho's relationship with his daughter Miriam by way of his correspondence with her.

The Marx Brothers: A Bio-Bibliography (Popular Culture Bio-Bibliographies)
by Wes D. Gehring, Hardcover, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987.

Yet another title I know nothing about. Am I sounding like a broken record here?

The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia
by Glenn Mitchell, Paperback, BT Batsford Ltd., 1996.

This book is more for browsing than reading, but is especially useful for hunting down information about the Marxes in England, as the author is British and writes from that point of view. All in all, a great source when questions about the Marxes come up. Unfortunately, it suffers from a poor editing job (some details, especially dates, are incorrect), and it positively shrieks for an index (any index at all would be an improvement). Still, Mitchell is a fine researcher and writer and I use this book often.

CoverThe Marx Brothers: Monkey Business, Duck Soup, and a Day at the Races (Classic Screenplay)
by Robert S. Bader, Paperback, Faber & Faber, 1993.

Here's a collection of a few of the Marxes' more inspired scripts. Contains both dialog and descriptions of actions on the screen.

Marx Brothers Scrapbook
by Groucho Marx and Richard J. Anobile, Hardcover, Outlet, 1973.

Written a few years before Groucho's death, this book is considered by the cognoscenti to be one of the most mean-spirited accounts of the Marx Brothers ever to be published. After its initial publication, Groucho was none too pleased. Even so, it contains a wealth of information and should be considered a must-read by any dedicated Marx fan.

The Marx Brothers: Their World of Comedy
by Allen Eyles, Hardcover, Bookthrift Co., 1975.

One of two books written by Eyles dealing mainly with the Marx Brothers' films. The other was "The Complete Films of The Marx Brothers" which is an altogether lighter read, profusely illustrated (unfortunately it is unavailable at present). This book describes the films in about the same way, but goes into a lot of detail regarding the author's opinion as to what the movies actually meant. If analytical detail on the movies doesn't appeal to you, then neither will this book.

Memoirs of a Mangy Lover
by Groucho Marx, Paperback, Da Capo Press, 1997.

If you're like me, any book written by Groucho is worth picking up. But if you're new to Groucho collecting, I'd suggest starting with Rob Bader's collection, Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales. "Memoirs" is Groucho's humorous history of love, and I don't mean to imply that it isn't entertaining. It's just that it seems to me that when Groucho is confronted with a longer format for writing, like this effort, "Beds," and "Many Happy Returns," he tries too hard and, sometimes lacking anything to say, flounders. Still, this book is certainly entertaining and belongs on the bookshelf of any Groucho fan.

My Life With Groucho -- Hardcover
My Life With Groucho -- Paperback
by Arthur Marx, Parkwest (Hardcover), 1991; Barricade Books (Paperback), 1992.

Here's a book about the relationship between a certain American comedian and film star and his son. This is the expanded version of the book "Life With Groucho," written by his son Arthur in 1954. Sections have been added dealing with Groucho's final years. An absolute must for any Marx fan.

A Night at the Opera
by George S. Kaufman, Paperback, Viking Press, 1972.

George S. Kaufman, noted playwright, also wrote a few screenplays for the Marxes, "A Night at the Opera" being one of them.

Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House
by Steve Stoliar, Hardcover, General Publishing Group, 1996.

Stoliar was Groucho's personal secretary and archivist during his final years. From this vantage point, he records (in an often humorous, sometimes touching way) his life in Groucho's home. I found the style a bit forced (especially the gratuitous name dropping), but it's still a fine read for the Groucho completist.

Why a Duck? Visual and verbal gems from the Marx Brothers movies
by Richard J. Anobile, Unknown Binding, Darien House.

This book contains many screenshots and sections of dialog from Marx Brothers movies.

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The Marx Brothers Sing and Play
Three CDs, Chansons Cinema (French Import).

This collection is absolutely essential for any serious Marx collector. The three CDs feature virtually all of the music (as well as some dialog) from the first eleven (of thirteen) Marx Brothers movies.

CoverHarpo In Hi-Fi/Harpo At Work
Two albums on one CD, Collector's Choice Music, 2000.

Here are the two albums Harpo recorded for Mercury in the late 1950s, available for the first time in many years, now on CD. A beautiful collection of Harpo's music, in collaboration with classical and jazz musicians, this CD is a must for fans of Harpo's Harp.

Here's Groucho

Groucho performs solo on several of his most popular tunes, and is featured with with Danny Kaye, Jimmy Durante, and Jane Wyman on a couple of others. This budget-priced re-release of Groucho's LP from the 1940's (with a few bonus tracks) also contains excerpts from a 1970's LP (narrated by Gary Owens) of excerpts from Marx Brothers films.

Gratuitously Groucho

This is a collection of several of Groucho's guest radio appearances over the years, some (but not all) of which originally appeared on the Murray Hill Collection, Three Hours, Fifty-nine Minutes, Fifty-three Seconds of The Marx Brothers.

Gregariously Groucho

Another great collection of Groucho Marx radio appearances, this one also features outtakes from You Bet Your Life.

Animal Crackers/Horse Feathers (soundtrack)

Features music and dialog from both pictures.

Cocoanuts/Monkey Business (soundtrack)

Features music and dialog from both pictures.

Groucho: A Life In Review

Frank Ferrante stars as Groucho in an original cast recording of this show written by Arthur Marx (Groucho's son) and Robert Fisher.

Groucho Marx (Old Time Radio Comedy)
Cassette, Soundelux Audio, 1990.

Groucho (Radio Classics)
Cassette, Great American Audio co., 1986.

Groucho Marx
Cassette, National Record Co., 1960.

The cassettes listed above are probably taken from "You Bet Your Life," but don't quote me on that.

Old Time Radio Comedy: Burns and Allen, Groucho Marx, Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Will Rogers
Cassettes, Soundelux Audio, 1994.

Once again, the Groucho portion is more than likely excerpts from "You Bet Your Life." Once again, don't quote me. Downloads

These items are not cassettes or CDs, but audio downloads from I'm presenting these here as a public service; I do not receive any commission on these downloads.

Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales Audio Download

This is the "books on tape" version of Robert Bader's wonderful collection of Groucho Marx's stories, articles and essays, read lovingly by Carl Reiner.

To The Best Of Our Knowledge: Top Marx Audio Download

Here's a program from Wisconsin Public Radio, wherein host Jim Fleming interviews Stefan Kanfer about Groucho Marx and Francis Wheen about Karl Marx. The premise is that Groucho may have had more in common with Karl than we may think.

Golden Age of Radio: You Bet Your Life Audio Download

2 hours worth of "You Bet Your Life" on radio.

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The Cocoanuts
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1995.

Animal Crackers
VHS, MCA Bookservice, 1987.

Monkey Business
VHS, MCA Bookservice, 1987.

Horse Feathers
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1995.

Duck Soup
VHS, MCA Bookservice, 1986.

A Night At The Opera
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1992.

A Day At The Races
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1992.

Room Service
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1991.

At The Circus
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1992.

Go West
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1992.

The Big Store
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1992.

A Night In Casablanca
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1991.

Love Happy
VHS, National Appraisal & Consulting Association, 1986.

Animal Crackers/Duck Soup
2 VHS tapes

The videos listed above comprise the Marx Brothers' entire film output as a team. To learn more about any of these films, pay a visit to my A Night At The Movies page.

VHS, National Appraisal & Consulting Association, 1987.

1947 musical comedy starring Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda. Groucho is an unscrupulous agent trying to turn his one client (Miranda) into a star. Not the most memorable film in the world, but it's a lot of fun regardless.

Double Dynamite

Groucho plays Frank Sinatra's sidekick in this comedy about a bank clerk falsely accused of robbery.

Mr. Music

Groucho appears as himself in this Bing Crosby musical about a Broadway songsmith.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Groucho appears for about five seconds at the end of this film, but it's a very funny film nonetheless. Tony Randall is an advertising executive about to be booted out of a large New York firm when he meets up with Jayne Mansfield, who is willing to save his neck...For a price.

Stage Door Canteen

Harpo is one of several Hollywood stars to make a guest appearance in this musical about The American Theater Wing's WWII establishment of the same name in New York City.

Groucho and The Brothers Marx

Filled with film trailers, newsreal footage, and uncut "You Bet Your Life" footage.

Groucho Uncensored
VHS, Mpa, 1993.

Here's an entire, uncut episode of "You Bet Your Life," complete with bloopers and other material never intended for broadcast. Lots of fun.

I Love Lucy -- The Classics V. 5 (1955)

In case you haven't guessed, this tape features the famous episode of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy and Harpo recreate the "Mirror Scene" from "Duck Soup." (Another episode on this tape features John Wayne.)

Marx Brothers Comedy Classics
VHS, Baker & Taylor Video, 1991.

I have absolutely no idea what material this tape contains. Feeling lucky?

Merrily We Roll Along: Early Days Auto
VHS, Vera Sharp Publishing Co., 1994.

This was a program on the impact of the automobile during its early days, narrated by Groucho Marx.

The Unknown Marx Brothers
VHS, CSA Publications, 1996.

The Unknown Marx Brothers
DVD, Winstar, 1998.

After you've purchased "The Marx Brothers In A Nutshell," this should be your next choice in Marxist documentaridom (is that a word?). The first half of this video concentrates on the rise to stardom of the brothers, with great interviews, and audio and video clips, as well as stills. It even features a clip from Harpo's only "speaking" role in 1925's "Too Many Kisses." Well, okay, it was a silent film, but he speaks nonetheless! This section also contains numerous trailers, including one from "Animal Crackers" with alternate takes of certain scenes. In the second segment we see quite a number of excerpts from Marx Brothers TV appearances, including Harpo's dramatic appearance in "Silent Panic" and a segment featuring numerous clips from the aborted Marx Brothers television series, "The Deputy Seraph." The video ends showing scenes late in Groucho's life, pointing out the adoption of the Marxes by the antiestablishment youths of the 1960s. I know I've gone on at length about this video, but it is an essential part of any Marxist video collection.

You Bet Your Life

You Bet Your Life Vol. 1 (1952)
VHS, Western Library Services, 1996.

You Bet Your Life Vol. 2 (1952)
VHS, Western Library Services, 1996.

The three videos listed above are all obviously excerpts from "You Bet Your Life." My inclination is to believe that the first is different from the second two, as they have been released by different companies. I wouldn't bet the farm on that bit of conjecture, however.

Jimmy Durante/Groucho Marx
VHS, PPC, 1993.

MGM's Big Parade of Comedy (1964)

50 of the greatest screen comics of all time appear in short scenes on this MGM collection.

That's Entertainment - Pt. 2 (1976)

Another collection of MGM clips, narrated by Gene Kelly.

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Related Items

American Satire: An Anthology of Writings from Colonial Times to the Present
Edited by Nick Bakalar, Paperback, Plume.

The Benchley Roundup
by Robert Benchley, Paperback, Univ. of Chicago Press.

The Best of Modern Humor
Edited by Mordecai Richler, Hardcover, Knopf, 1983.

This is an excellent collection of short humor. And it contains reprints of Groucho's correspondence with Warner Brothers regarding the release of "A Night in Casablanca," as well as a letter Groucho wrote to Gummo.

The Complete Actors' Television Credits, 1948 - 1988: Actors
by James Robert Parish and Vincent Terrace, Hardcover, Scarecrow Press, 1990.

"In part, a cumulation of the 1950 to 1985 information that appeared in the four 'Actors' TV Credits' books. Information has been revised and updated, and some never-before-published credits have been added. Performers are listed alphabetically; their work is arranged chronologically. For those who need to know precisely which episodes of 'Death Valley Days' featured Ronald Reagan. Includes 32 pages of photos." -- Book News, Inc., 4/1/90.

The Complete Actors' Television Credits, 1948 - 1988: Actresses
by James Robert Parish and Vincent Terrace, Hardcover, Scarecrow Press, 1990.

"This companion to the Actors volume of 'The Complete Actors' Television Credits' Chronicles the individual performances of 1,739 actresses from January 1948 to August 1989, listing their credits for all network, syndicated, and cable entertainment programs, including many never-before-published credits, such as unaided pilots and experimental TV (1931 - 1946). Like the Actors volume, this is, in part, a cumulation of the information for 19050 - 1985 that appeared in the four 'Actor's Television Credits' books. Each performer, including 328 new entries, is listed alphabetically, with chronological subdivisions for her work. With a 48-page photo spread." -- Book News, Inc., 2/1/91.

Conversations With S.J. Perelman (Literary Conversations Series) -- Hardcover
Conversations With S.J. Perelman (Literary Conversations Series) -- Paperback
by S.J. Perelman, Edited by Tom Teicholz, University Press of Mississippi, 1995.

This book contains a metric carload of conversations with Perelman, who wrote the screenplays for the Marx films, "Monkey Business" and "Horse Feathers." And it features a chapter where Perelman, Groucho, and Kenneth Tynan talk about funny men.

I Shot an Elephant in My Pajamas: The Morrie Ryskind Story
by Morrie Ryskind and John H.M. Roberts, Paperback, Vital Issues Press, 1994.

Beyond the title, I know little about this book. But Morrie Ryskind acted as screenwriter on several Marx Brothers films and wrote some of their best material (the title is taken from one of Groucho's most famous lines, from the movie "Animal Crackers"). I plan on purchasing a copy of this book in the very near future, after which I can describe it in more detail.

Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide 1999
Edited by Leonard Maltin, Luke Sater, and Cathleen Anderson, Mass Market Paperback, Signet, 1998.

This number one bestselling movie guide is now better than ever! It has been the movie buff's indispensable reference source for 27 years. With a new revision every year, it's the most complete and up-to-date guide of its kind. From box-office smashes to cult classics to forgettable bombs, this guide has it all.

Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia: Career Profiles of More Than 2,000 Actors and Filmmakers, Past and Present
by Leonard Maltin, Spencer Green (editor), Luke Sater (editor), Cathleen Anderson (editor), Paperback, 1995.

This essential addition to every movie buff's home library features career profiles of more than 2,000 actors and filmmakers, past and present. Entries range from paragraph-length cameos on relatively unknown performers to full-scale profiles of major figures such as Marlon Brando, John Ford, and Katharine Hepburn -- complete with Maltin's assessments of their most significant films.

Memoirs of an Amnesiac
by Oscar Levant, Paperback, Samuel French Trade, 1990.

Often quite entertaining, sometimes very depressing, Oscar Levant goes over his life from childhood to adultery, leaving no stone unturned. He goes into great detail regarding his years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, so this is not for the faint of heart.

The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose from William Caxton to P.G. Wodehouse: A Conducted Tour -- Hardcover
The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose from William Caxton to P.G. Wodehouse: A Conducted Tour -- Paperback
by Frank Muir, Hardcover, Oxford University Press, 1990.

This book MUST be on the shelf of every fan of written humor. Frank Muir starts with William Caxton in 1422 and doesn't quit until he reaches the late 20th Century. This is the kind of coffee table book that you won't be able to keep on your coffee table because it'll keep finding it's way to your night stand as you laugh yourself to sleep with it. And if you're wondering about the Marx connection here, Muir makes several references to Groucho Marx in his section on S.J. Perelman. He also reprinted Groucho's correspondence with Warner Bros. regarding the release of "A Night In Casablanca." He began his piece on Groucho with the statement, "Humorous letter-writing in post-war USA was enlivened by the publication in the 1960s of a collection from the comedian Groucho Marx. Any lingering thought that the particular humour of the Marx Brothers was the invention of S.J. Perelman (a widely-held theory which was bitterly resented by both parties) was dispelled with the publication in 1967 of 'The Groucho Letters,' a demonstration of Groucho's own personal mixture of effrontery, awful jokes, and inspired lunacy." Do not delay! Order today!

Russell Baker's Book of American Humor
Edited by Russell Baker, Hardcover, W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.

Here Russell Baker has put together an indispensable collection of humorous American writing. After the aforementioned Frank Muir book, this should be the next on your list. This collection includes gems from the likes of Woody Allen, O. Henry, P.J. O'Rourke, Bob & Ray, Roy Blount, Jr., Kin Hubbard, Fred Allen, and S.J. Perelman, to name but a few. And Marx fans will find Groucho well represented in reprints of his letters to Irving Hoffman and Harry Kurnitz.

S.J. Perelman: A Critical Study (Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture, No. 15)
by Steven H. Gale, Hardcover, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987.

Begins a series highlighting humorists from classical to modern times, with anthologies of previously published and original commentary on their work by their contemporaries and subsequent critics. The treatment of American writer Perelman (1904-79) includes interviews with him, anthology introductions, reviews, a chronology, and a selected primary bibliography." Book News, Inc., 5/31/92

Three Plays by Kaufman and Hart: Once in a Lifetime/You Can't Take It With You/The Man Who Came To Dinner
by George Kaufman, Paperback, Grove Press, 1988.

Kaufman's work with the Marx Brothers included writing their second Broadway hit, "The Cocoanuts." He was also a screenwriter on "A Night At The Opera." "The Man Who Came To Dinner," included in this collection, was loosely based on Alexander Woollcott, and features the character, "Banjo," based on Harpo Marx.

We're in the Money: Depression America and Its Films
by Andrew Bergman, Paperback, Ivan R. Dee, 1992.

Includes a chapter on the comedy of The Marx Brothers.

Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Robert Aldrich, George Cukor, Allan Dwan, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Chuck Jones, Fritz Lang, Joseph H. Lewis, Sidney Lumet, Leo McCarey, Otto Preminger, Don Siegel, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Tashlin, Edgar G. Ulmer, Raoul Walsh.
Edited by Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Aldrich, Hardcover, Knopf, 1997.

This is a huge and valuable book, a collection of interviews that Mr. Bogdanovich has conducted since 1960 with 16 great Hollywood directors ...Many readers will not have heard of a lot of the films discussed, but the stories stand on their own. They are an oral history of an art form created out of pragmatism, experimentation, instinct and luck. Lurking beneath was the soul of the individual film maker. -- Roger Ebert, New York Times Book Review (thanks Kathy).

101 Classic Jewish Jokes: Jewish Humor From Groucho Marx to Jerry Sinefeld
Robert Menchin and Joel Kohl (illustrator, Paperback, Mustang Publishing, 1997.

Probably not a lot of Groucho stuff here.

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Other Stuff That Makes Me Laugh

Roald Dahl

Boy: Tales of Childhood
Paperback, Penguin USA, 1991.

Dahl is probably best known for his children's books, such as Charlie and the Chocolate factory and James and the Giant Peach. Here's an autobiographical account of his own childhood. It is often touching, and usually hilarious. A wonderful read for all ages.

Going Solo
Paperback, Puffin, 1993.

Here's the next step in Dahl's life as he moves from childhood into young adulthood. A great follow-up to Boy: Tales of Childhood.

Harvard Lampoon

Bored of the Rings: A Parody of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Paperback, Penguin USA, 1993.

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series was my own introduction to the world of fantasy literature as it was for many children growing up in the 1960s and 1970s (and probably today). By the same token, Bored of the Rings was my introduction to the world of parody. Not exactly biting satire, but a wonderfully funny read. If you haven't read the originals, you will still enjoy this book. If you have, this book will be a special delight.

David Sedaris

Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays
Paperback, Little Brown & Co., 1995.

I first encountered David Sedaris on National Public Radio's Morning Edition where he introduced his now-classic Santa Land Diaries. Each time I heard another hilarious story of Sedaris' escapades as a Macy's department store elf while I was driving to work, I was hungry for more. If you are uncomfortable with public displays of lunacy, then please treat this book with care and read it only in the privacy of your own home. You will laugh out loud.

Hardcover, Little Brown & Co., 1997.

David Sedaris' latest collection is destined to be another classic. I confess I have not yet read it, but the critics are stomping their feet over this one. While The Sana Land Diaries dealt with trials and tribulations of the Christmas season, Naked takes on the rest of the year. "Sedaris has a forthright, common sense prose style that seems perfectly reasonable until he begins to explain the world. Suddenly, the everyday becomes a nightmare, the ordinary hilarious, and the average incredible. Sedaris' genius is in exposing the basic absurdity -- and cruelty -- of people and institutions." --'s Gay Studies and Literature Expert Editor

Jean Shepherd

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash
Paperback, Doubleday, 1991.

If you say you've never heard of Jean Shepherd's work, then you're probably mistaken. Most of us have run across Shepherd one way or another. My own introduction to his goofy stories of childhood in a small Indiana town was via the wonderful movie, A Christmas Story, which features the holiday exploits of Ralph, a child on a mission to get Santa Claus to bring him a Red Rider air rifle "with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time." Well, it all started with this collection of stories originally published in Playboy and other places. In this collection we are introduced to Ralph as an adult. Ralph is a successful writer, living in New York City, and has returned to Indiana for Christmas with the folks. The antics of his childhood are presented as reminiscences between himself and a childhood buddy who now owns a local bar.

Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters
Paperback, Doubleday, 1991.

Here's the hilarious follow up to In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. Herein we return to the life of the artist as a young man, and are even treated to a hysterically embarrassing glimpse of the mating ritual as Ralph goes on his first date.

A Fistfull of Fig Newtons
Paperback, Doubleday, 1991.

In his third outing, Jean Shepherd takes us on a tour of Ralph's later life, including glimpses of high school, college, and the army.

The Ferrari In The Bedroom
Paperback, Doubleday, 1991.

Shepherd's last-published book moves away from the anecdotal and gives us a Shepherdesque view of American culture. This may not be your particular cup of tea if you're looking for more hilarious hijinx, but still a great read for Shepherd fans.

Terry Southern

The Magic Christian
Paperback, Grove/Atlantic, 1996.

Terry Southern's satire on the American way of life was a staple of popular culture in the 1960's and 1970's. Here's a strangely touching story of greed. Lots of it. All varieties. This book was made into a motion picture starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, and spawned Badfinger's hit single, Come and Get It.

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