Marx Brothers TV Collection

September 27, 2017

LA Times – ‘Marx Brothers on Television’ shows wide range

By Susan King When the Marx Brothers made their final film comedy, “Love Happy” in 1949, they found a new outlet for their outrageously funny shenanigans on the new medium of television. Groucho scored a huge success bringing his popular radio game show “You Bet Your Life” to NBC in 1950, where it continued until 1961. And Harpo’s 1955 appearance on “I Love Lucy” re-creating his famous “Duck Soup” mirror routine with Lucille Ball has been seen in repeats for decades. But “You Bet Your Life” and “I Love Lucy” was just the tip of the Marxist iceberg. Shout! Factory’s new three-disc DVD set, “The Marx Brothers on Television,” shows the wide range of shows the siblings appeared on in the 1950s, ’60s and, in the case of Groucho, into the 1970s. “We have game shows, sports shows, variety shows, talk shows and sitcoms,” said DVD producer Robert S. Bader, who also produced the DVD sets of “You Bet Your Life.” There’s a great 1955 episode of “The Jack Benny Show” in which Benny tries to win money on “You Bet Your Life”; Harpo’s sweetly comedic final performance in the long-forgotten 1962 ABC sitcom “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”; the […]
September 27, 2017

NY Times – “Shout! Factory Gathers Marx Brothers TV Spots”

Rich, strange and intermittently fascinating, Shout! Factory’s three-DVD set “The Marx Brothers TV Collection” follows Groucho, Chico and Harpo, or rather their well-known personae, through the decades that postscripted the brothers’ 1949 Hollywood swan song, “Love Happy.” The earliest of the set’s offerings (which include complete TV shows as well as clips, commercials, guest spots, excerpted skits, home movies and blooper reels) was telecast live in March 1951 — the last and sole surviving episode of “The College Bowl” (a.k.a. “Ravelli’s Sugar Bowl”), a half-hour sitcom in which Chico, looking and sounding as he did in the movies, played the proprietor of a student hangout. The most recent item, taped 19 years later, is excerpted from Groucho’s appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show” together with the cast of “Minnie’s Boys,” the short-lived Broadway musical based on the brothers’ youth. It’s an appropriate closer: Shout!’s collection not only shows the Marxes coping with a new medium but also illuminates their pre-Hollywood, pre-Broadway roots in early-20th-century vaudeville. Groucho, of course, created a second career with his insult-the-contestant quiz show, “You Bet Your Life,” a program that began on radio in 1947, transitioned to TV three years later and ran through the spring […]
September 25, 2017

Making The Marx Brothers TV Collection

The idea of creating a collection of Marx Brothers television appearances for home video release predates the dawn of the DVD era by several years. It took more than twenty years to get the collection released, but the numerous issues and delays allowed for much more material to be located and included. The final result has a much broader scope than what was originally planned. Rare and unknown footage of the Marx Brothers came from a variety of sources, and a lot of it was unknown when the project began. Much had been written about the Marx Brothers during the renaissance in their popularity in the 1970s. Some of the well known television shows with the Marx Brothers were frequently mentioned – The Incredible Jewel Robbery on the General Electric Theater, or Groucho’s turn in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado on the Bell Telephone Hour, for example. But it was simply not possible to see any of this material at that time. There had been a heavily edited version of The Incredible Jewel Robbery available for home use on film, but that was an exception, and hardy a substitute for seeing the whole show. I began trying to find unusual […]
September 25, 2017

The Marx Brothers on Television

This essay was first published in the 2014 Shout! Factory DVD release, The Marx Brothers TV Collection. “I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.” – Groucho Marx, August 1950 By the time the Marx Brothers’ last movie, Love Happy, premiered in 1949, the brothers had been working on stage, screen and radio for nearly fifty years. Television had arrived, but the middle-aged Marx Brothers – Groucho 59, Harpo 61 and Chico 62 – were not poised to take on the new medium – at least not collectively. But the end of their film career was perfectly timed for a collision with the birth of television. When the Marx Brothers first announced their retirement from the screen in 1941, they meant it. Their last M-G-M film, The Big Store was hardly a fitting farewell and did not invoke many memories of their best work at Paramount a decade earlier. By 1942 the brothers had all made other plans – Chico would front an orchestra, Groucho would try his hand at radio while doing some writing, and Harpo would raise a family and work when […]