One of the finest books of the year is Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage (Northwestern University Press) by Robert S. Bader, a recognized authority on the famed band of brothers. Thoroughly researched and highly readable, this 500+ page book tells the story of the foursome’s hardscrabble early years honing their act in front of live audiences. Beginning with Groucho’s debut in 1905, Bader traces the origins of the characters and situations that would later come to be beloved by film goers around the world. In doing so, Bader vividly sketches the world of 1920’s vaudeville as the comedy act was on the brink of fame.
There have been many books on the Marx Brothers. Bader’s book is one of the best. As Dick Cavett said, “Who would have dreamed that there could be much, much more to learn in still another book about the Marx Brothers? Not I. And yet, Robert Bader—focusing on the under-researched vaudeville days of the hilarious siblings—has gone where no man went before, discovering a treasure trove of Marxiana to delight the hearts and minds of those of us who can never get enough.”