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Zeppo Marx biography

Biography of Zeppo Marx (February 25, 1901 – November 30, 1979)

Herbert Marx, better known to the world as Zeppo, the fourth Marx Brother, was born in New York City, New York, U.S.A. on February 25, 1901.  He was the youngest of the Marx brothers born to Frenchie and Minnie Marx, and like his brothers grew up in a financially poor, yet loving environment.  And like his siblings, he was conscripted into “Minnie’s plan” to turn her sons into stars on the stage.  Although his stage character was that of the straight man to Groucho, Chico and Harpo’s antics, off-stage he was the most humorous of the brothers.

Zeppo had an excellent tenor singing voice, which can be heard in many of the Marx Brothers comedies, notably singing “Everybody Says I Love You” in Horse Feathers.  Although he could have succeeded with the group or on his own on the stage, he felt that the Marx Brothers didn’t need a straight man, and left the group after their film, Duck Soup.  He joined his brother Gummo’s talent agency, where he was successful — but he had another talent that he would use to make his own fortune.

Zeppo Marx, circa 1931Zeppo had a knack for inventing things, and several of his inventions were very successful financially.  He formed a company, Marman, to manufacture and sell some of his inventions, including:

  • the Marman Clamp, which has numerous applications in aircraft and aerospace, and is used to the present day.
    • the Marman Clamp was used in the first atomic bomb raids over Japan in 1945.
  • the Marman Twin, a 2-cycle motorized bicycle, which was only made for 2 years, and is now highly collectible.
  • a cardiac arrest alarm wristband.

Zeppo’s personal life was less successful – he married his first wife, Marion, in 1927, and despite their adopting a son, Timmy, in 1944, they ultimately divorced in 1954.  He later married Barbara Marx in 1959, but they also divorced in 1973.

elderly Zeppo MarxZeppo Marx passed away from cancer in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A. on November 30, 1979 — the last surviving Marx Brother.  He was cremated and had his ashes scattered at sea.

Trivia about Zeppo Marx

  • Brother of  Groucho Marx,  Chico Marx,  Harpo Marx, and  Gummo Marx.
  • Ashes scattered at sea.
  • Brother-in-law of  Eden Hartford,  Ruth Johnson,  Kay Marvis, and  Susan Fleming.
  • Uncle of  Arthur Marx,  Miriam Marx,  Maxine Marx,  Bob Marx,  Melinda Marx, and  Bill Marx.
  • Throughout his life, he had many careers including inventor, talent agent, manufacturer, commercial fisherman, and grapefruit grower.
  • Nephew of actor  Al Shean.
  • In real life, he was supposedly the funniest of his brothers despite always playing the straight man in their films.
  • Son of  Sam Marx and Minnie Palmer.
  • He was a serious amateur machinist, and among the products his company, Marman, developed in the late 1940s was a 2-cylinder motorized bicycle, the Marman Twin (produced 1948-49). Unfortunately, his bike was unable to compete with the more established Whizzers, despite being far more powerful. These bikes are highly collectible today.
  • One of only two of  The Marx Brothers to play a recurring role in their films (not counting when they used their own names). He played the role of “Jamison” in both  The Cocoanuts (1929) and  Animal Crackers (1930).
  • Since he’d missed out when his brothers received their nicknames, he was given one by his siblings. He was always practicing acrobatics, so he was named “Zippo” — after “Mr. Zippo,” the star of a well-known chimpanzee act. Feeling it was unflattering, he insisted it be Zeppo. Another version of this story , was that his name was changed to “Zeppo” in honor of the then popular “Zepplin”.
  • He was portrayed by actor  Alvin Kupperman in the Broadway musical “Minnie’s Boys,” which ran an at the Imperial Theatre for 80 Performances from Mar 26 to May 30, 1970.
  • At the time of his death, he was the last surviving of  The Marx Brothers.
  • Great-uncle of  Jade Marx-Berti,  Gregg Marx,  Laura Guzik, and  Brett Marx.
  • When he married Barbara Marx, her son, Bobby Oliver, took the Marx surname, although Marx never legally adopted him.
  • He and his first wife adopted their only child, Timothy, in 1944.
  • Officially left the brothers’ comedy team to become an agent on March 30, 1934.
  • His company, Marman Products, marketed and produced what came to be known as the Marman Clamp, which proved to have numerous applications in aircraft and aerospace, and is used to this day. The company eventually grew to two factories employing more than 500 workers. Marx would often hire studio prop men and unemployed big band musicians.
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