Editorial Review of Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers, by Simon Louvish (courtesy of Amazon.com )
A serious book hiding behind a goofy title, Monkey Business captures a tremendous amount of detail in its pages, enough to satisfy the most hard-core Marx Brothers aficionado. Author Simon Louvish has a talent for showcasing contrasts, and it’s these contrasts–along with a few surprises–that make the brothers such fascinating characters.
Among all the scripts, photos, and quotes are some unexpected discoveries, especially the real story of Margaret Dumont. While lamenting the tall tales that have circulated around this actress’s life so far, Louvish applauds her image as the ultimate “straight” lady when she was really pulling a lifelong practical joke. And while the one-liners are as entertaining as always, it’s refreshing to see glimpses of Groucho’s serious side. One chapter begins with an earnest letter to his daughter’s boyfriend about the young man’s struggles with anti-Semitism, advising him to “comport yourself in such a manner that you will ultimately gain their respect.” Of course, he immediately follows up with “Tomorrow we’re having tea at the White House. I hope they have pumpernickel”: this is Groucho we’re talking about, after all.
Louvish takes the same one-two narrative punch with the other brothers, interspersing real-life slapstick with tales of gambling debts, relationship difficulties, and professional disappointments and triumphs.
Complete with a chronological list of life events and films, a complete reference list, and a thorough index, Monkey Business is the biography serious Marx Brothers fans have been waiting for. —Jill Lightner
Product Description: Strange but true: this is the first authentic account of the Marx Brothers, their origins and of the roots of their comedy. First and foremost, this is the saga of a family whose theatrical roots stretch back to mid-19th century Germany. From Groucho Marx’s first warblings with the singing Leroy Trio, this book brings to life the vanished world of America’s wild and boisterous variety circuits, leading to the Marx Brothers’ Broadway successes, and their alliance with New York’s theatrical lions, George S. Kaufman and the ‘Algonquin Round Table’. Never-before-published scripts, well-minted Marxian dialogue, and much madness and mayhem feature in this tale of the Brothers’ battles with Hollywood, their films, their loves and marriages, and the story of the forgotten brother Gummo.