Biography of Gummo Marx (October 23, 1892 – April 21, 1977)
Milton Marx, better known to the world as Gummo Marx, is the least-known of the Marx Brothers, due to his leaving the group before they began their film career. Like his better-known brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo), Gummo grew up in the poor-but-loving home of Frenchie and Minnie Marx. Born in New York City on October 23, 1892, Gummo was the fifth son in the family, where money was often short but love never was. Like his brothers, from early on Gummo was being groomed by his mother Minnie for life on the stage. In fact, Gummo was actually the first of the brothers to appear on stage.
Along with Groucho, Gummo was one of The Three Nightingales, a singing group formed and managed by Minnie. This was an early stage in her plan to launch all of her sons to stardom, in 1909. In 1910 his brother Harpo joined the group (now The Four Nightingales, one of many name changes the group would have over the years, including the Six Mascots when Minnie and Aunt Hannah joined the group. All along, however, whatever the name of the group, it remained a singing group, not a comedy group.
However, the zany antics of the Marx Brothers couldn’t be suppressed forever. The musical group branched out into comedy with the vaudeville sketch Fun in Hi Skule in 1912. This was followed by Mr. Green’s Reception in 1913 and Home Again in 1914. Milton received his nickname, Gummo, in the same card game that Groucho, Chico (originally “Chick-o” ) and Harpo received theirs. Two different explanations have been given for the nickname. Either that it was due to his wearing quiet, gum-soled shoes like a detective (hence the term gumshoe), or that he tended to wear rubber overshoes (also called gumshoes).
Despite his financial success on stage, Gummo never enjoyed his time on stage. Gummo left the group during World War I to join the military. His younger brother Zeppo took his place on stage. Gummo served in the American military, but since the Armistice was signed shortly afterward, he never went overseas.
After being released from the army, Gummo unsuccessfully tried his hand at being a dressmaker. He then joined his younger brother Zeppo as a talent agent and was quite successful. His personal life became successful as well, marrying Helen von Tilzer on March 16, 1929. The couple was blessed with a son Robert the next year.
Gummo Marx died on April 21, 1977 in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A.
Trivia about Gummo Marx
- Brother of Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Groucho Marx, and Zeppo Marx.
- Father of Bob Marx.
- Uncle of Maxine Marx, Arthur Marx, Melinda Marx and Bill Marx
- He later joined Zeppo in managing the Brothers and developed a good reputation as an agent.
- Gummo left the Marx Brothers just when they were reaching popularity because he felt he lacked the performing skills of his brothers. He joined the military instead to help with the war and was replaced by his younger brother.
- Nephew of actor Al Shean.
- Son of Sam Marx
- Brother-in-law of Susan Fleming, Ruth Johnson, Kay Marvis, Eden Hartford and Barbara Marx
- Grandfather of Gregg Marx, Laura Guzik and Brett Marx
- His nickname, and those of his brothers, were elicited by a comic strip called “Knocko the Monk”, which triggered a brief rash of nicknames ending in -o. During a backstage poker game in a vaudeville house, another performer, while dealing cards, offered “a card for Chick-o”, the brother who chased the chicks, and then “a card for Harp-o”, the brother who played the harp. Gummo’s nickname came from his habit of sneaking up on people backstage, like some kind of “gumshoe” detective.
- He was portrayed by actor Gary Raucher in the Broadway musical “Minnie’s Boys”.
- His older brother Groucho Marx, who passed away only four months after him, was never told of his death as his family believed that it was a kindness not to tell him.
- Great-uncle of Jade Marx-Berti
- Only Marx brother to be drafted and fight in WWI in the U.S. Army.