May 31, 2011

"Perhaps it was Zeppo’s ardent pursuit with dinner invitations and flowers or the new Thunderbird convertible he bought for me."

"Or was it the time he stood behind a group of strangers in an elevator and pulled faces until I was laughing so hard I had to get off? Not only did Zeppo have the caustic wit of the Marx Brothers but he made fun of himself rather than of those around him. I think that may have been why he was always given the role of romantic lead while his brothers insulted him."

Am I the only person who bought Barbara Sinatra's "Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank" because I wanted to read what she has to say about about Zeppo Marx?

ADDED: After Chico Marx's funeral:
Crammed into the living room with scores of mourners, I noticed a strange woman staring at me. Zeppo noticed too and asked someone who she was. It was his first wife, Marion, a former Ziegfield girl he’d divorced seven years earlier, five years before he’d married me. A week later, I was playing tennis with Dinah Shore at the Racquet Club when I spotted Marion watching me in the same eerie way. I asked Dinah to introduce us. Marion was a little strange, but I think she just wanted to check me out. I felt sorry for her. She’d raised their adopted sons alone, and Zeppo showed little or no interest in them or her, it seemed. What really bothered me though was that he hadn’t even recognized the woman he’d been married to for twenty-seven years. 

35 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

I can understand a woman being curious about the woman now with her ex husband, but I cannot understand how Marx did not recognize her.

Maybe it is like Andrew Weiner not recognizing his own wiener. He was just not into mentioning it.

rhhardin said...

Women can be pretty unrecognizeable.

edutcher said...

From other things I've read, the Marx brothers were pretty rapacious when it came to women.

This pretty much fits the mold.

Paddy O said...

"a former Ziegfield girl" implies that she was, when he married her, likely very thin and fashionable, put together in the styles of the times, probably even throughout their marriage.

After the divorce she raised the adopted children alone, probably meaning that she no longer was concerned about her weight makeup, style, or overall display to a world that was no longer interested in her. After seven years, this sort of transformation can easily lead to a woman being unrecognizable to a man who completely lost touch with her, especially since it sounds like it came in her late forties or early fifties when age was probably catching up with her, and more attention would have been needed to keep her looking like her former Ziegfield self.

It's not at all good he didn't recognize her, or excusable, but it is certainly possible and understandable.

Paddy O said...

A couple months ago I read Harpo Speaks and a few years ago I read Groucho and Me, the respective autobiographies of two of the Marx Brothers. Both very interesting, though I liked Groucho's more.

Which means I'm kinda fascinated with the Marx Brothers stories too.

Ann Althouse said...

"After seven years, this sort of transformation can easily lead to a woman being unrecognizable to a man who completely lost touch with her..."

If you lived with her for 27 years, you ought to recognize her soul, unless you don't have one.

Hoosier Daddy said...

"....If you lived with her for 27 years, you ought to recognize her soul, unless you don't have one...."

Perhaps he was just successful in erasing the memory.

mccullough said...

Maybe she didn't have a soul, so there was nothing to recognize.

Fred4Pres said...

It is a good thing that those crazy Marx Brothers did not have twitter, because it could have gotten seriously crazy.

Groucho with the secret word.

And God knows what sort of mischief Harpo would have gotten into.

Ron said...

Maybe his soul was in shorts...theologically, speaking.

traditionalguy said...

Those were the days when men ardently pursued a beautiful woman...and married her too.

Penny said...

That Zeppo was quite the cut up, making fun himself by pretending not to recognize his own wife of 27 years. har har

And they said this was the brother who didn't make fun of others? Well I guess when you do, it eventually wears off on you.

Blue@9 said...

If you lived with her for 27 years, you ought to recognize her soul, unless you don't have one.

How does one recognize a "soul"? Do they come in particular colors? Play certain tunes? Walk a certain way?

"Soul": Vague word used to hint at an undefinable but profound 'something' because the writer/speaker can't really articulate what he's talking about.

SteveR said...

I haven't read the book, but this excerpt seems unbelievable. It always amazes me how well people remember conversations from long ago. (eyes roll)

Penny said...

Also interesting that Barbara wasn't concerned that Zeppo paid no attention to his adoptive kids...that his poor first wife raised alone.

Bells should have been going off in her head.

Although a new Thunderbird convertible is one good reason to remove that clapper from the bell. Right ladies?

Penny said...

Oops, left a few words out of my first comment. What I was getting at was that hanging around brothers who make fun of people will have you doing the same...eventually.

Kansas City said...

One of the reasons I come here is that Ann has such a good eye for unusual and interesting stuff. A friend of mine recently became really interested after reading a biography of Harpo. It seems that the Marx brothers are just an interesting American phenomena. It very much is another age, and I doubt that many under the age of about 40 will ever have much interest in the Marx brothers. Maybe the Three Stooges, but not the Marx Brothers.

Paddy O said...

"If you lived with her for 27 years, you ought to recognize her soul, unless you don't have one."

My impression is that one didn't marry a Ziegfield girl for their soul. Nor does one then move on to marry a woman 25 years younger, who was a showgirl and model.

And, if Marion had been the sort to pursue style and fashion and whatnot, in the pattern of a celebrity wife of the era, it's quite possible that after the divorce, and raising the kids, she found a soul she hadn't displayed before. She may have become an almost entirely different woman, and maybe even for the better.

A. Shmendrik said...

Forgetting the forgetting for a moment - I have to say that she looks fantabulous on the cover of that book. Maybe that's why she selected it. And Frank's toupe looks awful. Considering the coin he had at the time (and likewise consider the awful toupes of folks like Michael Milken, Tony Curtis, etc.), it just goes to show that there is no such thing as a realistic toupe.

ricpic said...

Maybe she had a Ziegfield Girl soul that withered with the rest of her.

Turn on Turn off -- the Clapper!

traditionalguy said...

Blue@9....You had it right . The Soul is the person that shows itself in mannerisms, body language, and the eyes in their face more than in speech itself. if you have ever seen a man in action, and then 10 minutes later seen his dead body, it will be clear to you that you have seen a soul leave a mere piece of clay.

Freeman Hunt said...

What really bothered me though was that he hadn’t even recognized the woman he’d been married to for twenty-seven years.

Bizarre! I can't imagine that she ever looked at her husband the same way again after that.

dbp said...

I would think that taking no role in raising the kids would be more damning. If he didn't notice the ex, maybe he is just unobservant or maybe as a celebrity he habitually ignored people who stare. Not helping with the kids takes years of systematic caddishness.

Big Mike said...

Perhaps he married a Ziegfeld (the correct spelling, BTW) Girl and not a real person?

By that I mean that his trophy wife was the image of youthful beauty and grace and sex appeal, and the possibility that there was a real human being inside that image never quite registered with him. I see things like that often enough today.

madAsHell said...

He knew it was his ex-wife. He just didn't want to acknowledge her.

Sixty Grit said...

I call bullshit - I was married for 23 years, then after being divorced for about 15 years, I saw my ex- at my youngest son's wedding. I asked him "Who is that woman messing around with the decorations?"

He said "That's mom, dad!" with bit of exasperation. Well I'll be blinkered - I could not have picked her out of a lineup. She was fat, had her hair dyed some strange color and her face had deep wrinkles in it, like an old boot. She looked hideous. Having not seen her in over a decade, those new "features", when seen all at once instead of as they accumulated, had rendered her unrecognizable. The memory of that still makes me chuckle.

With luck I shall live out my days and never see that harridan's visage again. She could frighten a pit bull off a meat wagon. Has a face that could stop an 8 day clock. Ugly, I tell ya. Where is Rodney Dangerfield when you need him?

It's got nothing to do with "soul", whatever that is supposed to mean, it's got to do with being confronted with a person who has let herself go, who drank to excess and who became a rudderless unemployable slob - were it not for her boyfriend she would have been every bit as homeless as her even fatter and only slightly more crazy sister.

While the divorce was difficult, I thank my lucky stars that I made it through those tough times - I am fortunate to be far away from that mess.

David said...

My wife's ex did not recognize her when they met at a sporting event a few years ago. It really creeped her out, as well it might. No excuse that she has changed a lot physically. She has not. But he was in a total haze and it just did not click. The next meeting was a year or two later, and he had no problem picking her out. She looked so fabulous I could see his jaw drop.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Marion Benda indeed changed her looks quite a lot. She seems to have had several different looks during her early Ziegfeld career, and apparently late in life she went all "woman in black" because she was Valentino's last date. She died of a drug overdose in 1951.

MrBuddwing said...

Well, word has it that Shelley Winters once failed to recognize her ex-husband, Tony Franciosa, when they ran into each other just a few years after they'd divorced. (Of course, they'd only been married for something like three years, but isn't it a double blow for an actor to go unrecognized?)

WV: consi

MrBuddwing said...

Speaking of Zeppo, I remember him from the early Marx Bros. movies as the sometime-romantic lead; he certainly was the most "WASPish" of the group.

Years later, I was paging through The Marx Bros. Scrapbook by Richard J. Anobile. Although Groucho got top billing in terms of authorship, it was basically a series of transcribed interviews that Anobile did with Groucho and others.

What startled me was the interview with Zeppo. In something like four decades, he'd gone from being that handsome young man in movies like Horsefeathers to being a stereotypically crabby old Jewish guy. (I'm basing this on reading the words on the page - it's not like I got to hear the tape recording or anything.) Amazing, isn't it, how much people can change over the years.

WV: tessest

Revenant said...

Marion Benda indeed changed her looks quite a lot.

Suburban -- that's a different Marion Benda. The one you linked to killed herself ten years before Chico Marx died, and three years before Zeppo divorced HIS Marion Benda.

Googling around a bit it seems like Blakeley might be making a mistake about Zeppo's ex, confusing her with the one who was linked to Rudolph Valentino?

Revenant said...

Speaking of Zeppo, I remember him from the early Marx Bros. movies as the sometime-romantic lead; he certainly was the most "WASPish" of the group.

They actually looked really similar to one another out of makeup.

Zeppo lightened his hair and eyebrows, if I recall correctly.

Wally Kalbacken said...

"...confusing her with the one who was linked to Rudolph Valentino?"

Jeezus, didn't Valentino die in 1926?

This is like shaking the hand that shook hands with the hand that shook hands with a hand the shook with George Washington. Or something like that.

T. D. said...

From what I've read Harpo was the most stable and kind of the four.

Also, he was the only one of the four able to make an audience of wild kids (and older fans too) go from hilarious laughter to almost reverent silence when he played his harp. And then back to mayhem.

They all did look alike, which is why the mirror scene in Duck Soup works so well.

Thanks for posting on this. I love the Marx Brothers.

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