Raised Eyebrows

Subtitled “My Years Inside Groucho’s House” I identified with the secretary/author of the book which offered an insight into celebrity at an advanced age. Very easy read for someone with an interest in the subject (and with sufficient time waiting in the car outside of HomeGoods and Stew Leonard’s).

Groucho was regularly amused by pretentious pseudo-intellectual attempts to analyze and find deep meaning in his work. He always said he was just trying to be funny. (page 45)

As I explained earlier, he had had a major stroke in September of 1972 and it had changed him forever….If you had a timeline of Groucho’s life, you could draw a thick, black line on that date, delineating the “before” Groucho from the “after” Groucho. (page 67)

In 1971, Groucho made it onto Nixon’s enemies list by saying that the only hope for this country was his assassination. (page 68)

After asking about Groucho and about Erin, people usually ask about Groucho-and-Erin. Theirs was, unfortunately, an all-too-common scenario in Hollywood: An aging star, once strong and forceful, allows an ambitious younger woman into his life who alienates family and friends and causes hostility and ill feeling as the curtain descends. It happened with W.C. Fields and Carlotta Monti. It happened with John Barrymore and Elaine Barrie. And it happened with Bela Lugosi and hope Lininger, who first fell in love with the dashing on-screen Dracula in 1931 but who wasn’t quite prepared for the frail old man she encountered twenty-five years later. (page 71)

One slip of the brake pedal and I would forever be known as The Guy Who Assassinated Groucho Marx, like that college student who had sucker-punched Houdini in his dorm room and ended up killing him, however inadvertently. (page 75)

Jack Lemmon is one of the warmest, most likable people I’ve ever met. Indeed, at Groucho’s eighty-fourth birthday in October of that year, I overheard Harpo’s son, Billy, talking to Lemmon. Billy said, “You know, there are so many nasty, phony people in this town, but I have to tell you, you are a genuinely nice guy.” Lemmon instantly replied, “Well, thanks, but there’s no reason not to be.” At the time I thought it was just an obvious, casual reply, but the more I’ve thought about that over the years the more I’ve realized what a wise philosophy it is: There is no reason not to be a nice guy. (pages 80-1)

William Goldman’s dictum about Hollywood was an accurate one: Nobody knows anything. (page 95)

Reporter: “What are you doing with your time?” Groucho: “Wasting it talking to you.” (page 112)

CBS Chairman William Paley showed up at Gummo’s early to try and get the jump on the competition. At one point, Groucho excused himself to go to the bathroom. Much to everyone’s surprise, Paley got up and followed Groucho right into the bathroom, locking the door behind them. Then he approached Groucho, who was trying to take a leak, and said, “Look, you’re a Jew and I’m a Jew. We should stick together. You can’t afford to go with NBC.” Groucho was so put off by Paley’s tactlessness in following him into the restroom and trying to turn the whole thing into a religious issue that he decided right then and there to go with NBC (which, by the way, was headed by David Sarnoff – also a Jew). (pages 121-2)

Fielding felt the blacklist period had been over-romanticized by my generation and that the social and politi8cal changes that occurred in the sixties and seventies were much more significant than the relatively minor sacrifices he and his peers had made in the fifties. Something else he said, which I’d never heard, was that when the House Un-American Activities Committee asked you a question and you chose not to answer under the Fifth Amendment, you then had to take the Fifth for each and every subsequent question; you couldn’t pick and choose. So the committee could ask, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?” and you were entitled to take the Fifth. But if you were then asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the American Nazi party? A drug dealer? A murderer?” you would have no choice but to take the Fifth in each of those cases, regardless of how evasive that might appear. According to Fielding, the committee took full advantage, inflicting as much damage as possible to the reputations of those who elected to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights. Democracy in action. (page 126)

When The Towering Inferno came up in conversation, Groucho said, “Irwin Allen knows how to make lousy pictures that people want to see.” I mentioned that his next movie was supposed to be about insects. “Insects?” Grouch queried. “Then he must be starring in it.!” (page 133)

Among Erin’s various ambitions was a strong desire to become Mrs. Marvin Hamlisch. (page 144)

In Europe, an artist is considered as good as his greatest achievement. In America, he’s only as good as his latest achievement. (page 161)

Hector asked Groucho if his parents, Sam and Minnie, had any other children besides Chico and Harpo, who had been born before him. Very matter-of-factly, Groucho said, “Yes. Their first son was Manfred. He died before I was born, when he was three years old.” Hector and I exchanged a startled look: Manfred? “What did he die of?” Hector wanted to know. “Old age,” Groucho quipped, and then returned to his book. (page 179)

The induction ceremony started off with George Jessel reciting his perennial ode to Old Glory. Then George Fenneman introduced Groucho by saying that a recent poll taken at a New York university revealed that the three men admired most by incoming freshmen were Jesus Christ, Albert Schweitzer and Goucho Marx. Groucho shuffled up to the microphone, apologized for Jesus’ not being able to make it and then thanked the Hall of Fame “for this award – shabby as it is.” (page 221)

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog!🐶🐶🐶🐾🐾🐾 on February 1, 2021 at 1:45 am

    When The Towering Inferno came up in conversation, Groucho said, “Irwin Allen knows how to make lousy pictures that people want to see.
    Irwin Allen had the most creative and brilliant mind in entertainment in the 1960’s/70’s. His TV shows were iconic, and to this day are shown multiple times per day, every day of the year, and I still watch them, ageless (Lost in Space comes on at 12 midnight on Saturday Nights on MeTV):

    1- Lost in Space
    2- Time Tunnel
    3- Land of the Giants
    4- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

    Need I say MORE 👍👍 Oh-he also did a number of those disaster films that were popular in the 1970’s- but the one that caught my eye on the TV onscreen programming just a day or two ago was “The Swarm”; about killer bees. I noticed it because it stars one of my all-time favorite actions-Richard Widmark. I have it set to record when it does play, I forgot what channel it will play on though…. Look forward to seeing The Swarm”

    Reply

  2. Posted by MJF on February 1, 2021 at 7:52 am

    I know someone who is an old movie buff, knows every set, camera angle, lighting effect, actor, all of it. These people are beyond me but they sure make it interesting to watch some of these old flicks. Fun stuff for sure.

    Reply

  3. Posted by PS Drone on February 1, 2021 at 10:52 am

    In Hollywood “nobody knows anything.” That is exactly how I feel when lectured to by the likes of Meathead, Kathy Griffin, Bette Midler, on and on. Trump is an idiot and Nazi says the cognoscenti who, in actuality, know nothing. Just look at whom they elected.

    Reply

  4. Posted by MJF on February 1, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Groucho could have done this joke but it was Rodney Dangerfield;
    “So I go to the doctor and the doctor says “you’re sick”
    I say “Hey doc want a second opinion”
    Doc says “Okay, you’re ugly too”
    I get no respect.

    Reply

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