How Groucho Marx endorsed everything from peanut butter to razor blades to vodka

Vintage Groucho Marx endorsements

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Groucho Marx for Personna blades (1946)

Starring in “A Night in Casablanca,” a David L Loew Production, released thru United Artists

1: Next to a good 5 cent cigar, what this country needs is a great 10 cent razor blade…

2: Luckily, it’s got one — Personna! Personna’s so sharp it could take the beard off my jokes.

3: No longer am I a Groucho when shaving, because Personna gives me the smoothest closest shaves I ever had!

4: Why it makes sense to pay 10 cents for this blade:

Sure, Personna costs more. But Personna is a precision instrument — worth many times 10 cents in shaving ease and comfort.

Personna is made of premium steel… hollow-ground for extra keenness… rust-resistant for longer use. Spend a little more to get Personna… and get a lot more shaving comfort!

Groucho Marx for Personna blades (1946)

Vintage Groucho Marx ad for Skippy Peanut Butter 1960-gigapixel-width-1600px

1955 Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes vintage

Groucho Marx for Smirnoff 1965

Groucho Marx vintage ad for GE Lightbulbs from 1946

Groucho Marx vintage ads for Old Gold cigarettes

Vintage Groucho Marx ad for ABC radio

Groucho dies (1977)

By Robert Kistler (Los Angeles Times) / August 20th, 1977

Groucho Marx, the cigar-chomping comedian who made two generations of Americans laugh with his leering grin and bushy eyebrows, died Friday night at the age of 86.

Officials at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, where Marx had been hospitalized for the last two months with a respiratory ailment, said he died at 10:25 p.m. EDT of pneumonia.

With him when he died were his son Arthur, daughter-in-law Lois, and grandson Andrew. His longtime companion Erin Fleming left about 15 minutes earlier.

The most famous and long-lasting of the Marx Brothers had lapsed into critical condition early Friday. He slipped in and out of consciousness and family and friends were called to his bedside.

It was the second death of a major American entertainment figure in less than a week, following by three days the death of rock ‘n’ roll star Elvis Presley from a heart attack in Memphis at age 42.

A titan of modern comedy, Groucho Marx had a career of more than 65 years in vaudeville, films, radio and television.

An eye-rolling, moustachioed comic with a lope, a leer and an inevitable cigar, Julius Henry Marx, his real name, was the master of the ad lib, the squelch, the snappy comeback.

With his brothers he made 14 films that have become comedy classics.

But perhaps his greatest fame came as emcee of the radio and television quiz show, “You Bet Your Life”, in which the quiz was a kind of afterthought to Groucho’s tart and biting wit as he wisecracked with contestants and the show’s straight man-announcer, George Fenneman.

Born Oct. 2, 1890 in New York City, Groucho was the third of five sons of a poor, immigrant tailor and a mother with show business in her blood.

His first venture into show business came in 1905 when he landed a $4-a-week singing job with a trio that later left him stranded in Colorado.

His mother then organized a singing troupe that eventually came to consist solely of her sons Chico (Leonard), Harpo (Arthur), Zeppo (Herbert) and Groucho.

But the fleeting nature of the adolescent male voice prompted a change from song to a loosely-structured comedy act, which played in many tank towns before the brothers struck success.

“I always had a real fear of poverty,” Groucho said as a wealthy man in his 80s. “It came from years of living in boarding houses, bad hotels, bum clothes and cheap shoes.”

But all that began to change in 1919 when the Marx Brothers took their act to the Palace Theater in New York, the citadel of big-time vaudeville.

They were a hit in New York and later took their act to Europe. When they returned, the brothers had three straight successes in Broadway musical comedies.

In those plays the zany characters who soon would delight movie fans were formed, with Groucho as the quick-quipping charlatan.

With the coming of talkies, Hollywood turned to Broadway for comics who both looked and talked funny.

The first two of the brothers’ madcap films — The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) were adaptations of their Broadway hits.

Groucho moved to Hollywood in 1931 and a string of other movies, such as Monkey Business (1931), Horsefeathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933) followed.

The Marx Brothers’ movies were essentially filmed vaudeville shows but with classic lines, most of them emanating from Groucho. Thus, when a woman in A Day at the Races said she had never been so insulted in her life, Groucho would tell her: “Don’t worry, it’s early yet.”

Groucho, Harpo and Chico (Zeppo dropped out in 1933 and Gummo, whose real name was Milton, never was in the movies) hit their cinematic stride in 1935 with A Night at the Opera — their last movie was Love Happy in 1949.

The films are adversary comedy in which the brothers were zany outsiders intent on deflating stuffed shirts and kicking sacred cows. Virtually every institution and sentiment was playfully debunked, and perhaps for that reason, those movies have won millions of college-age devotees in recent years.

Groucho was considered the most creative comedian of the brothers. But a half dozen movies he made without them — one as recent as 1968 — were undistinguished.

He had also done comedy and variety work in ra- dio in the early days and, in 1947, Groucho began as host of You Bet Your Life. The show began what was to become an 11-year run on television three years later.

The program, recipient of several radio and television awards, centered on Groucho’s often brash, if not abrasive, interviews with a succession of often improbable “contestants.”

True to form, Groucho usually managed to make his guests the foils for his quick wit and sometimes suggestive remarks, the comedian normally spending most of his interview time wisecracking — and eyebrow-wiggling — with the female member of the contestant-team.

The audience loved it and perhaps some of the show’s funniest moments came when Groucho, during a chat with a buxom contestant, would turn to the crowd or camera and say nothing.

He didn’t have to. His eyebrows, leering-sideways glance and flicking cigar said it for him. Re-runs of the show still appear frequently.

In private life, he was a voracious reader and a literate and articulate man who preferred to talk of books and sports rather than show business.

He always regretted his lack of schooling but took pride in the fact that he wrote six books.

After a decade of semi-retirement, Groucho made a series of one-night concert performances in 1972 called “An Evening with Groucho.”

But Marx, who lived in the exclusive Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills, had been in failing health for several years.

And in recent months, he had been the object of a bitter and heavily publicized court dispute between his son, Arthur and Erin Flemin, Marx’s personal manager and constant companion during the past seven years, over conservatorship of his estimated $2.85-million estate.

Last July 27, Los Angeles County Superior Judge Edward Rafeedie — with the comedian’s approval — appointed Marx’s 27-year-old grandson Andrew permanent conservator of Groucho’s personal affairs. Arthur is Andrew’s father.

Marx, who was married three times, was divorced from his third wife in 1969. He was the father of three children and the grandfather of four.

Zeppo is the only one of the Marx Brothers still living.

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