Here’s a lovely short silent film showing Groucho Marx and family on a typical day in 1933 outside their home at 701 N. Hillcrest Drive in Beverly Hills. These are not ‘home movies’ per se–this was clearly staged, shot and edited so as to make a film in the style of the silent comedies which, by then, had been obsolete for five years. We see Groucho, his wife Ruth, son Arthur and daughter Miriam. They’re all–except Ruth–in the process of leaving the house for work/school. The jokes are mild to none–the whole thing has a wistful quality to it, enhanced by the very lovely solo piano score. We can assume that this is several years before Groucho, while on a transatlantic cruise, caught Ruth in the arms of the ship’s dance instructor which led to the end of their marriage in the early 1940s (as recounted by Arthur Marx in ‘Son Of Groucho’). Her alcoholism is also sited as a reason for their breakup and Groucho was reliably rude on this subject for the rest of his life, showing no mercy to the mother of two of his three children. About ten years ago I saw Frank Ferrante’s terrific one-man Groucho show for the fifth or sixth time and Miriam Marx was in the audience, a woman in her 80s who seems to have survived–with difficulty–the pain of being a child of Groucho. All of that is in the future, though, when we look at this glimpse of the Marx family in a Beverly Hills whose palm trees are much shorter than they are now.


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