Further excerpts from The Groucho Letters:
Feb. 1942. To Arthur Sheekman:
Had an offer from Berlin (Irving, not Hitler) to star in a Music Box revue but that would mean the black moustache again and I’m ducking it as long as it is economically feasible.
Jan.1951 to Howard Hughes:
Dear Mr.Hughes, ……..I wonder if you could spare a few moments to release a picture that was made some years ago involving Jane Russell, Frank Sinatra and your correspondent. The name of the picture, if memory serves, is “It’s Only Money”…….
I am not a young man any more, Mr. Hughes, and before I shuffle off this mortal coil, if you could see your way clear to pry open your strong box and send this minor masterpiece whizzing through the film exchanges of America, you would not only have earned my undying gratitude but that of the United Nations, the popcorn dealers of America and three RKO stockholders…….
“it’s Only Money” was made by RKO in late 1948 and released in 1951 as DOUBLE DYNAMITE . ( RKO was purchased at the time by Howard Hughes and all production was shut down for a time after the completion of Double Dynamite. Apparently Hughes wasn’t happy with the film and shelved till 1951 when the title change was made.
I have solved the television problem by having a remote control installed on the ugly box. As soon as the first word of the commercial is heard, bang goes the little switch and the idiot barker bellowing the virtues of Odorono, Lifeguard tubes,Mohawk carpets or Halo shampoo is silenced into instant oblivion.
Of course it would be embarrassing if my sponsor should get wind of this device, but they are so busy in Detroit converting from automobiles to five passenger cannons that I think I can continue to play with my luck.
June, 1945: Replying to some questions from the New York Herald Tribune:
Your question, ‘what about your public – where has it been?” Those of our fans who are still alive are temporarily marking time and peering with jaundiced eyes at Abbott and Costello, Danny Kaye and the rest of those current whippersnappers who are frantically trying to snatch the bread from the mouths of three lovable comedians.”
Oct.1950. To Harry Kurnitz (writer):
I am going to the Bogarts tonight for dinner with the customary uneasy state of mind. Bogey, as you know, lives on a steep hill and when a little high ( I’m not referring to the hill )thinks nothing of shoving a guest down a mountainside.
So, if you never hear from me again and you are interested, with the aid of a helicopter and an Indian trapper, you may eventually stumble over my body in some lonesome ravine.
I couldn’t find a photo of Groucho and Bogie but here’s one of Groucho with Ethel Barrymore and Lauren Bacall at a 1951 Xmas party at the Bogarts.
March 1965. To Norman Krasna.
On the Hollywood Palace I sang ‘Hooray for Captain Spaulding’ and did a scene from “Animal Crackers” with Margaret Dumont. She was terribly nervous, but good. Two days later she died. It’s kind of ironical that she should have done her last show with me.
The Hollywood Palace show from 1965 is available on You Tube.
A biography of Margaret Dumont (1882- 1965) is due out in October, 2022.
April 1946. To Time Magazine:
I was born during a volcanic eruption in one of the banana countries in Central America. …..at the age of three an utter stranger apprenticed me to a basket weaver in Guatemala. I soon learned to weave with such dexterity that, by the time my second teeth arrived, I was known throughout the village as the basket child of Guatemala .
After I was run out of Guatemala , I met two other fellows named,I believe, Harpo and Chico. After considerable bickering, they convinced me that America, softened up by an excess of rationing, could be persuaded to swallow another dose of Casablanca – this one to be called “A Night in Casablanca.”
Well, we made the picture and that’s that. The point is that Harpo and Chico are brothers but they are both strangers to me…….
A biography of Harpo Max will be published this month, July 2022.
Harpo was married to Susan Fleming from 1936 till his death in 1964. Susan was a former Ziegfeld girl and Paramount player.
I was interested to read that Groucho loved Gilbert and Sullivan.
In 1960, at the age of 70, he took on the role of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in THE MIKADO.
And he played it straight. Although a truncated version for the Bell Telephone Hour, it had a stellar cast – Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, Dennis King ( as The Mikado).
The whole show is available on dvd and there is a clip of Groucho and Helen Traubel ( as Katisha) on Y.T. It’s fun!