Chico Marx Biography

(American comedian)

Birthday: March 22, 1887 (Aries)

Born In: New York City, New York

Known popularly by the nickname Chico Marx, Leonard Marx was the eldest of the Marx Brothers who gained fame for themselves in the entertainment industry in the initial years of the 20th century. A comedian and actor, he sported a charming yet dim-witted character of the Italian origin in the various acts of the brothers. Not only did he sport a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat to complete the look, he complemented the same with an Italian accent as well. Though Marx spent the better part of his life gambling and womanizing, he was blessed with shrewd and savvy business sense. It was due to his business acumen that the Marx Brothers gained a contract with the MGM and also much profits from their acts. However, he could not manage his own wealth which remained elusive due to his lifelong gambling addiction and penchant for chasing women. Nevertheless, his antic personality drew him a lot of fame and distinction.
Quick Facts

Nick Name: Chico, Chicko, Cheek-oh

Also Known As: Leonard Marx

Died At Age: 74


Spouse/Ex-: Betty Carp (m. 1917–1940), Mary De Vithas (m. 1958–1961)

father: Sam Marx

mother: Minnie Schoenberg Marx

siblings: Groucho Marx, Gummo Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx

children: Maxine Marx

Jewish Actors Actors

Died on: October 11, 1961

place of death: Hollywood, California

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

  • 1

    What instrument did Chico Marx play in the Marx Brothers comedy act?

    Chico Marx played the piano in the Marx Brothers comedy act. He was known for his distinctive style of playing, which often involved improvisation and humorous antics.
  • 2

    What was Chico Marx's real name?

    Chico Marx's real name was Leonard Marx. He was given the nickname "Chico" because of his love for chasing girls, which in Italian slang, "chico" means a womanizer.
  • 3

    What was Chico Marx's role in the Marx Brothers comedy group?

    Chico Marx was known as the "piano-playing con artist" in the Marx Brothers comedy group. He often played the role of a lovable and mischievous character who used his quick wit and charm to outsmart others.
  • 4

    What was Chico Marx's signature catchphrase?

    Chico Marx's signature catchphrase was "Why a Duck?" This phrase became a running gag in the Marx Brothers' films, often used to confuse or humorously respond to other characters.
  • 5

    How did Chico Marx contribute to the success of the Marx Brothers comedy act?

    Chico Marx's musical talents, comedic timing, and unique character roles were instrumental in the success of the Marx Brothers comedy act. He brought a sense of playfulness and charm to the group, complementing the performances of his brothers Groucho and Harpo.
Childhood & Early Life
Chico Marx was born as Leonard Marx in New York City to Sam and Minni Schoenberg Marx. He had a Franco-German Jewish ancestry. His father worked as a tailor.
After the death of the couple’s first son, he became the eldest of the Marx Brothers - others being Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. Since an early age, he took to gambling and was loosely monitored by his parents which only led to intensifying his bad habit.
He spent much of the earnings of his dad and even traded the latter’s scissors to fund his gambling habit. He gambled at the card games, horse and dog racing and various sporting events in the form of betting.
In addition of his gambling habit, he was a compulsive womanizer as well. It was due to this habit that he acquired the name Chico, which actually stood for ‘chicken chasing’
Despite the negative habits, he imbibed the music culture of his maternal family and learned to play several musical instruments, including the piano.
When young, he got jobs for playing the piano at several clubs. On several occasions, he played piano in more than one place at a single time. However, he substituted his brother who looked like him at the job place.
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He started of his career along with his brother as a musical group on the vaudeville circuit. However, the failure of the musical group to catch the attention of the audience led the brothers to jeer at the people. It was while heckling that they discovered their panache for comedy.
Soon the Marx Brothers switched to comedy with him adopting the persona of an Italian dimwit. He gave substance to his character by accentuating it with a curly-haired wig, Tyrolean cap and completing it with an Italian accent.
Marx Brothers started off by presenting their sketch comedy on the vaudeville circuit which was followed by shows in Broadway and radio performances. It was success at the shows that led them to take a plunge into the big cinema.
The Marx Brothers released their first movie, ‘The Cocoanuts’ which was followed by a couple of others, such as ‘Animal Cracker’s, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Horse Feathers’. The films fared well under the Paramount Pictures.
It was the release and failure of their next film, Duck Soup which led them to sign a contract with MGM. This was possible due to his contact with Hollywood heavyweight Irving Thalberg.
Following this, they came up with the classic ‘Night at the Opera’ which was followed by ‘A Day at the Races’. They even came up with the film, ‘Go West’, in which he attempts to pacify an Indian chief whom Groucho has befooled.
Interestingly in most of the films that the brothers released, his character seemed to be genuinely Italian. Some of these films include, ‘The Big Store’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘The Cocoanuts’.
The Marx Brothers came up with their last film, ‘Love Happy’ in which he played the piano and violin duet with Mr Lyons.
After the death of his mother, he took up as the manager of the group. Though he brought in good deals for the group but his flamboyant ways and gambling habits led his brothers to take over the finances. He was reportedly put on a fixed allowance.
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It was due to his gambling habit that even after his brothers retired from show business, he continued to work in order to pay off his debts that he incurred while gambling.
After the retirement of his brothers he led the band, Chico Marx Orchestra in the 1930s and 1940s of which Mel Torme was the lead singer. He even performed at the vaudeville houses where he began his career.
It was in 1946 that the Marx Brothers reunited for the film, ‘A Night in Casablanca’ in order to support his bottom line after he had filed for bankruptcy. The money earned from the film secured him a monthly allowance on which he stayed for the rest of his life.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married twice in his lifetime. The first was to Betty Karp in 1917. The couple was blessed with a daughter Maxine the following year. The alliance, however, was plagued by his adultery. The two finally broke up.
In 1958, he went into the wedlock for a second time to Mary De Vithas.
Three years later, he breathed his last due to arteriosclerosis at his Hollywood home. He has been entombed in a crypt in the Freedom Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California
Facts About Chico Marx
Chico Marx was known for his quick wit and comedic timing both on and off the screen, often engaging in playful banter with his brothers and fellow actors.
Chico had a talent for playing the piano by ear, incorporating his musical skills into many of the Marx Brothers' comedy routines.
Chico had a reputation as a skilled negotiator and businessman, successfully managing the Marx Brothers' finances and business affairs throughout their careers.
Chico was an avid gambler and card player, known for his love of poker and frequently participating in high-stakes games with friends and colleagues.
Chico had a deep love of animals, particularly dogs, and was known to rescue and care for stray animals throughout his life.

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