Birthday: February 25, 1901
Died At Age: 78
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Herbert Manfred Marx, Herbert Marx
Born in: New York City, New York, United States
Famous as: Comedian
Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Sinatra (m. 1959–1973), Marion Benda (m. 1927–1954)
father: Sam Marx
mother: Minnie Marx
children: Minnie Schönberg, Sam Frenchie Marx
Died on: November 30, 1979
Cause of Death: Cancer
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Who was Zeppo Marx?
Herbert Manfred Marx, popularly known by his stage name Zeppo Marx, was an actor, comedian, theatrical agent, and a talented engineer of American origin. The youngest of the famous Marx Brothers, he was truly a multi-talented personality. He was the most handsome of all the Marx brothers and mostly played the role of the straight man. He also portrayed romantic figures often but his talent in comedy went underappreciated. Zeppo was blessed with an excellent tenor voice and contributed to vocals in many of films by the Marx Brothers. In the film, ‘Horse Feathers’, he was appreciated for the song ‘Everybody Says I Love You’. Zeppo left his comedic career after the film, ‘Duck Soup’ and went on to build a second career for himself as an inventor. He founded a company called Marman Products Co. of Inglewood and designed the ‘Marman Clamp’ that has plenty of applications in the aerospace and aircraft industry. Zeppo’s invention of a wristband for cardiac patients for monitoring pulse rate was another one of his truly great inventions. As a result of his innovations and acumen, he was able to build a fortune worth millions.
Childhood & Early Life
Zeppo was born as Herbert Manfred Marx to Sam ‘Frenchie’ Marx and Minnie Schonberg Marx in Manhattan, New York City on February 25, 1901.He was a first-generation American and was of German Jewish and French descent as his father was a native of France while his mother was from Germany. Zeppo’s father worked as a tailor. He had four brothers, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx.
There are different stories regarding the origin of the nickname or the stage name of Herbert Manfred Marx. According to some sources, his father called him ‘Zep’ and it became Zeppo gradually. In his ‘Carnegie Hall Concert’ in 1972, Groucho claimed that the name came from the Zeppelin airship. In 2011, Barbara Sinatra, Zeppo’s ex-wife repeated the same in her book, ‘Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank’. Harpo, on the other hand, had written a different theory about this.
The four elder Marx brothers formed the popular family comedy act The Marx Brothers. As Zeppo was the youngest, he grew up watching his brothers’ works. When one of them couldn’t perform due to illness or any other unavoidable issue, Zeppo easily understudied them and kept the show running.
He was also blessed with good engineering skills and was responsible for keeping the family car running when they were busy in touring in early days.
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Zeppo Marx started appearing as a romantic lead and as a straight man after one of his brothers, Gummo, left the family act in 1919. He traveled with his elder brothers Groucho, Chico, and Harpo in vaudeville in the early 1920s.
The Marx Brothers gained national attention with ‘I’ll Say She Is’, a musical comedy in 1924. This was followed by the long running hit show, ‘The Cocoanuts’ (1925-28). The shows earned them stardom and massive popularity.
In 1925, Zeppo was featured in a minor solo role in a comedy named ‘A Kiss in the Dark’. The brothers also made ‘Humorisk,’ a comedy that was never released and is now considered a lost film.
Some people did not find Zeppo funny enough. While some of his brothers felt that he was the funniest of all, Groucho felt the team was funnier without Zeppo.
Zeppo mostly played the straight man in ‘The Marx Brothers’ movies for Paramount Pictures and got involved in classic comedy roles occasionally. He replaced his elder brother Groucho in the movie ‘Animal Crackers’ that was released in 1930. Groucho couldn’t perform in that show as he had to have a surgery at that time and Zeppo saved the show. Zeppo was also part of films like ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Dark Soup’.
Zeppo played a vital role as Ruth Hall’s love interest in ‘Monkey Business’ which was released in 1931. In the year, 1932, he starred in the film, ‘Horse Feathers’ with Thelma Todd and the other Marx Brothers.
After playing small parts in the first five movies featuring the Marx Brothers, Zeppo realized that his talent and time were getting wasted in the entertainment field. To utilize his potential to its full extent, Zeppo left the group in 1933 in order to explore other venues.
Zeppo joined his elder brother Gummo in running a talent agency as an agent. In 1941, he founded his own company, ‘Marman Products’ which made clamping devices named ‘Marman Clamps’. His company made a motorcycle, the ‘Marman Twin’ as well. He also worked as a citrus farmer and commercial fisherman during his business career.
As Zeppo Marx was not satisfied with his comedic career, he founded his own company, Marman Products Co. of Inglewood, California, later known as the ‘Aeroquip Company’.
He held a patent for his invention of a wristband for cardiac patients which monitored their pulse rate and gave off an alarm in case of any abnormalities. He invented a therapeutic pad that delivered moist heat to a patient as well. His business ventures made Zeppo a multimillionaire.
Zeppo Marx was twice married. He and his first wife Marion Benda got married in 1927. They adopted two sons, Thomas and Timothy. They got divorced in 1954, and after five years, Zeppo tied the knot with Barbara Blakeley. Barbara had a son from her previous marriage named Bobby Oliver. Zeppo wanted to give his surname to Bobby but Bobby’s father was against it.
Zeppo was a possessive husband by nature. Barbara faced many issues due to his controlling behavior and the couple got divorced in 1973. Barbara later married Frank Sinatra.
After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1978, Marx sold his home and spent his last days with Barbara Blakeley’s family. He died of the disease in Rancho Mirage, California on November 30, 1979. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.