Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dead French in L.A.: Sam "Frenchie" Marx 1933 Father of the Marx Brothers

Samuel Marx, born Simon Marx,[1] (October 23, 1859 – May 10, 1933)[1] was the husband of Minnie Marx, and father of the Marx Brothers.

Life and career

Marx was born in Alsace, France in 1859.[1][2] Due to his place of birth he was known as "Frenchie." He met Minnie in New York where he was working as a dance teacher. They married in 1884 and had 6 sons. Their first son, Manfred, born 1885, died in infancy.[3] The other children were born in 1887, Leonard, 1888, Adolph, 1890, Julius, 1892, Milton and 1901, Herbert.

Marx became a tailor, although not a very good one. He was a talented cook, often convincing the landlord to delay their rent paytime with a good meal.[4] In his show An Evening With Groucho, Groucho reminisces about Sam Marx:[5]

"My father was a tailor, and a very bad one, and Chico was always short of money, and he used to hock my father's shears, so whenever my father made a suit, of course it didn't fit, and the shears would be hanging up in the pawnshop on Ninety-first Street."

Harpo puts the bad tailoring down to the fact that Frenchie never actually took the time to measure a client for a suit, preferring to guess their size. He would then take suits that clients had rejected and travel to New Jersey and sell these door-to-door.

In his last interview, Zeppo joked that his father "was a very bad tailor but he found some people who were so stupid that they would buy his clothes, and so he'd make a few dollars that way for food."[6]

Marx made a cameo appearance in his four sons' film Monkey Business (1931), sitting on top of luggage behind the brothers on the pier as they wave to the First Officer, having slipped off the ship without being arrested as stowaways. Sam Marx died on May 10, 1933, in the Los Angeles home of one of his sons, from complications due to renal failure. He was 73. He is buried in New York.  


1.^ La famille paternelle des Marx Brothers (French)
2.^ "Samuel Marx, Father of Four Marx Brothers of Stage and Screen Fame". The New York Times. 1933-05-12. 
3.^ Stefan Timphus. "The Marx Brothers – Family". 
4.^ Stefan Timphus. "The Marx Brothers – Parents". 
5.^ "An Evening With Groucho Marx (transcript)". 
6.^ The last interview with Zeppo Marx (August 1979)

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