Freed from the shackles of MGM, the Marx Brothers had considered The Big Store their farewell movie. But in 1945, they pooled their resources and formed a one-time production company, Loma Vista Films, to finance their own movie, A Night in Casablanca. They also decided to do a tour as they'd done in the glory days. Unfortunately, it didn't pay off at the box office. Night in Casablanca was no Humor Risk (or even a Big Store), but it wasn't enough to justify holding the act together.
Their last movie as somewhat-of-a-team was Love Happy, a movie that was initially conceived by and starring Harpo alone but couldn't get financing until the other two Marxes were dropped into it. Strangely enough, Harpo's 650-page autobiography makes absolutely no mention of a movie intended to showcase him. Groucho never commented on it until nailed in the 1970's; his primary recollection of the movie was seeing Marilyn Monroe sashay past him for the first time.
After that, the Marxes did their own things, occasionally having semi-reunions on TV--most notably at the end of G.E. Theater's "The Incredible Jewel Robbery" (a half-hour show starring Harpo and Chico, with Groucho doing a cameo at the end). A TV pilot titled "Deputy Seraph," with Chico and Harpo as angels answering to their superior, Groucho--slightly similar in concept to the much later series "Touched by an Angel"--got to the filming stage before being postponed due to Chico's worsening health.
Chico died in 1961 of arteriosclerosis. Harpo suffered a series of heart attacks, and a bypass surgery proved fatal for him in 1964. Groucho lived on and received the lion's share of recognition when the Marx Brothers' work was revived to new, enthusiastic audiences in the 1960's. But a stroke in the '70s seemed to dull some of his senses and his humor--the LP of his 1972 Carnegie Hall concert betrays a gravelly voice and an occasionally derailed train of thought. He died of pneumonia in 1977, just four months after the death of Gummo (news which was kept from Groucho so as not to worsen his condition). Zeppo died of lung cancer in 1979.
Happily, their superb movies remain, and they are now on DVD for old and new fans to continue enjoying. "Because we are laughed at," Groucho once said, "I don't think people understand how essential we are to their sanity." With the graver forces in life trying to take over the world, people are understanding that more than ever.
Click here to go to our reviews of:
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Love Happy (1949)
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