Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by sheer honesty, or you think me having my own opinions is "being negative", then this is not the place for you, and I suggest you leave and head elsewhere. I call a spade a spade, and I don't sugarcoat anything.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Old Breed

Well, I want to discuss an old breed that has been extinct since the 1960s. The last of their kind has died out, never to be seen again. It is called the comedy team. We all remember them. Well, those of us who grew up watching old movies as I have. It's a very sad end to something that was so successful in the 1930s and 1940s. A very sad end!! Most of the old comedy teams are now passed away, since Bob Hope's death in 2003. I always did like Bob Hope. I still do in fact. I still remember writing to him, asking if he'd like to exchange pics. He gladly complied. He gave me a pic of himself, complete with autograph, and I sent him my pic. I actually wrote to him a few times before stopping. One letter he sent me, where he said I was cute, was unfortunately lost in a flood in 2000. But the thing I wanted most from him was his autographed pic, which I kept in my old photo album. The letter faced nothing but the fury of jealous rages by the kids in my school at that time, so I got to a point where I just didn't take it to school anymore. I kept it in a box, and unfortunately it and everything in that box was destroyed in the flood that struck our house. After Hope died in 2003, I started thinking about that letter and wishing I had kept it in a safer place like I did his picture. I even used to write to Red Skelton, he told me I was very sweet and he enjoyed hearing from me. I still have that letter. He never did send me an autographed pic like Bob Hope did, but his autograph is on that letter. Red Skelton was funny!! To say the least!! He too passed away in 1997. I used to have one of his old radio shows recorded on audio cassette, and unfortunately that too was destroyed in the flood!!!

Ma recently introduced me to a site that has all kinds of old radio talk shows, and I've been going crazy downloading them!! She recorded some for me that has Lucille Ball, Gayle Gordon, and some other guy who played her husband (not Desi Arnaz). It's funny, I got to hear it, but it isn't the same as I Love Lucy. It's supposed to be the radio version of I Love Lucy from the early 1940s. They are funny, but it's not the same. I personally can't even imagine I Love Lucy without Desi Arnaz!! Some of the funniest things ever said on that program were said by Arnaz in Spanish!! Reminds me so much of my father when he used to yell at us in Spanish!! The funniest things were when Arnaz combined both Spanish and English words in the same sentence. LOL!!!

Well, here's a pretty little-known fact, Bob Hope was actually briefly a part of a comedy team, with Bing Crosby. Most of their movies though were them being On The Road To somewhere. They were traveling to Morocco, Utopia, Singapore and Zanzibar. I love Bob Hope, but Bing Crosby never appealed to me at all, except for his singing. I've only seen On The Road to Morocco, which I thought was cute.

Sing a song of Singapore.

My most favorite comedy team of all were the Marx Brothers. I could sit here and write a novel covering my years of being a Marx Brothers fan! I've been a fan since about 1983. That was actually the year I discovered Harpo Marx. He made me become a Marx Brothers fan. I still remember the first night I saw him, it was on a program that came on back then called You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. It was in September of 1983, I have the whole story in a mini-diary. I was just a kid back then, but I had actually begun to wise up at that age! I was watching the show with my ma and pa, it was after I had a shower and washed my hair, ma was sitting on the sofa and I was sitting on the coffee table while ma was brushing my hair (I had looooong hair back then too! That was the only way she could brush it all). I was both reading a magazine and watching the television at the same time. And when I saw Harpo approaching the stage, blending in with the guests who were walking out, he had such a big smile on his face and was so cute, it made me squeal "oh he's soooooo CUTE!!!!!" That moment led to a fascination for all the Marx Brothers that has lasted to this day. From that night on, I became a faithful tuner to You Bet Your Life. My interest in the Marx Brothers were also what paved the way for me in gaining interest in all old comedy teams and movie stars, including Bob Hope. The Marx Brothers were one of the best comedy teams that ever lived! And Harpo was cute like no one else was. That was actually only a costume, outside the costume he was actually bald. They were always billed as Harpo, Groucho, Chico and Zeppo. And here's another odd tidbit, there was a 5th brother named Gummo, who was never in the movies. He prefered to live his life a traveling salesman. He was called Gummo (real name was Milton) because of the gum shoes he used to wear that were actually quite popular back then. Apparently they were the "Doc Martins" of the 1920s and 1930s. Chico was an actual 'ladie's man'. More so actually than Harpo. In the beginning, his name was actually spelled "Chicko" because he used to chase the chicks (girls) backstage. But they changed it to plain "Chico" and he developed the Italian accent he always used in their films. His real name was Leonard, and he passed away in 1961. Harpo's name was the most obvious, because he played the harp! He taught himself to do that too! Much like how Garry Beers taught himself to play the bass guitar. Like Garry, Harpo was also very talented!! But here is another little-known fact, Harpo's real name from birth was Adolf, which he had changed later on to Arthur during WW2 because of his hatred for Adolf Hitler. Even out of costume, Harpo was a handsome man!! He married the woman of his dreams, Susan Fleming, one of the most beautiful women in movies at that time, and they stayed married until Harpo passed in 1964. Susan herself passed in 2001. I remember e-mailing their son Bill, who is still around, and used to have his own website. He wrote back to me too, quite faithfully. Now, he is a jazz musician.

Marx Brothers prior to Duck Soup.

The Marx Brothers after Duck Soup.

Next to Harpo, Groucho is one of the most popular of the Marx Brothers. I guess Harpo was simply cuter and funnier than Groucho Marx was!! Everyone thinks Groucho got his name from the fact that he always insulted everyone, like Oscar the grouch on Sesame Street. But that is not so. Groucho actually named himself that after these so-called "grouch-bags" that he used to carry. The story was he went off on his own as a child and hopped a train to another part of the country. All he had with him was this grouch-bag that had all his clothes and sandwiches tucked in. That's how he got the name. His real name was Julius, and he was one of the younger Marx Brothers. He passed away at the ripe old age of 87 in 1977. He too was quite a handsome man if you could look past his over sized moustache and eyebrows. He did have all that lovely, black, wavy hair!!!! I'd have fallen in love with him if only I had been old enough!!! Of course he didn't have that kind of hair when he passed on. The last and youngest of the Marx Brothers was Zeppo, whose real name was Herbert. He only made the first 5 pictures with his brothers, but he did help produce some others of theirs. Even though in his movie appearances, he seemed like a sweet, innocent man who would never hurt a flea, he was actually a very tough man! And he did do some professional fighting in his career. He was the only one of the brothers who always went on stage without any major make-up. He too was a very handsome man! He had nice muscles anyway. After 1933's Duck Soup, Zeppo decided he didn't want to act in movies anymore, so he quit. He had always acted as the agent for his brothers, and when he quit, they had to move on to a different studio and use a different agent. Zeppo passed away in 1979.

Check out those muscles on Zeppo (second from left)!!!

My second most favorite comedy team is the 3 Stooges. They went through some dramatic changes, much like the Marx Brothers, only considerably more dramatic. They started off with Moe, Larry and Curly. Curly was the fat guy we all remember who was always acting more nutty than the other guys. He always "whooped" and "nyuked" and even barked and growled. LOL! My favorite little thing he did was when he growled. Sometimes I find myself mimicking his growling when I get ticked off. But that's only because I'd been watching them too much! When he was younger, Curly was too quite a nice-looking man. I have no pics, but I've seen some pics of him before he became a stooge. Moe was the serious one, always smacking the others first. You know they actually did smack each other, it wasn't just sound effects. Curly was on for a long time. I think until about 1949 or 1948? Then he was taken over by another man named Shemp. Shemp was only on for a few years. He suddenly got a major heart attack and died in 1955, actually right in the middle of filming one of their short episodes. After that, another stooge took his place named Curly Joe, who was not the same as the original Curly. It was at that point, they slowed down in filming their TV shorts, and started doing movies. One of my favorites was Snow White and the Three Stooges.

The original Stooges.

With Shemp.

Curly Joe DeRita.

Laurel and Hardy also did a lot of shorts like the Three Stooges. I liked them because Laurel was the calm, more serious guy, while Hardy was the skinny, whimpering buffoon. Especially when Laurel smacked him. It was funny. I've seen some of their shorts and thought they were out of this World!! But I haven't seen any since I was about 12 years old. I don't know what happened. Have they been banned? Or is it just that no TV stations play many old movies and shorts anymore? It's been so long since I watched a Laurel and Hardy episode I almost forgot all about them. But I do remember it was Hardy's whimpering that made the shows so hysterical!

"Take a card!"

The last team I want to discuss is Abbott and Costello. We all know Abbott was the tall, straight guy and Costello was the short, dumpy, comical man. Abbott used to smack him a lot too. It seems all comedy teams made their success by slapping each other a lot! It all got started I think with the Keystone Cops. I think Abbott and Costello also did a lot of talk radio, comic-style. I've heard some of their shows. Costello was famous for his "Hey Babbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!" which I can say has been characterized a lot in cartoons as well. Even the cartoons that mimicked them were as funny as the original people. His long calling of his buddy Abbott was usually followed by some kind of complaint. Listening to his whiny, squeaky voice up against Abbott's voice which sounded more like he belonged on a news program forecasting the weather is what made this comedy team so hilarious!!! I know Costello died in 1959 of a heart attack. I even read the story of how he actually died. He had a heart attack and was hospitalized. Just when it looked like he was going to recover, he wanted to have a cherry ice cream soda. So one was given to him. He took one sip and said "That was the best cherry soda I ever tasted!" Then layed down, closed his eyes and died right then. Boy! When I go, I hope too it's with the sweet, soothing taste of a cherry ice cream soda in my mouth!!! I'd like that!!

"Hey Babbat! This article is almost over!"

Well, those are the biggest comedy teams I can remember, but we don't have these teams anymore. The closest things we have now to resembling the old fashioned comedy teams is TV sitcoms that present families in them. Or music videos. Not quite the same thing. The old fashioned comedy teams are now an extinct breed. Just like many extinct species, may never be seen again. It's a sad fact. I guess nobody these days wants to team up with the same people and make movies like they used to anymore. Which is a dirty shame!! Shoot! Even music videos are becoming extinct!! Unless you're a serious night-owl like me. But during the day, all MTV does is reality programs. I think MTV and VH1 has everything backwards! They should do the music videos during the day and broadcast the reality shows at night. That's why their channels were set up, to do music videos, seems they have got away from that now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember you and the Marx Brothers a long time ago. You use to write down on everything "I love Harpo Marx"
I know it really is sad that we dont have people like that now. Even in the 80s, we didnt have comedy teams, but we did have celebrities with charactor such as Mr. T, Michael Jackson, Madonna (in their youth), and many others whose certain features made them memorable. Even Max Headroom was an icon of the 80s, and of course we cant forget President Reagan, who was the only president that started out as a movie actor.
The 90s however, thats when everything changed. The problem with todays celebs is that everybody looks, acts and dresses the same way, there is no distinctive features that seperates them from others. This is the period of dull and boring. If I had been in Hollywood in the 80s, I really would know who was a movie star because I would have recognized them right off. Nowadays, I wouldnt know a movie star if I sat next to one on the bus. Everybody looks alike these days.
Alot of things have become a dying breed. I just wish reality shows would die, and todays sitcoms are really not that funny. I miss the days when sitcoms ruled the TV scenes. I remember when MTV used to be nothing but music videos and a few game shows. Now they are nothing but reality shows and it really sucks now.
The ugly truth is that there is nothing we can do about it. It really sucks, but thats the way things are these days. I will go along with the music world, but the TV world is entirely different.