Happy Birthday Doris Duke

Today is Doris Duke’s 102nd birthday.  She was in the newspapers from the day she was born, her every move chronicled and scrutinized.  Her art collection, the house she built in Hawaii, her love life, she did everything large. If Susan Sarandon and Lauren Bacall star in movies about your life, you are doing something right.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Doris Duke
OCCUPATION: Art Collector, Philanthropist
BIRTH DATE: November 22, 1912
DEATH DATE: October 28, 1993
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Tobacco heiress Doris Duke was the only child of American tobacco baron, James Duke. When she was born, the press called her the “million dollar baby.”

Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist.

Duke was the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman, widow of Dr. William Patterson Inman. At his death in 1925, the elder Duke’s will bequeathed the majority of his estate to his wife and daughter,[3] along with $17,000,000, in two separate clauses of the will, to The Duke Endowment he had created in 1924. The total value of the estate was not disclosed, but was estimated variously at $60,000,000 and $100,000,000.

Duke spent her early childhood at Duke Farms, her father’s 3,000-acre (12 km2) estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Due to ambiguity in James Duke’s will, a lawsuit was filed to prevent auctions and outright sales of real estate he had owned; in effect, Doris Duke successfully sued her mother and other executors to prevent the sales. One of the pieces of real estate in question was a Manhattan mansion at 1 East 78th Street which later became the home of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

She was presented to society as a debutante in 1930, aged 18, at a ball at Rough Point, the family residence in Newport, Rhode Island. She received large bequests from her father’s will when she turned 21, 25, and 30; she was sometimes referred to as the “world’s richest girl”. Her mother died in 1962, leaving her jewelry and a coat.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Georgia O’Keeffe

“I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

Name:  Georgia O’Keeffe
Occupation:  Painter
Birth Date:  November 15, 1887
Death Date:  March 6, 1986
Education:  Art Institute of Chicago
Place of Birth:  Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Place of Death:  Santa Fe, New Mexico

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Georgia O’Keeffe is a 20th century American painter best known for her flower canvases and southwestern landscapes.

Artist and painter Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Known for her striking flower paintings and other captivating works, O’Keeffe was one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century. She took to making art at a young age and went to study at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1900s. Later, while living in New York, she studied with such artists as William Merritt Chase as a member of the Art Students League.

O’Keeffe found an advocate in famed photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. He showed her work to the public for the first time in 1916 at his gallery 291. Married in 1924, the two formed a professional and personal partnership that lasted until his death in 1946. Some of her popular works from this early period include Black Iris (1926) and Oriental Poppies (1928). Living in New York, she translated some of her environment onto the canvas with such paintings as Shelton Hotel, N.Y. No. 1 (1926).

After frequently visiting New Mexico since the late 1920s, O’Keeffe moved there for good in 1946 after her husband’s death and explored the area’s rugged landscapes in many works. This environment inspired such paintings as Black Cross, New Mexico (1929) and Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931).

O’Keeffe died on March 6, 1986, in Santa Fe, Mexico. As popular as ever, her works can be seen at museums around the world as well as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Happy Birthday Kay Thompson

This week is the 105th birthday of Kay Thompson.  I mean, have you seen that “Swing Them Bells” scene in Funny Face?  It is everything.  Or that other other “Think Pink” scene?  She is channeling her best Diana Vreeland. The world is a better place because Kay Thompson was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Born: Catherine Louise Fink November 9, 1909 St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died: July 2, 1998 (aged 88) New York City, New York, U.S.

Catherine Louise Fink was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1909, the second of the four children of Leo George Fink, an Austrian-born pawnbroker and jeweler, and his wife, the former Hattie A. Tetrick. Her siblings were Blanche, Marian, and Leo.

Thompson began her career in the 1930s as a singer and choral director for radio. Her first big break was as a regular singer on The Bing Crosby-Woodbury Show (CBS, 1933–34). This led to a regular spot on The Fred Waring-Ford Dealers Show (NBC, 1934–35) and then, with conductor Lennie Hayton, she co-founded The Lucky Strike Hit Parade (CBS, 1935) where she met (and later married) trombonist Jack Jenney.

In 1943, Thompson signed an exclusive contract with MGM to become the studio’s top vocal arranger, vocal coach, and choral director. She served as main vocal arranger for many of producer Arthur Freed’s MGM musicals and as vocal coach to such stars as Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and June Allyson.

Thompson, who lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, became most notable as the author of the Eloise series of children’s books, which were partly inspired by the antics of her goddaughter Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, but when asked if this was true responded, “I am Eloise”. The four books in the series, illustrated by Hilary Knight, are Eloise (Simon & Schuster, 1955), Eloise in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 1957), Eloise at Christmastime (Random House, 1958) and Eloise in Moscow (Simon & Schuster, 1959). They follow the adventures of the precocious six-year-old girl who lives at The Plaza. All were bestsellers upon release and have been adapted into television projects. She also composed and performed a Top 40 hit song, “Eloise” (Cadence Records, 1956). A fifth book, Eloise Takes a Bawth was posthumously published by Simon & Schuster in 2002, culled from Thompson’s original manuscripts once slated for 1964 publication by Harper & Row. However, at the time, Thompson was burned out on Eloise; she blocked publication and took all but the first book out of print, drastically reducing the income of her collaborator.

She returned to live in New York in 1969. Immediately following the death of Judy Garland, Kay appeared with her goddaughter Liza Minnelli in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (Paramount, 1970). In 1974, Thompson directed a groundbreaking fashion show at the Palace of Versailles featuring performances by Liza Minnelli and the collections of Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Anne Klein.

Happy Birthday Edith Bouvier Beale

Today is the 97th birthday of an original, often imitated, never duplicated, the one and only Edith Bouvier Beale.  By now, everyone has seen the documentary, the musical, the movie, everyone knows her story, and still she remains a truth and guiding light to every misfit I know.  She is one of the most interesting people of the 20th century and definitely one of the most culturally significant.  Watch the documentary soon, it is available on Hulu and other places and remember what it is like to not worry about what others think of you and what it is like to let yourself be it’s truest pure form.  Authentic.  The world was a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss since she has left it.“But you see in dealing with me, the relatives didn’t know that they were dealing with a staunch character and I tell you if there’s anything worse than dealing with a staunch woman… S-T-A-U-N-C-H. There’s nothing worse, I’m telling you. They don’t weaken, no matter what.”

NAME: Edith Bouvier Beale
OCCUPATION: Actress, Model
BIRTH DATE: November 07, 1917
DEATH DATE: c. January 05, 2002
EDUCATION: The Spence School, Miss Porter’s School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Bal Harbor

BEST KNOWN FOR: Edith Bouvier was an American socialite and a first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She is best known as a subject of the documentary film Grey Gardens.

Performer, documentary film subject. Born Edith Bouvier Beale on November 17, 1917, in New York City, as the eldest of Phelan and Edith Ewing Beale’s three children. A first cousin to Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy Onassis, “Little Edie”, as she was known, knew only affluence. The Bouviers earned their fortunes on Wall Street and in law, paving the way for a lifestyle that allowed Little Edie and her two brothers to have a childhood that bounced between Manhattan and the Hamptons. In the early 1920s, Edie’s father moved the family into a new summer home called Grey Gardens, a spectacular 28-room mansion with water views.

Like her mother, a creative type who harbored dreams of becoming a singer, Edie Beale had artistic yearnings. At the age of nine a poem of hers was published in a local New York magazine, spawning a desire to become a writer. Yet her real love, despite her father’s deep objections, was for the stage—something that was almost certainly fueled by her relationship with her mother.

At the age of 11, Edie Beale was taken out of school for two years by Big Edie for what was described as a respiratory illness. Instead of class work, Little Edie tagged along to the movies or the theater with her mother nearly everyday.

Blonde, blue-eyed, and tall, Edie Beale was a beauty, “surpassing even the dark charm of Jacqueline,” recalled her cousin, John H. Davis. In 1934, the same year she attended Miss Porter’s finishing school in Farmington, Connecticut, Edie Beale modeled for Macy’s. Two years later, her debutante party in New York City was covered by The New York Times. She participated in fashion shows in East Hampton, too, and by her early 20s Edie Beale had earned the nickname, “Body Beautiful.” She dated Howard Hughes, and reportedly turned down marriage proposals from John Kennedy’s oldest brother, Joe Jr., and millionaire J. Paul Getty.

little_edie_part_2

As a young adult, Edie Beale took up residence at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, a residential hotel that catered to women who wanted to be actresses or models. As Edie Beale would later tell it, it was a time of opportunity for her. There was more modeling work to pursue and within time, Edie said, movie offers from MGM and Paramount studios.

The limelight, though, would have to wait. By the mid 1930s, Phelan Beale had left Edie’s mother for a younger woman. The couple’s eventual divorce gave Big Edie Grey Gardens, some child support, and not much else. To keep the household going, Edie Ewing Beale leaned on her father for financial assistance and sold family heirlooms.
On her own, without a husband to try and drag her to the Hampton cocktail parties she had no interest in attending in the first place, Big Edie’s singing aspirations only strengthened. She frequented clubs, and even recorded a few songs. In 1942 she showed up late to her son’s wedding, dressed as an opera singer.

Her father, “Major” John Vernou Bouvier, Jr. was appalled and soon cut her out of his will.

Without the money to support her or her house, Edie Ewing Beal’s life at Grey Gardens fell into disrepair. In 1952, at Big Edie’s calling, Little Edie returned home from New York City to take care of her mom. She wouldn’t leave again until Big Edie’s death in 1977.

For the next two decades, Edie Beale and her mother became increasingly reclusive, rarely venturing outside their property. Grey Gardens itself continued to slide downward, too, becoming the domain of stray cats—later estimates would put the count as high as 300—and raccoons, both of which Edie Beale took care to feed on a regular basis. Bills went unpaid and the two women subsided, in part, on cat food. In one memorable photograph, Edie Beale stands in front of a mound of discarded cat food cans measuring several feet in height. The exterior of the property changed as well; unkempt trees, shrubs and vines closed in around the house.

In the fall of 1971 County officials, armed with a search warrant, descended on Grey Gardens. They informed Edie Beale and her mother that their home was “unfit for human habitation” and threatened eviction. The story, and the close family connection the two women had with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, caught fire with the press. The New York Post ran the headline, “Jackie’s Aunt Told: Clean Up Mansion.”

Big Edie and Little Edie railed against the threats, calling the visit by County officials a “raid” and the product of “a mean, nasty Republican town.” “We’re artists against the bureaucrats,” Edie Beale said. “Mother’s French operetta. I dance, I write poetry, I sketch. But that doesn’t mean we’re crazy.” Eventually, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stepped in with her checkbook, paying $25,000 to have the place cleaned up—on the condition that her aunt and cousin could remain in their home.

In the fall of 1973, filmmakers David and Albert Maysles started shooting their documentary on Edie Beale and her mother. The film, which was released in 1975 to wide acclaim, showed a Grey Gardens that had virtually reverted back to its pre-cleanup squalor. But audiences and most critics took to the unique Beales. Amid the trash and the cats, Little Edie paraded around in high heels, dancing in front of the camera as she lamented her missed chances at true fame.

Edie Beale’s style was also a popular part of the film, in particular the improvised head wraps—towels, shirts, and scarves—she used to constantly adorn her head. The coverings weren’t designed for style, but as a way to conceal hair loss from the alopecia she contracted in her early 20s. The effect, though, was a look that earned adulation. Calvin Klein reportedly claimed Little Edie’s look influenced some of his designs, and in 1997 Harper’s Bazaar produced a photo spread that was inspired by Edie Beale’s clothing creations.

Following her mother’s death in February 1977, Edie Beale left Grey Gardens for New York City, where she had a short run as a cabaret singer at a club in Greenwich Village. She sang, danced, and answered questions about her life from the audience. Little Edie brushed aside any notions that she was being exploited. “This is something I’ve been planning since I was 19,” she said. “I don’t care what they say about me—I’m just going to have a ball.”

In 1979 Edie Beale sold Grey Gardens to Washington Post editors Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn for a little more than $220,000 and a promise from the couple to restore it. Eventually, Little Edie relocated to Florida, where she rented an apartment in Bal Harbour. She died there on January 14, 2002. She was 84.

Grey Gardens and the life that Edie Beale and her mother led there, has continued to endure. In recent years a crop of new material about the women has been produced, including a 2006 DVD release of “The Beales of Grey Gardens” featuring more than 90 minutes of cut material from the original Maysles brothers documentary.

In addition, Edie Beal and her mother’s life together inspired a Broadway musical that earned three 2007 Tony awards, as well as a 2009 HBO production starring Drew Barrymore as Little Edie and Jessica Lange as Big Edie. In the end, the 1975 documentary, which in 2003 Entertainment Weekly ranked as one of the top 50 cult films of all time, gave Edie Beale and her mother the kind of fame they’d always longed for.

It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.

Happy Birthday Sara Sherman Wiborg Murphy

Today is the 131st birthday of Sara Sherman Wiborg Murphy, one half of the amazing Jazz Age Lost Generation couple.  I think that I first ‘discovered’ Gerald and Sara Murphy when I was reading a collections of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters.  He and Sara wrote back and forth quite frequently, especially after Zelda’s first trip to the hospital.  I feel in love them while mourned the slow death of letter writing.  No one will ever publish a collection of text messages between anyone, that form of communication is one of the casualties on the other side of the conveniences of all this connectivity.

Copyright Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.

Gerald Clery Murphy (March 25, 1888 – October 17, 1964) born in Boston to the family that owned the Mark Cross Company, sellers of fine leather goods.

Gerald was an esthete from his childhood forward. He was never comfortable in the boardrooms and clubs for which his father was grooming him. He flunked the entrance exams at Yale three times before matriculating, although he performed respectably there. He joined DKE and the Skull and Bones society.[1]:237 He befriended a young freshman named Cole Porter (Yale class of 1913) and brought him into DKE. Murphy also introduced Porter to his friends, propelling him into writing music for Yale musicals.

Copyright Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Sara Sherman Wiborg (November 7, 1883 – October 10, 1975) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the wealthy Wiborg family. Her father, manufacturing chemist Frank Bestow Wiborg, was a self-made millionaire by the age of 40, and her mother was a member of the noted Sherman family, daughter of Hoyt Sherman, and niece to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Raised in Cincinnati, her family moved to Germany for several years when she was a teenager, so her father could concentrate on the European expansion of his company. Upon returning to the United States, the Wiborgs spent most of their time in New York City and, later, East Hampton, where they were one of the first wealthy families to build a home.

In East Hampton Sara Wiborg and Gerald Murphy met when they were both adolescents. Gerald was five years younger than Sara, and for many years they were more familiar companions than romantically attached; they became engaged in 1915, when Sara was 32 years old. Sara’s parents did not approve of their daughter marrying someone “in trade,” and Gerald’s parents were not much happier with the prospect, seemingly because his father found it difficult to approve anything that Gerald did.

After marrying they lived at 50 West 11th Street in New York City, where they had three children. In 1921 they moved to Paris to escape the strictures of New York and their families’ mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage. In Paris Gerald took up painting, and they began to make the acquaintances for which they became famous. Eventually they moved to the French Riviera, where they became the center of a large circle of artists and writers of later fame, especially Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O’Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Prior to their arrival on the French Riviera, the region was experiencing a period when the fashionable only wintered there, abandoning the region during the high summer months. However, the activities of the Murphys fueled the same renaissance in arts and letters as did the excitement of Paris, especially among the cafés of Montparnasse. In 1923 the Murphys convinced the Hotel du Cap to stay open for the summer so that they might entertain their friends, sparking a new era for the French Riviera as a summer haven. The Murphys eventually purchased a villa in Cap d’Antibes and named it Villa America; they resided there for many years. When the Murphys arrived on the Riviera, lying on the beach merely to enjoy the sun was not a common activity. Occasionally, someone would go swimming, but the joys of being at the beach just for sun were still unknown at the time. The Murphys, with their long forays and picnics at La Garoupe, introduced sunbathing on the beach as a fashionable activity.

They had three children, Baoth, Patrick, and Honoria. In 1929, Patrick was diagnosed with tuberculosis. They took him to Switzerland, and then returned to the U.S. in 1934, with Gerald in Manhattan, where he ran Mark Cross, serving as president of the company from 1934 to 1956; he never painted again. Sara settled in Saranac Lake, New York to nurse Patrick, and Baoth and Honoria were put in boarding schools. In 1935, Baoth died unexpectedly of meningitis, a complication of the measles, and Patrick succumbed to TB in 1937.  Archibald MacLeish based the main characters in his play J.B. on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

Later they lived at “The Dunes”, once the largest house in East Hampton, built by Sara’s father on 600 acres (2.4 km2). By 1941, the house proved impossible to maintain, sell or even rent, and the Murphys had it demolished, and moved to the renovated dairy barn.

Copyright Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Gerald died October 17, 1964 in East Hampton. Sara died on October 10, 1975 in Arlington, Virginia.

Nicole and Dick Diver of Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald are widely recognized as based on the Murphys, based on marked physical similarities, although many of their friends, as well as the Murphys themselves, saw as much or more of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship and personalities in the couple than the Murphys. Ernest Hemingway’s couple in Garden of Eden is not explicitly based on this pair, but given the similarities and the setting (Nice), there is clearly some basis for such an assumption. Interestingly, guests of the Murphys would often swim at Eden Roc, an event emulated in The Garden of Eden.

Calvin Tomkins’s biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy Living Well Is the Best Revenge was published in 1971, and Amanda Vaill documented their lives in the 1995 book Everybody Was So Young. Both accounts are balanced and kind, unlike some of their portrayals in the memoirs and fictitious works by their many friends, including Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
In 1982, Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys’ daughter, with Richard N. Billings, wrote Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After.

On July 12, 2007, a play by Crispin Whittell entitled Villa America, based entirely on the relationships between Sara and Gerald Murphy and their friends had its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival with Jennifer Mudge playing Sara Murphy.

Happy Birthday Roy Lichtenstein


Today is the 91st birthday of the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

NAME: Roy Lichtenstein
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter
BIRTH DATE: October 27, 1923
DEATH DATE: September 29, 1997
EDUCATION: Parsons School of Design, The Ohio State University, Art Students League, Franklin School for Boys (now Dwight School)
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Roy Lichtenstein was an American pop artist best known for his boldly-colored parodies of comic strips and advertisements.

Roy Fox Lichtenstein was born on October 27, 1923, in New York City, the son of Milton Lichtenstein, a successful real estate developer, and Beatrice Werner Lichtenstein. As a boy growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Lichtenstein had a passion for both science and comic books. In his teens, he became interested in art. He took watercolor classes at Parsons School of Design in 1937, and he took classes at the Art Students League in 1940, studying with American realist painter Reginald Marsh.

Following his graduation from the Franklin School for Boys in Manhattan in 1940, Lichtenstein attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. His college studies were interrupted in 1943, when he was drafted and sent to Europe for World War II.

After his wartime service, Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State in 1946 to finish his undergraduate degree and master’s degree—both in fine arts. He briefly taught at Ohio State before moving to Cleveland and working as a window-display designer for a department store, an industrial designer and a commercial-art instructor.

In the late 1940s, Lichtenstein exhibited his art in galleries nationwide, including in Cleveland and New York City. In the 1950s, he often took his artistic subjects from mythology and from American history and folklore, and he painted those subjects in styles that paid homage to earlier art, from the 18th century through modernism.

Lichtenstein began experimenting with different subjects and methods in the early 1960s, while he was teaching at Rutgers University. His newer work was both a commentary on American popular culture and a reaction to the recent success of Abstract Expressionist painting by artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Instead of painting abstract, often subject-less canvases as Pollock and others had had done, Lichtenstein took his imagery directly from comic books and advertising. Rather than emphasize his painting process and his own inner, emotional life in his art, he mimicked his borrowed sources right down to an impersonal-looking stencil process that imitated the mechanical printing used for commercial art.

Lichtenstein’s best-known work from this period is “Whaam!,” which he painted in 1963, using a comic book panel from a 1962 issue of DC Comics’ All-American Men of War as his inspiration. Other works of the 1960s featured cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and advertisements for food and household products. He created a large-scale mural of a laughing young woman (adapted from an image in a comic book) for the New York State Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.

Lichtenstein became known for his deadpan humor and his slyly subversive way of building a signature body of work from mass-reproduced images. By the mid-1960s, he was nationally known and recognized as a leader in the Pop Art movement that also included Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenburg. His art became increasingly popular with both collectors and influential art dealers like Leo Castelli, who showed Lichtenstein’s work at his gallery for 30 years. Like much Pop Art, it provoked debate over ideas of originality, consumerism and the fine line between fine art and entertainment.

By the late 1960s, Lichtenstein had stopped using comic book sources. In the 1970s his focus turned to creating paintings that referred to the art of early 20th century masters like Picasso, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger and Salvador Dalí. In the 1980s and ’90s, he also painted representations of modern house interiors, brushstrokes and mirror reflections, all in his trademark, cartoon-like style. He also began working in sculpture.

In the 1980s, Lichtenstein received several major large-scale commissions, including a 25-foot-high sculpture titled “Brushstrokes in Flight” for the Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio and a five-story-tall mural for the lobby of the Equitable Tower in New York.

Lichtenstein was committed to his art until the end of his life, often spending at least 10 hours a day in his studio. His work was acquired by major museum collections around the world, and he received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 1995.

Lichtenstein married twice. He and his first wife, Isabel, whom he married in 1949 and divorced in 1967, had two sons, David and Mitchell. He married Dorothy Herzka in 1968.

Lichtenstein died of complications from pneumonia on September 29, 1997, at the New York University Medical Center in Manhattan.

Happy Birthday Gummo Marx

gummo marx

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

NAME: Gummo Marx
OCCUPATION: Actor, Comedian, Inventor
BIRTH DATE: October 21, 1892
DEATH DATE: April 21, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Palm Springs, California
Full Name: Milton Marx
AKA: Gummo Marx

Best Known For:  Often referred to as the “forgotten” Marx brother, Gummo Marx was the first to leave the act to enlist in World War I and become a businessman.

Everyone thinks of Harpo as the silent one (not with that horn!), but Gummo Marx was acgtually the quiet one. Born Milton Marx on October 21, 1892, in New York City, Gummo, like his brothers, was a first-generation American, the fifth of six boys born to Sam and Minnie Marx, who left Europe and met in New York. The first of their six sons, Manfred, died in infancy.

There are related versions as to how Gummo acquired his nickname, all revolving around shoes: Legend has it that he was stealthy backstage, sneaking up on people like a gumshoe (detective), so monologist Art Fisher dubbed him Gummo. However, it has also been reported that Gummo actually wore rubber-soled shoes because frequent illnesses required that his feet be protected from damp.

Gummo was actually the first Marx brother on stage, appearing early on in his Uncle Julius’s ventriloquism act. Then, Minnie Marx organized a vaudeville singing troupe called the Three Nightingales in 1909, with Groucho, Gummo and singer Mabel O’Donell, to tour the circuit. When Harpo was brought in, they became the Four Nightingales, and Minnie occasionally joined in the act along with the boys’ aunt, Hannah Schickler, making them the Six Mascots. When Chico joined the act, they became the Four Marx Brothers.

When Gummo left the brother act to join the war effort in 1917, youngest brother Zeppo took over his role as straight man.

Gummo’s military service in the U.S. Army didn’t require him to go overseas, but he didn’t return to the stage after World War I, deciding to start a raincoat business instead. He later became a successful talent agent, especially after Zeppo joined him in the business when he, too, left the act.

Gummo ended up representing brother Groucho as well as other top talent of the time, including Glenn Ford, and helped develop the television series Life of Riley. He also held a patent for a packing rack he’d invented.

Gummo married Helen von Tilzer in 1929 and their son, Robert, was born the following year.

Gummo Marx died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 21, 1977, at his home in Palm Springs, California. He is buried next to wife Helen at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His three grandsons all went into show business.

In The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, Groucho expressed his affection for Gummo, with some unkind words for Zeppo. But Zeppo, too, felt closest to Gummo. In his last interview, Zeppo told the BBC, “Gummo was a love. He didn’t like show business but I think he felt, same as I did, that he was inadequate, that he wasn’t doing his share. I miss Gummo very much.”