Friday, February 26, 2021

Episode 32: I Don't Think This Damn Thing is Safe



The last significant work by Groucho Marx as a performer was An Evening With Groucho -- which is the title of his 1972 concert, and the resulting LP. To the question "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Groucho provided an irrefutable if unhelpful answer: You reach the age of 81 having been a vaudeville headliner, a Broadway star, a Hollywood icon, a hit on radio and television, a successful author, and a living legend. 

Official description: "Our deep dive into 1972’s An Evening With Groucho LP, and the historic performance at Carnegie Hall.

"To be frank, we’re as conflicted about this as you are…Groucho finally gets the late-in-life showcase he craved and obviously deserved, but perhaps a bit too late for him to take full advantage of. We point out the triumphs, tragedies, and missed opportunities that Groucho dealt with in 1972, culminating with this hit album.

"We detail favorite moments as well as our disparate experiences first hearing this LP, and whether it is a piece of entertainment, a piece of history, or both...

"Name-checked in this episode: Brent Spiner, The Beach Boys, Diane Keaton."

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Footnotes:

9 comments:

  1. I think the Rolling Stone Record Guide review was something like "The man was legendary for a reason--see the films.A genius maligned, this."

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  2. I am interested in your reactions to your first hearing of the album. I had already missed out on being at Carnegie in person when the show sold out in record time and, although I knew the Marxes in performance only from the Paramount films at the time, I didn't come to it expecting a young Groucho. I had seen the photo of him with Chaplin in Life magazine and knew he was no longer what he had been. I like to think that I got a taste of "breathing the same air" (as you describe it) like those who were there in person got. I listened to it numerous times in 1972/1973 but now no longer have a vinyl collection. You have encouraged me to seek it out again. Thank you!

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  3. I was 13 or 14 when I first heard the "Evening with Groucho" album, but I wasn't shocked by the way he sounded as I'd already seen his later guest appearances on TV.

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  4. Gentlemen?
    Thank you for yet another wonderful listening experience. I don't know why I'm so surpeised when I always enjoy the latest podcast, but you do keep hitting them out of the park.
    I first heard this when it was originally issued (still have my copy) at the tender age of 14 or so. It didn't strike me as sad or "Man, he sounds OLD" - I just enjoyed ANY new Marx Experience. And Bob, I think you've got your next editing project --- either the digitally enhanced remix of this album (I can't believe how much that sounded like the Younger Groucho) OR the companion piece made up from the Cavett Interviews!
    Thank you again for the love you all put into these productions.

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  5. I first heard this album when I was 10 in 1973, in the first blush of my Marx mania. I played it so often, I almost wore it out.

    It made the rounds of my grade school, we even played it in class!

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  6. I had forgotten I'd even owned that LP. I had mixed feelings about it then, but more positive than not.

    You had interesting takes on people's reactions to it. The only thing I can compare it to is a story a friend of mine had. Shortly before Elvis Presley died, he did a special for, I believe, HBO. My friend, who was 26 at the times, shuddered as he watched it -- Elvis was bloated, sweating, way past his prime. But his uncle, who grew up in the '50s as an Elvis fan, was completely enraptured. All he could see was the Elvis of his youth. What the fans at Carnegie Hall saw was the "Night at the Opera" Groucho, no matter how young they were.

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  7. Sorry to comment twice in the same post, but I wanted to add two things.

    First, a good friend of mine who is about a decade older than I was at the Carnegie Hall performance. And he thought it was ... magic! Just for the some reasons cited -- there he was, with Groucho Marx. The quality of the show did not matter to him.

    Second, I remember as a very young child watching a telethon (Jerry Lewis) and being told that Groucho was one of the people taking calls. (!) All of 10 or 11 years old, I called in, saying I would pledge $10 if I could talk to Groucho.

    Needless to say, I didn't. And I was 10 at the time and crushed -- what the heck did I know.

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  9. Finally got to listen to this podcast today and I thought it was a very entertaining and informative talk, even if the subject matter was sad to me. Having just discovered the Marx Brothers in depth this year, it seems overwhelming for me to watch Groucho in movies so young and energetic and then to hear Groucho so weak and wobbly - all over a four month span for me. I do understand that his whole career happened before I was born but in my mind he is always that younger, spry man. Thanks for the great podcast, Council!

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