Julius Henry Marx, aka ‘Groucho’ Marx, was born October 2, 1890, in New York City, New York. He and his brothers Adolf (Harpo) and Leonard (Chico) made up one of the zaniest comedy groups in American history – The Marx Brothers. On stage and in the movies, they kept audiences in an uproar with their outrageous puns, satires, musical donnybrooks, and all-around bad-boy behavior with those who were obviously their betters. Groucho was the nominal leader of this band of merry Andrews, and as such usually had the best lines in their plays and movies. He was also a noted raconteur in his private life, using his irrepressible wit to skewer stuffed shirts and deflate the pompous vaporing of so-called experts in any and every field. Here are five gems on finances that came from him, and that we can all learn from:
- “A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.’
Groucho was one of the first Hollywood stars to insist on using a stand-in for any stunts he considered to be even slightly dangerous. He advised his children to work at boring jobs rather than risky ones; the money’s the same, he insisted, and you don’t have to spend time and money taking care of injuries.
- “The only primrose path I know of is Wall Street!”
Groucho learned his lesson after the 1929 Wall Street Crash. He invested in a wide variety of financial instruments, from real estate to bonds to precious metals, and was able to help his other brothers when their incomes dwindled at the end of their film career because they had insisted on investing in nothing but stocks.
- “Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse.”
Well, okay, this is more bitter hindsight than sound financial advice, since Groucho had 3 wives during his lifetime. But he managed to stay friends with all three of his ex-wives and they eventually agreed to drop their alimony demands on him – thus proving once again that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar!
- “I find television very educational. Every time someone turns on a set I go into another room and read a book.”
Groucho was an avid reader and book collector. Towards the end of his life he estimated he had spent a total of four-hundred dollars on television sets, which were now worth nothing, and had spent well over twenty-thousand dollars on books, which were now worth nearly a million dollars. He obviously knew the wisdom of spending money on things that not only give pleasure, but increase in value.
- “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake those you’ve got it made.”
Groucho’s friends knew him to be a hard bargainer, but an honest one. When he made a deal, he stuck by it no matter what. This came in handy in the mid 1930’s, when the Marx Brothers’ movie career was considered to be over. The team was let go by Paramount Studios and Groucho decided to take them into radio for a trial run. When MGM Studios requested them for a movie, Groucho told them that they had already signed a contract for radio and would not back out of it. Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, was so impressed with Groucho’s honesty and integrity that he personally bought out the team’s contract with the radio network, and the team began work on what many consider to be one of the greatest movie comedies every made, “A Night at the Opera”.