Screen and TV writer, author and playwright Arthur Marx, the son of legendary comedian Groucho Marx, died this week at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 89. Marx had a prolific career that spanned more than 60 years. Born in New York in 1921, he spent some of his early years on the road with his father and uncles, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo, during the Marx Brothers’ tours of Vaudeville. By the early 1930s, with the Marx Brothers established as film stars, the family moved to Los Angeles. Following a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II where he served in the Philippines, Marx began his Hollywood career working at MGM as a reader. Eventually, he became a screenwriter, working on the popular Pete Smith shorts and several films in the Blondie series, including Blondie In The Dough.
While continuing to write for film and TV, Marx published his first novel, The Ordeal Of Willie Brown in 1951, loosely based on his own experiences as a nationally ranked junior tennis player. In 1954, he wrote Life With Groucho, the first of several books that dealt with his father and their sometimes tempestuous relationship. Marx also turned out a number of Hollywood biographies, including Goldwyn: The Man Behind the Myth, Red Skelton, The Nine Lives of Mickey Rooney, and The Secret Life of Bob Hope. His 1974 book on Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime (Especially Himself), was adapted into the 2002 made-for-TV movie Martin And Lewis.
In the early 1960s, Marx teamed up with former Groucho Marx writer Robert Fisher. The duo remained collaborators for over 30 years and turned out several films for Bob Hope, including Eight On The Lam, A Global Affair, I’ll Take Sweden, and Cancel My Reservation. They continued writing episodes for numerous TV sitcoms, including McHale’s Navy, My Three Sons, Petticoat Junction, The Mothers-in-Law, All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, and Love American Style. They also created Mickey, a sitcom starring Mickey Rooney. In 1977, they joined the staff of the hit series Alice, writing more than 40 episodes.
In 1965, Marx and Fisher wrote the hit play, The Impossible Years, which starred Alan King and ran on Broadway for three years before being turned into a movie vehicle for David Niven. Several years later, the duo write the book for Minnie’s Boys, a Broadway musical based on the early years of the Marx Brothers that starred Shelley Winters as Minnie, the Marx family matriarch and Arthur’s grandmother. In 1986, Marx and Fisher wrote the off-Broadway play Groucho: A Life in Revue, which Marx also directed. The show won two New York Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Play, and three Laurence Olivier Award nominations in London’s West End. In 2001, the play aired on PBS.
In lieu of flowers, the longtime WGA member’s family suggests donations be made to the Writers Guild Foundation. Services will be private.