Gummo Marx

Milton "Gummo" Marx (October 23, 1893 – April 21, 1977) was an American vaudevillian performer, actor, comedian and theatrical agent.[1] He was the second youngest of the five Marx Brothers. Born in Manhattan, New York City, he worked with his brothers on the vaudeville circuit, leaving the act when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1918, during World War I (years before his brothers, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo, began their film careers).

Gummo Marx
Milton Marx

(1893-10-23)October 23, 1893
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 21, 1977(1977-04-21) (aged 83)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California, U. S.
  • Vaudevillian
  • actor
  • comedian
  • theatrical agent
Years active1899−1960
Helen von Tilzer
(m. 1929; died 1976)
Parent(s)Sam "Frenchie" Marx
Minnie Schönberg
RelativesChico Marx (brother)
Harpo Marx (brother)
Groucho Marx (brother)
Zeppo Marx (brother)
Al Shean (maternal uncle)

Life and career

Marx was born in Manhattan, New York City, on October 23, 1893.[2] His parents were Sam Marx (called "Frenchie" throughout his life), and his wife, Minnie Schoenberg Marx. Marx's family was Jewish. His mother was from Dornum in East Frisia, and his father was a native of Alsace and worked as a tailor.[3][4][5]

Although the fourth Marx Brother in age, he was the first to make his debut, pretending to be a dummy in an act with his uncle Henry Shean (né Heinemann Schoenberg) the brother of Al Shean in 1899. Milton was put into a costume with a papier-mâché head and pretended to be a dummy while Henry pretended to work him. The act may have only performed once and was not helped by Shean's deafness or Milton's stammer.[6]

Gummo, who in an interview said he never liked being on stage, left the group and joined the military during World War I. He was not sent overseas because the armistice was signed shortly afterward. Gummo's younger brother Zeppo took his place in the group. Gummo later went into the raincoat business.[7] After his Army career he joined with Zeppo and operated a theatrical agency.[8] After that collaboration ended, Gummo represented his brother Groucho and worked on the television show The Life of Riley, which he helped develop.

He also represented other on-screen talent and a number of writers, and was well respected as a businessman. He rarely required contracts, believing that if the people he represented liked his work, they would stay with him; and if not, would seek representation elsewhere.[9]

Around the time he left his brothers' Vaudeville act, Marx applied for a patent for a clothes-packing rack. On October 28, 1919, Marx was granted patent US1320335A.[10]

Gummo may have received his nickname because he had a tendency to be sneaky backstage, creeping up on others like a "gumshoe" (detective). Another explanation cited by biographers and family members is that Milton, the sickliest of the brothers, often wore rubber overshoes, also called "gumshoes," to protect himself in inclement weather.[11] According to Zeppo in a much later BBC TV Interview, Gummo may have received his nickname because he was usually chewing gum (BBC Archives).

Personal life

Marx married Helen von Tilzer on March 16, 1929; they remained married until her death in January 1976. Their son, Robert, was born in 1930.[12]


Gummo died on April 21, 1977, at his home in Palm Springs, California, aged 83, from a cerebral hemorrhage.[1] His death was never reported to Groucho, who by that time had become so ill and weak that it was thought the news would be a further detriment to his health. Groucho died four months later on August 19, at age 86.

Gummo and his wife Helen are interred next to each other in the Freedom Mausoleum at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[13] Gummo's older brother Chico is in a crypt across the hall from them.


His grandsons are actors Gregg Marx, Chris Marx, and actor/producer Brett Marx, who as a child actor appeared as "Jimmy Feldman" in 1976's comedy film The Bad News Bears.


  1. "Gummo Marx, Managed Comedians". New York Times. Reuters. April 22, 1977. p. D19. Retrieved 2013-12-15. Gummo Marx, an original member of the Marx brothers' comedy team, died here today. He was 83 years old.
  2. The 1900 United States Census shows his birth as "October 1892". His World War I draft registration uses "October 21, 1892". His death certificate and his grave use the year 1893. The documents closest to the birth date are usually more accurate.
  3. La famille paternelle des Marx Brothers (in French)
  4. "Mrs. Minnie Marx. Mother of Four Marx Brothers, Musical Comedy Stars, Dies". New York Times. September 16, 1929. p. 27. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  5. "Samuel Marx, Father of Four Marx Brothers of Stage and Screen Fame". New York Times. May 12, 1933. p. 17. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
  6. Bader, Robert S. (2016). Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. pp. 53–54. ISBN 9780810134164.
  7. Current Biography, The H. W. Wilson Company, archived from the original on 2012-04-26, retrieved 2011-11-29
  8. Anstey, Robert Graham (5 June 2017). "The Marx Brothers: Their World, Their Movies, Their Lives, Their Humour and Their Legacy". West Coast Paradise Pub. Retrieved 5 June 2017 via Google Books.
  9. Simon Louvish (2000) Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers. New York: Thomas Dunne, 3378. ISBN 0-312-25292-7
  10. Patent US1320335A: Devices facilitating the insertion of articles or materials into bags e.g. guides or chutes, US Patent Office, 1919.
  11. Bader, Robert S. (2016). Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 170. ISBN 9780810134164.
  12. "Gummo Marx". Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  13. Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries
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