17 November 2009


My 12 Favorite Groucho Marx Character Names

The Marx Brothers made 12 films together (Love Happy, the 13th, finds Groucho only narrating), about half of which still stand as absolute classics of the Comedy genre, and which still are absolutely hilarious after 70 years. One of my favorite aspects of these films are the names of Groucho Marx's characters. This is a ranking of those twelve names, complete with a little blathering about each.


12: Gordon Miller; Room Service [1938]
The most pedestrian name of the bunch. I'd venture to say that maybe after 8 films, Groucho Marx was just getting tired or lazy, but character names from two of the Marx Brothers last four films are much higher on this list.

11: Captain Spaulding; Animal Crackers [1930]
There's nothing necessarily funny or unusual about the name Captain Spaulding, but at least this character has a title, and not just some beige suburban name like Gordon Miller.

10: Quentin Quale; Go West [1940]
A couple points for alliteration, and another couple for using the letter Q, which everybody knows is the fifth funniest letter in the alphabet. Minus one point because Go West is my least favorite Marx Brothers film.

09: Rufus T. Firefly; Duck Soup [1933]
Duck Soup was the first of four Marx Brothers film in which Groucho's character had a middle initial in his name, so you'd think this name would be higher on this list, but I'm going to justify the ranking by suggesting that Groucho was just getting warmed up with this maneuver. Not that it really matters, and everybody already knows this, but T is the 18th funniest letter in the alphabet.

08: Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff; Horse Feathers [1932]
In this film, the one immediately prior to Duck Soup, Groucho's character uses his full middle name, and not just the initial, and it works not only as an allusion to President John Quincy Adams, but also to elongate the name to funny proportions without turning into outright absurdity. This was 1932, after all. BTW and FTIW - Horse Feathers is my favorite Marx Brothers film.

07: Wolf J. Flywheel; The Big Store [1941]
This was the fourth and final time Groucho would use a middle initial in his character's name, but as you can tell by the rankings, I'm not willing to contend he had perfected the maneuver, or at least improved upon previous efforts. Still, the combination of the words Wolf and Flywheel is pretty ridiculous, and of course everyone knows J is the sixth funniest letter in the alphabet.

06: Groucho; Monkey Business [1931]
By naming his Monkey Business character "Groucho" after the name he had used since his old vaudeville days, Julius Henry Marx was perhaps actively trying to blur the lines between Groucho the flesh and blood man, and Groucho, the broad, ridiculous, larger-than-life character he portrayed consistently through all twelve Marx Brothers films. Nah. Groucho's a hilarious name when you think about it.

05: Hammer; The Cocoanuts [1929]
Hammer is a great name for a Groucho character because when you imagine a character named Hammer, the last person you'd expect outside of Don Knotts is Groucho Marx.

04: Attorney Loophole; At The Circus [1939]
Like most of you, I get fairly irritated by most puns and punnish names. Attorney Loophole is a rare exception. Too bad At The Circus is one of the weaker films in the Marx Brothers filmography, despite the potential of the movie's setting.

03: Ronald Kornblow; A Night In Casablanca [1946]
I've never personally known a Ron who went by his full given name of Ronald. I suspect that anybody who goes by the name Ronald, well, the rest of us secretly believe might be a little slow. Kornblow is fantastic. This was the Marx Brothers last film together with Groucho in the starring role.

02: Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush; A Day At The Races [1937]
I'm pretty fucking sure this name is supposed to be dirty. Bonus points because I appreciate a nice bush. Plus, I don't have to tell you that Z is the fourth funniest letter in the alphabet.

01: Otis P. Driftwood; A Night At The Opera [1935]
This was the second of four times Groucho's character had a middle initial, and obviously, the highest ranked of the four, but that's because of Driftwood. It's probably only me, but I find Driftwood to be a perfectly silly name, especially when hitched to another doofus name like Otis. Considering the character is a greasy, weaselly business manager, Driftfood also serves to suggest a man who lacks a moral center. An ethical anchor. Also, P is the third funniest letter in the alphabet, as everybody knows.


Hotcha! Hank

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