Scribe Arthur Marx, son of legendary comedian Groucho Marx, died Thursday in his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 89.
Marx had a prolific career that spanned more than 60 years.
Following a stint in the Coast Guard during WWII, in which 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; it was 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.
In the early ’60s, Marx teamed with former Groucho Marx writer Robert Fisher. The duo, who collaborated for more than 30 years, 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” and “The Mothers-in-Law.” They also created “Mickey,” a sitcom starring Mickey Rooney.
In 1965, Marx and Fisher wrote 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 wrote the book for “Minnie’s Boys,” a Broadway musical based on the early years of the Marx Bros. that starred Shelley Winters as Minnie, the Marx family matriarch and Arthur’s grandmother.
Marx and Fisher continued in television throughout the ’70s, writing episodes for “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude” and “Love American Style.” In 1977, they joined the staff of the CBS series “Alice,” writing more than 40 episodes.
In addition to his work in film and TV, 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 CBS telepic “Martin and Lewis.”
In 1986, Marx and Fisher again focused their attention on Groucho and his brothers, writing the play “Groucho: A Life in Revue,” which Marx also directed. The show ran Off Broadway and received two New York Outer Critics Circle Awards, including best play. Soon thereafter, the play opened in London’s West End, garnering three Laurence Olivier Award nominations. In 2001, it aired on PBS.
Born in New York in 1921, Marx spent some of his early years on the road with his father and uncles, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo, during the Marx Brothers’ vaudeville tours. By the early ’30s, with the brothers established as film stars, the family moved to Los Angeles.
Marx was also a nationally ranked athlete and member of the 1939 Junior Davis Cup team that also included tennis greats Jack Kramer, Ted Schroeder and Budge Patty.
Marx, a longtime member of both the WGA and AMPAS, is survived by his wife, Lois; sons Steve and Andy, a writer and former Variety staffer; stepdaughter Linda; sisters Miriam and Melinda; and four grandchildren.
Services will be private. Donations may be made to the Writers Guild Foundation.