On stage and in the movies, the Marx Brothers entertained audiences with their madcap escapades and gleefully irreverent assaults on authority. A family act that originated in vaudeville, the Marx Brothers—Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and straight man Zeppo (who would leave the ensemble in 1933)—scored their first Broadway success in the 1924 production I’ll Say She Is. The hit shows that followed—The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers—inaugurated the brothers’ talking pictures career when both musical comedies were adapted for the screen. Moviegoers savored the antics of Groucho, the greasepaint-mustachioed punster; laughed at the hijinks of Harpo, the mute, harp-playing mischief maker; and delighted in the comic ramblings of Chico, the pseudo-Italian immigrant. With memorable performances in classics such as Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935), the Marx Brothers upended convention and invigorated American comedy.
Karsh created this portrait in Hollywood while on assignment for Life magazine.