July 15, 1936: Marx Brothers perform second of three shows in Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1936, the Marx Bothers performed “A Day at the Races” at Duluth’s Lyceum Theatre for the second night in a row. Groucho, Harpo, and Chico had arrived in Duluth on the 13th, greeted by Mayor Sam Snively and Harry W. Clark and J. R. Pratt, officers of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The shows were part of a five-city tour—including Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia—to test and shape the show’s material before the brothers all gathered in Hollywood to transform the stage show into a movie. Despite the nice weather (it was quite warm in Duluth that July), the Marx’s arrived in the Zenith City, which they considered “the nation’s ice box,” dressed in overcoats, prepared for the cold weather; as a joke, Groucho lit matches to keep everyone warm during a photo opportunity with the mayor. Since most films were black-and-white at the time, the reporter expressed that Harpo’s orange hair was “hard to miss.” He also mentioned that, except for his voice, Groucho was all but unrecognizable without his glasses and grease-paint mustache and eyebrows. Accompanying the Marx Brothers was their costar and comic foil, Margaret Dumont, as well as director Robert Sinclair and Al Boasberg, George Seaton and Robert Pirosh—the three men who actually wrote the script. The Duluth audience loved the performance, the newspaper reported, particularly Chico’s introductory piano solos. When he finished, the paper reported, “The house would not be quiet and ceased clapping only when Harpo appeared” to perform on the harp.

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