Groucho Marx Superfan Rob Zombie to Make a Groucho Marx Biopic

By  · Published on June 18th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

This week, it was confirmed that Rob Zombie isn’t continuing with his reboot of the Halloween franchise (it’s now being “recalibrated” and maybe even retconning to return to the original canon), and that’s good for a few reasons. The musician-turned-director has already moved on to other projects, including 2012’s The Lords of Salem and the upcoming 31. After that one, he’s moving away from the horror genre to make a biopic about one of the most famous funnymen in history.

According to Deadline, Zombie will direct a feature about the final three years in the life of Groucho Marx. Scripted by Oscar nominee Oren Moverman (The Messenger), the movie will be based on the book “Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House,” a memoir by Steve Stoliar focused on his time as Groucho’s personal secretary and archivist. So, it’s one of those kinds of movies where the real protagonist is a non-famous person in the world of the famous. Like My Week With Marilyn, Me and Orson Welles and Downfall.

Zombie describes the story as being like the film Sunset Boulevard, and some of the other icons who could find their way into being depicted in the movie include Mae West, Jack Lemmon (he presented Groucho with his honorary Oscar), Bob Hope and George Burns (both part of Groucho’s final TV appearance in 1976) and fellow Marx Brothers Gummo and Zeppo. Sadly, Harpo and Chico had already passed on before Stoliar began working for Groucho in 1974 (Gummo died a few months ahead of Grouch, and that will probably be a part of the movie, even though Groucho was never informed due to his own failing health).

If you think Zombie is a strange fit for a Groucho movie, don’t forget that he named numerous characters in House of 1000 Corpses after characters Groucho played in Marx Brother classics (plus one that Chico played). I think the only other Groucho superfan filmakers who are maybe more apt for such a movie are Woody Allen and Bob Weide. And the former doesn’t do these kinds of movies. Zombie also had this to say about the master of wit in the announcement of the biopic:

“I have been a huge Groucho Marx fan ever since I was a child and have read countless books on the comic legend, but after reading the book ‘Raised Eyebrows,’ a totally new perspective on Groucho’s life emerged … It is a sad, funny and very dark tale of a one of Hollywood’s greatest stars’ final years.”

Watch one of Groucho’s final TV appearances, at the 1974 Academy Awards:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.