And now, from the 1940 Popeye cartoon “Puttin’ on The Act,” Popeye’s three terrifying impressions:
…and Groucho Marx:
A credit both to the makers of this cartoon and to the immortality of these particular performers that their caricatures here are still instantly recognizable to us 72 years later.
Well, most of us, anyway…after finding out a couple of years back that one of my girlfriend’s nieces had never heard of the Three Stooges, and after having one young employee at the shop who’d never heard of Vincent Price, I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m sure as generations wear on, general knowledge of these “immortal legends” will increasingly become solely the interest of hobbyists and specialists.
…Though I have a hard time imagining that about Groucho Marx. That hair, nose, and moustache…the glasses and cigar. It’s all so embedded in our culture that I can’t see it ever going away, though I suppose it must. I’m guessing kids play with toy Groucho glasses from discount stores even now, without knowing that they’re inspired by a real person. Well, a character performed by a real person…you know what I mean.
I’m guessing of all these caricatures, it’s Groucho’s that’ll have the greatest chance of outliving knowledge of the actual man. I can see the glasses ‘n’ cigar becoming…well, continuing to be, since they pretty much are already…a generic symbol of “comedy,” but to the point, maybe centuries hence, where folks just think that image represents the idea of humor, with not one of them realizing that there was once a person who wore those glasses and wielded that cigar.
Of course, with the enormous proliferation of reproducible and storable media, it seems unlikely that Groucho and his brothers will be forgotten, but, a thousand years from now, ten thousand, fifty thousand…who knows? Maybe our giant-brained, spindly-limbed descendents will be wearing funny plastic glasses and wagging their cigars at each other, their big fake black eyebrows bobbing up and down, without any idea whom they’re imitating.