In which I make a pretty large assumption that there are still kids playing with Groucho glasses.

§ October 12th, 2012 § Filed under popeye § 12 Comments

And now, from the 1940 Popeye cartoon “Puttin’ on The Act,” Popeye’s three terrifying impressions:

Jimmy Durante:

Stan Laurel:

…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.

12 Responses to “In which I make a pretty large assumption that there are still kids playing with Groucho glasses.”

  • Mike L. says:

    hooo hooo oh thank for that I had no idea there was a Laurel/Popeye connection! :)

  • Martin Wisse says:

    Popeye? what’s that?

  • Roger Green says:

    hooray for captain popeye

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    My wife a few years was teaching her high school world history class, and she mentioned to her students a good mnemonic for remembering the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

    Wife: E.T. You know, like E.T., the Extraterrestial!

    Class: [Crickets chirping]

  • Rob H. says:

    This reminds me about finding out as an adult that the voice I took to be “mobster stereotype” from Looney Tunes was based on Edward G. Robinson.

  • Snark Shark says:




  • Julie says:

    Until this post, it had never occurred to me that the glasses with the nose and the moustache were meant to represent Groucho Marx. So… Theory confirmed!

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Until black & white film series from the early twentieth C. become the only appealing thing kids can see on Youtube on the weekends I’m afriad even Groucho will be forgotten before much longer.

  • caleb says:

    To echo what Rob said, my introduction to Groucho, Laurel and Hardy, Jimmy Durante, Peter Lorre, Clark Gable, Carmen Miranda, Edward G. Robinson and, um, just about everything I ever knew about classical music came from Looney Tunes and other cartoons of the era. Like, I knew there were actors who looked and talked like those guys before I actually knew their names/saw any of their work.

    Even if the work of the Marx Brothers is ever shamefully forgotten from their own films and Bugs Bunny impersonations, perhaps Dave Sim’s Cerebus will keep Grouchou’s image alive for the people of the 22nd century…?

  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    I don’t think the Marx Bros will ever be forgotten thanks to ‘home video’ esp. Groucho. Even before vhs rentals, I saw the Marx Bros on the afternoon Million Dollar Movie and was awestruck. I bought those ‘fumetti’ that reproduced stills from their movies and had word balloons with the dialogue since that was the only way I could re-experience the films at that time. And of course I dressed up as Groucho for Halloween. Since I wore glasses, all I really needed was a big cigar and the black greasepaint eyebrows and moustache. The most fun was imitating Groucho’s peculiar walk!

  • Casie says:

    Going to smile and maybe shed a tear, the next time I see the ‘Funny Glasses’ at the Halloween store.

    Thanks Mike for sharing your brain and cartoons with us!

  • Bill Reed says:

    My generation knows Vincent Price by his given name, Vincent Van Ghoul.