I've found a lot of parallels between two of my favorite comedians Groucho Marx and Peter Sellers. Apart from the fact that Sellers could do a fairly spot-on impersonation of Groucho.
They were both damaged people. They both had domineering stage mothers. And near the end of their respective lives they were both taken in by young women who were accused of using them for their money.
Strangely enough, both cases both these women died horribly in later years.
However, the differences were Groucho came from a large family while Sellers was an only child. Sellers's mother spoiled him rotten and then would ridicule him for being spoiled rotten while Groucho's Mother made it painfully clear that Groucho was not her favorite. There have been claims that Sellers had been physically abusive to his wives and possibly his children while Groucho was just emotionally negligent to both.
Several years back I had read a really well written but very depressing biography on Groucho by Stefan Kanfer titled Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx.
Biographies can be a real mixed bag. Some like Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl by Betty Harper Fussell or Peter Sellers: The Authorized Biography by Alexander Walker I found to be very good.
Other notorious entries like The Life and Death of Peter Sellers by Roger Lewis and The Lives of John Lennon by Albert Harry Goldman leave you feeling like these authors really hated the person and the only reason they wrote a biography was just to smear the person's legacy.
Stefan Kanfer's accounts of Groucho is definitely in the "very good" column. Like I said good but depressing. Even after achieving success and stardom you never get the sense in this book Groucho is ever really happy. Although he is sometimes cruel to the people around him, you don't hate Groucho in this account. You feel sorry for him. Strange enough, the part I felt worst for him is when MGM forces him to wear a toupee for movies like At The Circus.
The Marx Brothers were not young men when they broke into Hollywood. They were all in their early 40's. Which I suppose by today's standards would be ancient considering you're a star at 15 and a has-been at 24.
So I probably would be very insulted too if I was constantly being reminded that "I'm getting old".
I found the bio to be both very insightful and informative. But don't expect a "feel good" story. Expect a very well written account.
I highly recommend you check it out. Especially if you're just discovering the Marx Brothers films for the first time and would like to know more about Groucho Marx himself.