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HISTORY

Zeppo Marx
1901 - 1979
February 25, 1901 - November 30, 1979
Herbert Manfred Marx was born in New York City on February 25, 1901 and he was the baby of the Marx family. He was nicknamed Zippo by his famous brothers because he liked to do acrobatics like the chimp named Zippo did in its act. He objected and altered it to “Zeppo.” When Gummo joined the Army in 1919 he joined his brothers in vaudeville and appeared as a straight man and romantic lead in Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts. He also appeared in A Kiss in the Dark with Adolphe Menjou. He was known as the handsome brother and considered the funniest of the brothers although he always played the straight man.

Offstage Marx had exceptional mechanical skills and he owned a company that produced airplane parts for the war effort during World War II called Marman Products Co. in Inglewood, CA. It was later known as the Aeroquip Co. They produced a motorcycle called the Marman Twin and the Marman clamps used to hold the atomic bombs during the raids over Japan in 1945. He also invented a wristwatch that would monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients and sound an alarm if they went into cardiac arrest.

In 1934 he left the movie business and joined his brother Gummo’s talent agency. They represented their brothers along with many others including Barbara Stanwyck. Mervyn Leroy has been credited with discovering Lana Turner sipping a soda in Schwab’s drugstore but he explained what really happened before his death. Lana was in high school when Zeppo brought her in to see him and he hired her on the spot.

Marx and Stanwyck bought a plot of land in the San Fernando Valley in the late 1930's and they built houses adjacent to each other and opened a thoroughbred horse breeding ranch called Marwyck, a combination of their names. World War II came along and there was a blackout on racing and a letdown in breeding activities so they lost interest and sold everything in 1943 to J.H. Ryan, a prominent sportsman and breeding enthusiast. He changed the name to Northridge Farms and it became one of leading breeding centers in California boarding around 300 horses.

Zeppo married Marion Benda (not to be confused with the Ziegfield Follies girl with the same name) on April 12, 1927. They adopted two children, Timothy in 1944 and Thomas in 1945. They later divorced on May 12, 1954. On September 18, 1959 he married Barbara Blakeley. He wanted to adopt her son Bobby but his father wouldn’t allow it. Bobby used his name anyway. Blakeley was involved in fundraising for Cedars-Sinai hospital and she arranged to show Spartacus for charity selling tickets and organizing a ball afterwards. At the last minute she was told she couldn’t have the film so Zeppo went to speak to his neighbor in Rancho Mirage, Frank Sinatra. Frank agreed to let him have an early release of the film he had just finished “Come Blow Your Horn.” Sinatra also flew everyone to Palm Springs for the event. They became frequent visitors to Sinatra’s compound and Barbara started seeing Sinatra behind Zeppo’s back. Following their divorce on May 1, 1973, Barbara continued seeing Sinatra and later they were married.

Zeppo became ill with lung cancer in 1978 and he sold his home and moved near Frank Sinatra Drive in Palm Springs. He spent his last days with Barbara and her family and passed away on November 30, 1979. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.

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