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Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Marx Brothers And The Atomic Bomb

For those of us old enough, you are probably very aware of the Marx brothers (You know, Marxism is the woist thing I’ve ever hoid of).

Three were three of them: Groucho, Harp and Chico… though you might also have forgotten about Zeppo and Gummo.

In the photo above, (top to bottom), we have:
  • Groucho aka Julius Henry (1890-1977);
  • Milton aka Gummo (1904-1977);
  • Harpo aka Adolph (1893-1961);
  • Chico aka Leonard (1891-1961);
  • Zeppo aka Herbert (1901-1979).
Gummo was the fourth-oldest, with Zeppo being the youngest.

While no one was funnier than Groucho, I had a special fondness for Harpo, whose character never talked. There was this one routine he did on I Love Lucy where the two of them identically dressed (as Harpo) did a mirror routine that was just brilliant. The comedic timing is amazing. I know there's also a mirror scene in the Marx Brothers' movie Duck Soup (1932).Plus... Harpo was could have been a concert harpist, he was that good. 

Anyhow... Zeppo, according to Groucho was unfunny—and when the studios told the four Marx Brothers that they needed to trim some money from their group salary, Grouch said "We're twice as funny without Zeppo!"

While Grouch reportedly said that Gummo was his favorite brother: "Gummo. He's a nice man, and that's more than I can say for Zeppo.”


We are, however, going to talk a wee bit about Zeppo, and his relationship to Japan, specifically in relation to the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

Okay... this is the best photo I found of Zeppo that makes him look really handsome.
Born Herbert Manfred Marx on February 25, 1901 in Manhattan, New York City, NY, Zeppo was an actor, comedian, inventor, theatrical agent and singer.

One of these doesn’t belong here… but it does.

Yup… inventor.

Although Zeppo appeared in five Marx brothers films between 1929-1933 (The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931) Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933), and one without them in 1921 called Humor Risk.

Zeppo was always the straight man… the guy who would look on the other three with amazement, but would ultimately get the best-looking woman in the movie… though Groucho, Chico and Harpo would usually do all right, too.

Anyhow… tired of playing the stooge to his funnier brothers, Zeppo left the group (much to Groucho’s relief) in 1933 to get into his second career as a theatrical agent and as an engineer.

He actually became a multi-millionaire due to his engineering work. That’s no joke. That’s the straight truth.

He started up a company in Ingelwood, California, called Marman Products Co., that created various machined items on behalf of the American war effort in WWII.

I’m not positive, but I would imagine that Marman was derived from Zeppo’s last and middle names: Marx and Manfred: Mar and Man… Marman… straight and to the point. Not sure where he got the name “Products” from.

Ooooh. Thatsa bad joke.

Not only did the company create a motorcycle called the Marman Twin, but they also built something fairly important in the war against Japan.

The Marman Twin - photo from
They built the Marman clamps used to hold the "Fat Man" atomic bomb inside the B-29 bomber nicknamed Bockscar.

The airplane did indeed drop the American’s second atomic bomb on Japan over Nagasaki.
Somewhere inside, Zeppo Marx's Marman clamps hold various pipes and technical stuff together. Sorry, I am not a nuclear scientist.

Now, lest you think that the wonderful Marman clamps only had a destructive purpose, let me say to thee - neigh. Sorry, I'm feeling a little horse.

A Marman clamp is a type of heavy-duty band clamp; it allows two flat cylindrical interfaces to be simply clamped together with a ring clamp. It is sometimes also known as a "Marman ring".

We've probably all seen a Marman clamp but had no clue it was anything in particular.

A common use for the Marman clamp are as quick-disconnect connectors in flexible aircraft fuel lines.

Now... along with my love of the Marx brothers, Japan, history, I also have a love-affair with (no, don't say it, but yeah Alice in Wonderland) space and space travel.

These Zeppo Marx designed and built Marman clamps are used in spaceflight systems!!!!

They are (according to Wikipedia) "common mechanical load-transfer and clamping mechanisms for connecting the upper stage and the satellite payload of space vehicles, for example, on the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer on the Cassini orbiter. They may also be used to join stages of a booster rocket."

Anyhow... that’s the whole Japan connection - the Nagasaki atomic bomb thing. But truthfully, I just wanted to do something on the Marx Brothers. 

Zeppo… or rather Herbert Manfred Marx founded a large theatrical agency with his brother Gummo (Milton Marx).

That straight man Zeppo also ended up with 12 patents, including: a wristwatch that monitored the pulse rate of cardiac patients and gave off an alarm if the heartbeat became irregular. Awesome.

Cardio Pulse Rate Monitor
Vapor Delivery Pad For Distributing Moist heat
Method and Watch Mechanism for Actuation by Cardiac Pulse

 The last Marx brother to pass, Zeppo died on November 30, 1979, at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Lasting legacies other than his role in the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and his contributions to space travel?

Well… he introduced comedian Jack Benny to his eventual wife Mary Livngstone, I presume. 

That’s two jokes in one sentence. (Jack’s exasperated “well” and a Dr. Livingtsone reference…) I ain’t no Groucho…. still…  

Wow... I had always though Zeppo Marx was not only boring but an insipid ladies man in the Marx Brothers movies... and while that is still correct, after writing this blog I have built a whole new respect for his talents. Jack Benny. Wow.  

The ambulance stopped with a jerk and I got out,
Andrew Joseph is comin' Mistuh Benny.

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