Miriam Marx Allen, Daughter of Groucho Marx, Dies at 90

Frank Ferrante/From the Groucho Marx Collection
Miriam Marx, then 12, with father Groucho Marx on the set of 1939's "At the Circus."

Letters that she received from her dad became a 1992 book that showed a different side of the fabled comedian.

Miriam Marx Allen, the eldest daughter of Groucho Marx who worked on his quiz show You Bet Your Life and turned letters that she received from her famous father into a revealing book, has died. She was 90.

Allen died June 29 in Capistrano Beach, Calif., according to friend Frank Ferrante, an actor who has made a career out of expertly portraying her dad on stage in such productions as the 1980s smash Groucho: A Life in Revue and the current An Evening With Groucho.

Miriam Ruth Marx was born in Manhattan on May 19, 1927, to actor Julius "Groucho" Marx and dancer Ruth Johnson as the Marx Brothers were doing a quick revival of their fabulously successful musical comedy The Cocoanuts on Broadway.

In 1930, she, her older brother, Arthur, and her parents moved to Hollywood when the Marx Brothers left New York to make their third feature, Paramount's Monkey Business (1931).

Groucho "was a wonderful father, a very caring father, and very interested in both myself and my brother," Allen said in a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "He chose our company over anybody else's whenever possible. And he was a homebody. His idea of a perfect evening was to stay home and listen to music and read a book and be with his kids."

After attending Bennington College in Vermont, Allen in the 1950s wrote for Mademoiselle magazine and was an editor alongside director Robert Dwan on You Bet Your Life, then airing on NBC television and hosted by her ad-libbing, stogie-smoking father.

In 1992, Allen published Love Groucho: Letters From Groucho Marx to His Daughter Miriam, a collection of her father's letters sent from 1938 through 1967. She had saved more than 200 of them in a laundry bag.

One was from 1947, when Miriam was dating a man whom she had met on an elevator. "Was the elevator going up at the time, or down?" Groucho wrote. "This is very important, for going down in an elevator one always has that sinking feeling, and for all I know you may have this confused with love. If you were going up, it is clearly a case of love at first sight, and it also proves that he is a rising young man."

Another was from 1953, when Allen was being treated for alcoholism at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan.:

"The reason you haven't heard from me is because I have been too damned angry to write. The day I wrote a check for sixteen hundred and some dollars to Menninger's, which I have been doing for six months, I also received word that you were drinking again."

Daughter and father would reconcile — Allen quit drinking in 1977, the year Groucho died at age 86 — and in another letter, he signed off: "All my love to you.… Your padre, Dr. Hackenbush."

In 1993, Allen was featured on a three-part BBC radio program, Groucho Was My Father, and she appeared in several documentaries about her dad through the years.

Ferrante knew Allen for 32 years and is now serving as her trustee. They became friends while he was a student at USC, and she "traveled around the world attending my performances," he said. Ferrante also provided the voice of Groucho in the audio version of her book.

She married and divorced Gordon Allen, whom she met at the Menninger Clinic, and resided in Orange County for more than four decades.

Arthur Marx, who died in 2011 at age 89, was a screenwriter for film and television and wrote books about his father as well. He produced Groucho: A Life in Revue, which debuted off-Broadway in 1986.

Allen's survivors include her half-sister, Melinda, 70, the daughter of Groucho and his second wife, Kay Marvis. (Marvis earlier had been married to Leo Gorcey of Bowery Boys fame.)


 

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