From the be-careful-what-you-ask-for-department:
This is non-numismatic but any true bibliophile can associate with this story of the saving of important artifacts from the dumpster. It's written by the grandson of Groucho Marx, and I just couldn't resist passing along the story of lunch at Groucho's house with (get this...) Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould and Marcel Marceau.
I was the last to arrive that day and as I entered the dining room, Nicholson, Gould and Marceau were already seated.
As I took my seat next to Nicholson, he immediately raised his wine glass and offered a toast to my grandfather. As everyone lifted their glasses, Marcel Marceau turned to my grandfather and asked, “Groucho, if you don’t mind, is it okay if I mime the wine?
My grandfather nodded in approval and sure enough, Marceau, probably the greatest mime since Charlie Chaplin, proceeded to open a non-existent bottle of wine with a non-existent corkscrew, then pour the non-existent wine into a non-existent glass. Next, he lifted the glass to toast and then took an imaginary sip. I must admit, it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen, proving once more that lunch at my grandfather’s was always full of suprises.
As Nicholson began telling everyone about his latest movie, “The Last Detail,” which would be released in a few months, the phone rang and my grandfather, never one to have his lunch or a good story interrupted, asked me to answer it.
I walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
“Is Mr. Marx in?”, the voice at the other end said.
“Who’s calling?” I asked.
“I work at the NBC storage warehouse in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,” the man said. “We’ve got several boxes of 16mm reels of film from ‘You Bet Your Life’ and we were wondering if Mr. Marx wants any of it. If not, we’re going to destroy all of it tomorrow.”
“Destroy it?” I asked incredulously. “Why would you do that?”
“We’re trying to clear space for the newer shows. There’s a lot of stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s that we’re getting rid of. If Mr. Marx would like it, we’ll be happy to send all of the reels to him.”
“Tell him to burn them for all I care,” my grandfather said, eliciting laughs from his guests. These days it was hard to tell if he was just doing his grouchy act for his invited audience or truly didn’t care.
“Grandpa, you don’t really want them doing the same thing they did to Oscar Levant’s show,” I said, referring to what had happened to all the copies of his good friend, Oscar Levant’s classic show from the ‘50s, “Information, Please,” when all of the kinescopes that existed were destroyed.
“He’s right,” Nicholson chimed in. “Groucho, that stuff is classic. Listen to your grandson. Let them send the reels to you.”
“Alright,” my grandfather said. “Maybe it’ll be fun to watch them again.”
Excited, I ran back and told the man to send the boxes to my grandfather’s house.
As it turned out, it would take more than an afternoon to watch the episodes. Two weeks later, I got a call from my grandfather, who sounded more than a little angry.
“Get over here right now,” he growled. “There are five UPS trucks in front of my house. Each one of them is filled with boxes of 16mm reels of “You Bet Your Life.”
I rushed over to my grandfather’s house and sure enough, there were five UPS trucks parked in front. Each driver was wheeling dozens of boxes of film into the house.
“Where would you like us to put all of this?” one of the drivers asked me. “There are over 500 boxes and each box contains ten reels of film.”
5,000 reels of film, I thought to myself, as I watched the small army of UPS drivers putting boxes in any empty space they could find, including a now-vacated bedroom that once belonged to Groucho’s last wife from whom he was now divorced. I couldn’t help thinking this was beginning to resemble a scene from a Marx Brothers film, as boxes of film were stacked to the ceiling, literally taking up entire rooms. I also thought back to the man from NBC, who told me there were “a few boxes of film,” an understatement if ever there was one.
By the time the UPS drivers left later that day, my grandfather’s house – which was quite large – was filled from end to end with boxes of “You Bet Your Life” reels. And even though I knew my grandfather was angry, I was grateful that we had managed to save “You Bet Your Life” from extinction by NBC.
To read the complete article, see:
The Day My Grandfather Groucho and I Saved ‘You Bet Your Life’
Wayne Homren, Editor
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