Groucho Marx's Lifelong Love Affair with Cigars
Groucho Marx’s son Arthur remembers, fondly, that he was the recipient of his famous father’s secondhand cigar smoke as an infant, something that annoyed his mother to no end. However, the younger Marx explained in a tribute to his dad in Cigar Aficionado that he was unaffected because, like Bill Clinton, he didn’t inhale.
Groucho Marx was first introduced to the pleasures of cigar smoking when, at the age of 15, he was playing on vaudeville. Taking the advice of a fellow vaudevillian, he started using a lit cigar as a prop, the theory being if he forgot his lines, he could smoke a cigar on stage while he tried to remember them.
In those days Marx was too poor to smoke anything but a nickel cigar, however he was moved to splurge a whole dime on a Cuban brand called La Preferencias that was advertised as being “30 minutes in Havana.” Much to his chagrin, the first La Preferencias he smoked only lasted 20 minutes. He demanded that the salesman replace the cigar, since the ad was for 30 minutes in Havana, not 20 minutes. But the second cigar fell short, as did the third, the fourth, and the fifth. The salesman, convinced that he was being conned, booted Marx out into the street when he demanded a sixth cigar.
By the time Marx had made a little money in the movies during the 1930s and 1940s, he began to favor Dunhill 410s. Contrary to popular belief he was not a heavy smoker, usually only having two cigars a day, one after lunch and one after dinner.
Marx’s cigar smoking got him into trouble with the women in his life. Once his third wife Eden complained about his cigar smoking and suggested that he had to choose between her and the cigar. Marx shot back with a quote from Kipling, “A woman is just a woman, but a cigar is a smoke.” Unamused, Mrs. Marx banished Groucho to the guest bedroom for six months. He is said to have been content to enjoy his after-dinner cigar in peace. Groucho lived to the age of 86, dying on August 19, 1977.
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