Groucho and the gorilla

circus5In a 1969 interview with Dick Cavett, before singing “Lydia The Tattooed Lady” from the Marx Brothers film At The Circus, Groucho Marx told this story about the production of the film…

In this picture (At The Circus) we had a gorilla. It wasn’t actually a gorilla… it was a gorilla skin with a man inside of it. And he had a manager… this gorilla skin had a manager! This is true!

And we engaged them to bring the pelt over to the studio and then we engaged a man to go inside of the gorilla skin. And he also had a manager. So we had two managers there for one gorilla!

And, you know, this skin was awfully hot, with all the lights, and it was in the summer we were doing this scene. And during lunchtime, the fellow who was in the skin, he went over to the lunchroom, and he got an ice pick, and he bored about 40 holes in this gorilla skin. And when he came back he was very comfortable inside of this skin.

s-l1000But the manager got wind of this– the manager of the skin. And he was in a rage. And he says to us, “We’re not going to permit this,” and he says “Give me my skin– get that guy out of there!”– threw the pelt over his shoulder and walked out of the studio.

Now we had about three more scenes to do with the gorilla but we had no skin!

So we had six people from MGM rushing around San Diego and all around that section of California looking for another monkey. We needed another gorilla. But we couldn’t get one– we got an orangutan, which is only half the size of a gorilla. And then we had to get a midget to go into this orangutan skin.

And then we got hundreds of letters when the picture come out, from fans who said, “We don’t understand it. The gorilla was this high (puts his hands over his head) at the start of the picture, and he was only this high (puts his hands at his waist) in the second half.”

And we never told them that we had an orangutan with a midget in it.

cavett-large groucho


Click on the screenshot to the right to view the complete 1969 Dick Cavett interview with Groucho. Groucho tells this story at about the 19 minute mark. 

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