The youngest of the five Marx brothers was born February 25, 1901 into a Jewish family in New York City. His mother was German, and his father was a French tailor that had changed his last name from Marrix to Marx.
His older brothers formed a comedy act in 1909, that at only 8 years of age he was too young to participate in.
Then in 1918, after his older brother Gummo was drafted into the army for World War I, he was asked to join the act as a last minute stand-in.
The night he boarded a train to Texas to join his brothers, he was supposed to take out an Irish girl with a friend of his. His friend went ahead and went on the date, resulting in his being shot a few hours later when he was attacked by an Irish gang that disapproved of a Jew dating an Irish girl. He lived with the fact that he could have been killed as well if he had not boarded the train that night to join his brothers in Texas.
On April 12, 1927, he married Marion Benda, eventually adopting two children together.
Herbert Manfred “Zeppo” Marx then appeared in the first five Marx Brothers movies as a straight man and romantic lead from 1929 to 1933.
There are different theories to where Zeppo got his stage name: Groucho Marx said at a Carnegie Hall concert in 1972 that the name was derived from the Zeppelin airship.
His brother Harpo offered a different account in his 1961 autobiography, Harpo Speaks!, claiming (p. 130) that there was a popular trained chimpanzee named Mr. Zippo, and that “Herbie” was tagged with the name “Zippo” because he liked to do chinups and acrobatics, as the chimp did in its act. The youngest brother objected to this nickname, and it was altered to “Zeppo.”
In 1933, Herbert Marx left his brothers act to start a second career as an engineer.
He had great mechanical skills, and in 1941 formed Marman Products Company to make clamping devices and straps.
Like many other companies, during World War II his company Marman Products became involved in the war effort.
One of the products his company manufactured was the “Marman Clamp.”
He designed the Marman Clamp to secure cargo during transport.
However, as part of the Manhattan Project, his company produced the clamps used to transport the atomic bombs used against Japan at the end of the Second World War.
In 1948, his company also developed and marketed a short-lived 2-cylinder low-powered motorcycle brand, named the “Marman Twin”.
Herbert Marx also founded a large theatrical agency with his brother Gummo, and invented a wristwatch that would monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients and give off an alarm if they went into cardiac arrest.
Herbert and Marion divorced on May 12, 1954.
Then on September 18, 1959, Zeppo Marx married Barbara Blakeley, whose son, Bobby Oliver, he wanted to adopt and give his surname, but Bobby’s father would not allow it. Bobby simply started using the last name “Marx”.
Marx owned a house on Halper Lake Drive in the Rancho Mirage, California, which was built off the fairway of the Tamarisk Country Club. The Tamarisk Club had been set up by the Jewish community, which rivaled the gentile club called “The Thunderbird”. His neighbor happened to be Frank Sinatra. Marx would later attend the Hillcrest Country Club with friends like Sinatra, George Burns, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, and Milton Berle.
Barbara Marx became involved with the Cedars-Sinai hospital, and had arranged to show Spartacus (featuring Kirk Douglas) for charity, selling tickets, and organizing a post-screening ball. At the last minute, Barbara was told she could not have the film, so Marx went to the country club and spoke to neighbor Frank Sinatra, who agreed to let him have an early release of a film he had just finished called Come Blow Your Horn.
Sinatra also flew everyone involved to Palm Springs for the event.
Frank Sinatra often invited Barbara and Herbert Marx to his house two or three times a week. Sinatra would also send champagne or wine to their home, as a nice gesture.
Barbara Marx and Frank Sinatra started to see one another behind Herbert’s back. The press eventually caught up to Barbara, snapping photos of her and Frank together, or asking Barbara questions whenever they would spot her.
Herbert Marx and Barbara divorced in 1973. Marx let Barbara keep the 1969 Jaguar he had bought her, and agreed to pay her $1,500 a month for ten years.
Frank Sinatra reportedly upgraded Barbara’s Jaguar to the latest model.
Frank also gave Barbara a house to stay in. The house belonged to Eden Hartford, Groucho Marx’s third wife.
Barbara and Frank Sinatra continued to date, and were constantly hounded by the press until the divorce between Herbert Marx and Barbara became final. Barbara and Frank Sinatra would later marry in 1976.
Herbert Marx became sick with cancer in 1978. He sold his house, and moved to a house on the fairway off Frank Sinatra Drive. The doctors thought the cancer had gone into remission, but it came back.
Herbert called Barbara Sinatra, who took him to the doctor’s office.
Herbert Marx died November 30, 1979 of lung cancer after spending his last days with Barbara’s family.
Herbert was the last surviving Marx Brother.
His remains were cremated and scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Both Frank Sinatra and Barbara attended his funeral.
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