hico was born Leonard Marx on
March 22, 1887.
He was the eldest brother, and the last one to be recruited into the family act. According
to Harpo's autobiography, the group was performing on stage in their early vaudeville
days, when they suddenly noticed that Chico was playing the piano. Harpo and Groucho leapt into
the orchestra pit and the three started clowning around with the piano. This was one of
the Marx Brothers
first forays into the improvisational comedy they would become so well known for. Chico's
nickname came from his pursuit of women. It was originally "Chicko", but when the brothers
decided to use their nicknames on the act's programs, a typesetter made a mistake and
the name has been spelled "Chico" ever since.
When the Marx Brothers started making movies, Chico did most of the negotiations, and made sure they were paid a very tidy sum of money. Groucho and Harpo always praised Chico for his mathematical skills. But Chico, his entire life, spent a lot of time gambling, and as a result was frequently short on funds. His brothers were always helpful, making A Night in Casablanca when neither Harpo nor Groucho really needed the money, and Harpo including him in Love Happy. After the Marx Brothers films, Chico did lots of guest appearances, much as Harpo did. Chico died on October 11, 1961 from a heart attack.