Unlike brothers Chico and Harpo, who often appeared on screen with their respective instruments (piano and harp), Groucho’s abilities as a guitarist are less well known.
He appeared with his chosen instrument in 1932’s Horse Feathers (and briefly in Monkey Business, 1931), in which he serenaded co-star Thelma Todd with one of two Gibson L-5s that he owned – a dot neck and a block neck.
On completing the song – Everyone Says I Love You – the hapless guitar is unceremoniously tossed overboard. Guitarists in the audience may well notice that Groucho’s prized archtop has been replaced by a cheap round-hole guitar before meeting its watery fate (so much for continuity!)
Here’s Groucho serenading Thelma Todd out on the river with the L-5 clearly pictured
Oops! Groucho’s guitar has morphed into a much cheaper round-hole model (probably a studio prop).
As the sequence continues, Groucho launches the prop into the water.
Watch the clip from Horsefeathers
Another anecdote has Groucho pressing classical guitar legend, André Segovia – who he has invited for dinner – into accompanying him as he performs an arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor!
By all accounts, Groucho was a serious student, practising up to three hours a day and subjecting his family to ‘recitals’ of the pieces that he was learning.
Having taken up the guitar, Groucho’s daughter Miriam asked her father if she could have one of his L-5s and in 1946 he complied, giving her a quantity of sheet music with the gift.