9 November 1865
Dornum, East Frisia,
Kingdom of Hanover, German Confederation
13 September 1929 (aged 63)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Other names||Minnie Palmer|
|Sam "Frenchie" Marx|
Manfred Marx (1885-1886)|
Leonard "Chico" Marx
Adolph "Harpo" Marx
Julius "Groucho" Marx
Milton "Gummo" Marx
Herbert "Zeppo" Marx
|Relatives||Al Shean (brother)|
Marx was born Miene Schönberg in Dornum, Germany. Her parents Fanny née Salomons (1829-1898) and Levy "Lafe" Schönberg (1823-1919) were members of the local Jewish community. Her mother was a yodeling harpist, her father a ventriloquist. Her younger brother, Abraham Elieser Adolf, the future "Al Shean", was born in 1868. About 1880 the family emigrated to New York City, where Minnie married Samuel "Frenchie" Marx in 1884.
While managing the Marx Brothers, she also went under the name of Minnie Palmer, so that booking agents would not know that the agent representing the Marx Brothers was their mother. She played the harp as did her mother and her son, Harpo. She lived long enough to see her sons' 1929 film debut in The Cocoanuts, but died later that year of a stroke.
All the brothers confirmed that Minnie Marx had been the head of the family and the driving force in getting the troupe launched, the only person who could keep them in order, and a hard bargainer with theatre managements. As a tribute to her, all the brothers' daughters were given names that began with 'M': Chico with Maxine; Harpo with Minnie; and Groucho with Miriam and Melinda. Gummo and Zeppo had no daughters.
Marx and some of her sons appear briefly as characters in Glen David Gold's novel Carter Beats the Devil; the narrative identifies her as Minnie Palmer, and only gradually offers clues that the struggling vaudeville act traveling with her are the later-famous Marx Brothers. Marx (played by Shelley Winters) was also the main character in the stage musical Minnie's Boys.