Presenting a precious moment in American car culture: Groucho Marx delivers a deadpan sales pitch for the all-new 1957 DeSoto.
Groucho Marx (1890-1977) is celebrated the world over as the erstwhile leader of the Marx Brothers, the comedy geniuses who created some of the funniest movies in film history, including Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935). But if you’re a child of the ’50s and ’60s, you also know Groucho for his second career: as the host of the TV game show You Bet Your Life, a vehicle custom-made for his lightning wit and zany observations.
A major sponsor of You Bet Your Life was DeSoto, casting Groucho in the role of celebrity spokesman for the former Chrysler division. In these early days of television, personalities shilled without shame, performing a song or delivering a dramatic line one moment, then turning toward the camera the next moment to pitch the sponsor’s product. The approach was guileless if nothing else.
The Marx brothers were well-known car guys around Hollywood and Beverly Hills—Chico and Zeppo owned a notorious Mercedes SSK, while Groucho was understood to be a Packard man before he partnered with DeSoto. In this spot, Groucho delivers his selling points with an air of quiet confidence and knowledgeability, nothing like his manic screen persona. Watch this clip and you’ll be ready to visit your local DeSoto-Plymouth dealer for a test drive.