Groucho Marx /

The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made

Instantly recognisable for his trademark fake eyebrows, moustache, glasses, and cigar, Groucho Marx was one of the most famous comedy stars in American history.

Groucho appeared in 13 films with his siblings, the famous Marx Brothers, notably Duck Soup A Day At The Races and A Night At The Opera. Above all, he was famous for his wisecracks. “One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know,” was one. “Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read,” was another.

Groucho was a defiant outsider. “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” he famously declared. He was born Julius Henry Marx to a poor New York Jewish family. Along with his brothers Chico, Harpo, Gummo and Zeppo, he soon developed a career in vaudeville.

The Marx Brothers had a major showbusiness breakthrough in in Texas in 1914, when they departed from the script to mock the audience who had been distracted by a runaway mule.

Later, they gravitated into films with enormous success coming in the 1930s and 40s. After deciding to go solo, an ageing Groucho became a success on TV on the hit US show, You Bet Your Life.

Groucho later explained that his famous props served a practical purpose: “If you forget a line,” he said “all you have to do is stick the cigar in your mouth and puff on it until you think of what you've forgotten."

Certainly, he never seemed without a joke for long.