What Burns Really Thought of Groucho

In Going in Style, George Burns wears “Groucho glasses” as he and his friends commit a robbery. The silly disguise, also called a “beaglepuss” after the company which sold them, went on the market in the 1940s, after the Marx brothers had become a comic staple.

The gag look replicated Groucho’s signature appearance. Interestingly, Groucho’s “mustache” was actually fake, created with greasepaint. It wasn’t until his television series You Bet Your Life that he sported a real one on camera.

While George Burns may have lovingly donned Groucho’s look, Burns and Marx had a bit of a rivalry before they became friendly.

At a dinner party hosted by Edward G. Robinson, a guest asked Burns which comedian was the funniest. Burns thought Charlie Chaplin was. However, Groucho disagreed and stated that, in fact, he was the funniest.

“Then I must be the funniest comedian,” Burns retorted, “because I’m funnier than you are. And I did it without my brothers.”

Groucho didn’t take kindly to the remark. He got his revenge in the form a newspaper article where he praised the work of Jack Benny and said Burns wore a toupee.

As time went on, the two comedians became friends, but of course, that didn’t stop them from having hiccups along the way.

In another story, George Burns remembered how every time he ordered his favorite fish, sea bass, at a restaurant, Groucho would say, “If you can't have sea bass every night, you can't have sea bass at all" – a riff on a Sophie Tucker’s song "If You Can't See Mama Every Night, You Can't See Mama at All.”

George got tired of hearing the “lousy” joke every time, so one night, he whispered his order into the waiter’s ear. Unfortunately, the waiter took the liberty of repeating Groucho’s joke.

In real life, Groucho’s signature “Windsor-style” wire rim glasses, which he wore in films like At the Circus, A Night in Casablanca, and Go West, sold for $24,000. Also of note, George Burns’ glasses along with a pair of Gracie Allen’s (his wife) sold for a combined $4,465.

When Groucho passed in 1977, two years before Going in Style was released, George Burns spoke highly of his friend, stating he was “one of the great original funny men.”