3 June 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Ian Sansom on the comic clan who grew up in a happy, hectic house

The Schönbergs lived at 179 East 93rd Street, in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Manhattan, an area then inhabited mostly by immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe. Fanny and Levy were from Dornum, in East Frisia. Their daughter Minnie married a man she met at a dance, Samuel Marx, a tailor, from Mertzwiller, in Alsace; the family called him Frenchie. Minnie and Samuel had five sons: Leonard, born 1887; Adolph, born 1888; Julius, born 1890; Milton, born 1892; and Herbert, born 1901. Their firstborn son, Manfred, had died aged just seven months in 1886.

Years later, Adolph recalled their early years. "There were 10 mouths to feed every day ... five boys ... cousin Polly, who'd been adopted as one of us; my mother and father, and my mother's mother and father. A lot of the time my mother's sister, Aunt Hannah, was around too. And on »

- Ian Sansom

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