Omg, this is Mahler’s daughter on a US game show

Omg, this is Mahler’s daughter on a US game show


norman lebrecht

May 10, 2020

In January 1952, at a low ebb in her fortunes, Anna Mahler appeared on You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx.

Listen to the first ten minutes, You will never be able to erase the experience from memory.


  • Brian viner says:

    Groucho was the best. I still enjoy the films

  • Ann Nomynous says:

    A lot of people would consider appearing with Groucho Marx a high point of their life and career.

    • brian says:

      I agree, and would add that anyone who thinks it’s somehow a humiliation to appear with one of our best comic geniuses is in fact an ignorant snob.

      • Karen S Blunt says:

        That’s me, I’m an ignorant snob! However, Gustav Mahler was NOT a snob, but this represents everything that would have made him turn in his grave, especially THE MUSIC!!! He literally had nightmares about that kind of brass playing. I expect the people who like this must be more familiar with this banal comedian, whoever he is, than they are with Mahler or his music.

  • John Borstlap says:


    • John Borstlap says:

      I repeat: it’s unbearable. It is only bearable for illiterati, who don’t like to be reminded of their inferiority and give such reminders a thumb-down.

      • Buxtehude says:

        You have this one completely wrong. If AM wanted to experience this as a personal humiliation, well that’s her business. Few others would have seen it that way. FWIW Groucho was a great classical music lover (excepting that played on the harp).

      • Tom Beers says:

        Get over yourself. She was treated respectfully once her ‘identity’ was disclosed, and she knew what to expect by appearing on the show. As to your charge directed against a supposed ‘illiterati’, I’ll stack my appreciation of the merits of ‘high’ culture against anyone’s (including your’s), and won’t fear the comparison. But the nearly religious worship of the affects and personalities of that high culture reached its logical end with Stefan Zweig’s miserably self-regarding 1942 suicide in a crumby Brazilian flat … His ‘World of Yesterday’ is dead and gone and unmourned by everyone unafraid to accept change as the one reliable ‘constant’ in life.

        • Karen S Blunt says:

          So you believe the quasi religious worship of ‘low hollywood style celebrity culture,’ like this show is preferable? Why would that be? Your oblivion of the irony suggests a degree of ignorance and blind inverted snobbery to me.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That’s very unkind! I gave it a thumb-down!


    • Jack says:

      Sniff sniff . . .

  • Annonymous says:

    Have you ever heard the radio interview with Maria Callas’s mother? It is sad indeed

    • John Borstlap says:

      The worst interview ever in classical music was with Stravinsky’s mother, who came to France after WW I and the Russian revolution, and kept hammering it into her son that he was inferior to Scriabine. When her son protested, criticizing her taste, she merely replied: ‘Well well Igor! In all those years you have not changed a bit. You have always been like that: always contemptuous of people who are your betters!’

      Source: George Antheil, in ‘Bad Boy of Music’ (1945), p. 30-37.

    • Bruce says:

      Was that also with Groucho Marx?

      (he asked innocently)

  • Cubs Fan says:

    What’s interesting is that when Groucho learned who her father was, he said that Mahler was one of the great modern composers. We’ve always been led to believe that Mahler was practically unknown prior to Bernstein. And how many celebs these days would even know who Mahler is, and how many Hollywood dimwits would know the author of Last of the Mohicans or Ivanhoe?

    • We privatize your value says:

      Leopold Stokowski was well known in Hollywood, and he had already championed Mahler in the 1910s!

      • FrauGeigerin says:

        He was indeed very well known, but US-Americans tend to think that if something is not popular or known by them, it means it is just unknown, and only reach recognition after they discover it Oh, well…

        • Tom Beers says:

          The appropriate question is how generally well known — and appreciated — was Mahler’s music. As late as the early 1940’s, Arnold Schoenberg could say he had only been persuaded of the merits of the Seventh Symphony by a (then rare) performance in the USA. And, of course, by then Mahler’s music had been banned in toto throughout Nazi-occupied Europe by the ‘Herrenvolk’ and their many quisling collaborators and enablers. Post-war, it’s well-known that (except in Amsterdam) Mahler was rarely played and little appreciated when he was. (Exhibit 1, of many: the abject ignorance of Mahler’s Ninth by Karajan’s vaunted Berliners when Barbirolli appeared to play — and record — it with them in the early 1960s.) Mahler ignorance wasn’t limited to Americans, despite the ignorant canards of American-haters to the contrary.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      The Marx Brothers were hardly “Hollywood dimwits”.

    • Joseph Monzo says:

      All of the Marx Brothers had years of music lessons before they focused on comedy as vaudeville entertainers. As children of European Jewish immigrants, with a lot of musicians on their mother’s side of the family (and her maiden name was Schönberg!), they probably knew who Mahler was.

  • Alviano says:

    Groucho was a smart guy, but this episode is dull.

  • Adam Stern says:

    Thanks for posting this unique little chunk of radio
    history. And how nice to have a memory jog for Anatole Fistoulari, one of my favorite conductors that time is in danger of forgetting.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    ==We’ve always been led to believe that Mahler was practically unknown prior to Bernstein

    Yes, that is something which Lenny vigorously promoted.
    Ruggiero Ricci had for some time a bit in his biog how much he’d done to make the Bach solo violin music well know. Err…

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Mahler was known but his music was out of fashion and the symphonies were rarely played. Mahler only began to be played regularly in the 1970s, and Bernstein was one of the conductors who led the Mahler revival.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Anna Mahler died in Hampstead, London – not far from SD HQ

  • Edgar Self says:

    One of Grouch’s fans and correspondents was T. S. Eliot. I think sculptress Anna was married to Ernst Krenek at one time. Or two. , Groucho used to ask guests if they were married or happy.

  • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

    “Yes, I know. Gustav Mahler was my father.” I missed a heartbeat. By the way, take notice that the comedian is an educated man and, at least, feigns knowledge of the Mahler name and its significance to musical culture. I think he was sincere, and I found that very touching. On the other hand, Mr. Lebrecht, it seems that this recording offends each and every single one of your sensibilities and I can’t blame you. For me, and I have a hunch that for you too, the recording ends at “Yes, I know. Gustav Mahler was my father…”

    • Tom Beers says:

      As Groucho was socially acquainted with both Max Reinhardt and Thomas Mann during the 1930s/1940s in Hollywood he probably met Alma Mahler as well. Open question whether he knew much about Anna (who had a largely European career in the ’20s and ’30s). But really, people, the anti-USA snobbery reflected in so many of these posts is ridiculously unwarranted. Reinhardt, Mann, and both ‘Mahlers’ survived — and prospered — during those miserable decades because they found working havens, and appreciative audiences, in the USA. On the other hand, we know what miserable fates awaited them had they remained in the centers of European ‘culture’.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    This is absolutely amazing. Everything I could ever hope from an interaction like this and more.

  • REGERFAN says:

    Groucho might have been familiar with Mahler from his youth in New York because Mahler was conducting at the Met (and the NY Phil) when Groucho was 19. But it was noteworthy to me that he referred to Mahler as a composer, not a conductor.

    • We privatize your value says:

      Again, I am sure that the Hollywood connection through Stokowski (of “Fantasia” fame) and Bruno Walter (who died in Beverly Hills) did the trick.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      In the years before the first world war, Mahler and R. Strauss were the two leading composers in the German speaking world. This is something that Groucho Marx would have known, as would most educated people.

      Mahler went out of fashion in the twenties even before the rise of the Nazis caused his music to be banned. It was only in the 1960s and particularly the 1970s that his symphonies began to be played again on a regular basis.

  • Sharon says:

    From what I understand from his biographies and what his son has written, at this point or in the one or two years immediately following this broadcast Groucho was himself at a low point.

    He was politically left wing and what happened during the McCarthy era with all the performing personalities being blacklisted was very difficult for him emotionally. However, he was making a lot of money with his radio and later TV show so he had to keep very quiet.

    Fortunately unlike Jerome Robbins who betrayed people and never forgave himself Groucho never had to appear in front of the US Congress’ UnAmerican Activities Committee.

    His son Arthur, who got his start as a writer writing about the Marx brothers, later would become a pretty left wing writer doing writing for the left wing American TV series All in the Family and later as the main writer for its followup TV series Maude.

    As far as Anna was concerned I have read that she said that she divorced her last husband because they were so busy taking care of each other (with physical challenges due to aging) that neither of them had the time to do any creative work! I believe that her daughter died around 15 years ago.

  • They couldn’t get Hemingway?

  • CallDon says:

    Don’t kid yourself. Groucho knew who she was. Groucho knows who every guest is long before the show airs. Most of his best jokes are scripted already. The interviews seem impromptu. But they are well prepared in advance. Groucho knew exactly who she was.

  • Sharon says:

    My hobby is biography. Groucho Marx never got past the sixth grade but he was very well read and wrote articles and at one Broadway play as well as some of the Marx brothers routines. For about 15 years the brothers did the vaudeville circuit. Groucho spent a lot of time reading while he was traveling, mainly in trains, and self educated himself well.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Remember that Klemperer was the conductor of the L A Philharmonic for several years. As he was known and promoted by Mahler, I can’t think that OK did not program several of Mahler’s symphonies in LA. So I do think that people in the arts in LA did know very well who Mahler was, to include Groucho.

  • Oh my…….elimination on account of Hemingway!