"Satire is what closes on Saturday night."
"I saw the show at a disadvantage: the curtain was up."
"Skylark, starring Gertrude Lawrence, is a bad play saved by a bad performance."
"I can trace my ancestors all the way to the Crusades - Sir Roderick Kaufman. He went as a spy, of course."
GSK on the much-altered film version of Stage Door:
"They should have called it Screen Door."
GSK telegram to a misbehaving actor:
"Saw your performance tonight from back of house. Wish you were here."
GSK on film directing:
"It's all right, I suppose, if you can stay awake."
GSK in the linen department of Bloomingdale's:
"Have you got any good second-act curtains?"
The Marx Brothers
By the middle of the 1920s, vaudeville was dying out and one of the medium's greatest acts, the Marx Brothers, was looking to make the transition to the legitimate stage.
The producer Sam H. Harris brought Kaufman together with composer-lyricist Irving Berlin to craft a major musical for the Marxes. The result, The Cocoanuts (1925) was extremely popular and launched several projects for which Kaufman worked with the wildly anarchic comedy team.
Another musical, Animal Crackers (1928) followed, this time with a score by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Kaufman wrote the book to this show with Morrie Ryskind, a journalist and satirist.
These two musicals were the basis for the Marx Brothers' first two feature films and Kaufman and Ryskind later wrote the screenplay for A Night at the Opera (1935), perhaps the brothers' best film. Although his ability to ad-lib appeared to be effortless, Groucho Marx's best lines in the early projects were written by Kaufman and the comedian always gave the playwright credit for helping to create his enduring comic persona.
However, the explosive spontaneity of the Marxes was a thorn in the side of the perfectionist Kaufman: once, in the back of the theater during a Marx musical, Kaufman interrupted a conversation with a companion, saying, "Excuse me, I thought I heard one of my original lines."