America After Dark "Marx Brothers Reunion" (lost episode of NBC late night talk show; 1957)

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Marx Brothers America After Dark Reunion.jpeg

One of several photos taken in Chico's dressing room during the reunion. From left: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho and Gummo.

Status: Lost

America After Dark was a late-night live news/talk show that aired on the American network NBC for only a few months across 1956-7, and is now bnst known as a failed attempt to retool the Tonight Show after the original hosts departed. [1] One AAD episode, however, gained notoriety on its own for unexpectedly hosting the reunion of all five Marx Brothers, by then comedy and film legends.[2] Unfortunately, like most early TV programs, America After Dark was not routinely recorded and the episode is considered almost surely lost.


Tonight! America After Dark was conceived by NBC executives as a late-night counterpart to the network's iconic morning staple, The Today Show. Current news stories and personalities were thus introduced to the Tonight Show format along with the celebrity guests and short comedy bits. This fairly drastic and - by all accounts - noticeably awkward retool was not at all popular with NBC affiliate stations, and was already in serious trouble by the sixteenth episode, set to air in mid-February of 1957, when word arrived that all five members of the legendary Marx Brothers comedy troupe were not only soon to be in town but staging a mini-reunion.

The brothers (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo) had long since attained worldwide comedy superstardom via their films together, but by 1950 the troupe had largely disbanded and all five, now in their sixties, had embarked on solo projects. As it happened, Chico Marx, the eldest, was opening in The Fifth Season on the night of Feb 18th, at the Los Angeles Playhouse not far from NBC's LA studios. [3]. In a show of fraternal support, Chico’s younger brothers Adolf (Harpo), Julius Henry (Groucho), Milton (Gummo) and Herbert Manfred (Zeppo) all planned to attend his premiere.

Presented with this golden opportunity, AAD's producers wasted no time arranging for a live spot with all the brothers in Chico’s dressing room after the show, going so far as to publicize the appearance in that day's issue of Variety and national newspapers. According to these blurbs, the Marx Brothers segment was scheduled at or around 11:15 pm. AAD host (at the time) Jack Lescouli oversaw the reunion, which was also commemorated in photographs that suggest it was a great success. [4]


To date, no copies of this intriguing bit of media history have turned up, and no transcripts have ever surfaced, outside of general reminisces confirmed by the photo series. A routine method of recording directly from film did not exist at this point, but it is possible that kinetoscope recordings were taken, as was sometimes the case with live performances thought worthy of preservation. Unfortunately America After Dark was most definitely not among these, and any recordings of its episodes would not have been valued highly enough to preserve for long.