When war was declared in 1915 the American nation looked to the entertainment industry to set an example. Unfortunately Broadway became a hideaway for draft dodgers. The Government sent in agents to hound out the slackers. One act that sort PR advice on what should be done to generate popular appeal during this time was the Marx’s Brothers.
After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, public anti-German sentiment was widespread, and Groucho’s “German” character was booed, he worried that the public would fall out of love with the fledgling act if the war turned against America. Groucho had a show business Uncle: Al Shean of Gallagher and Shean a noted and popular vaudeville who suggested that they visit Harry Reichenbach for some free advice. He suggested that all four “brothers” should make a big thing of enlisting. A media opp was created when the quartet turned up at a Chicago recruiting station to enlist in the Illinois infantry. One was rejected for defective eyesight. A second for flat feet. A third for physical disability incurred by an operation. And the fourth – “for general reasons.” Groucho took the opportunity to come up with a sound byte for the press… “That’s nothing,” he boasted to the recruiting sergeant, ” You should see he fifth Marx brother: two heads!”