September 28, 2013 posted by

Groucho Marx for DeSoto

What happens when you combine Groucho Marx, animation, and automobiles? This happens…


You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx began on radio in the late 40’s and by the early fifties also began appearing on television. For several years of it’s run it was sponsored by the Desoto division of the Chrysler Corporation. In 1955, they began to use animation for the openings and some of the commercials. Playhouse Pictures did the animation through the BBD&O agency.

The show’s popularity outlasted it’s sponsor. Syndicated re-runs of You Bet Your Life lasted into the seventies, but Chrysler Corporation killed off its Desoto division after a truncated ’61 season (less than 3100 built!)

Here are a few of the spots. Listen for the voice of You Bet Your Life announcer George Fenneman.

Groucho as Artist

Made in 1955 to pitch the ’55 models. Featuring Groucho Marx as “Groucho Marx”! Later in life, Groucho took to wearing a beret. I wonder if it’s because of this commercial.

You Bet You Life Opening – with Map

Animation including photographs of the 1955 Desoto line up. There is another version of this opening with drawings of cars instead of photos. The drawings in that version are fanciful and don’t resemble any actual car.

You Bet You Life – Abstract Opening

This is the famous opening. Made in 1955. The cars in the live-action footage are from the 1956 model year. Part of this animation was used in syndication (minus the sponsor’s plug) when it was billed as “The Best of Groucho.”

Scroll down to read a trade article about this spot, at the bottom of this post.

Desoto Dealer- (“Groucho sent me!”)

Designed by Bernie Gruver. Another spot for the 1955 model.

Desoto – Painter

Stan Freberg sings! Strangely, there are no cars visible in this spot. Animation by Bill Melendez and Emery Hawkins.

Desoto – Spacemen

From 1959. Daws Butler and Peter Leeds provide the voices. Designed by Sterling Sturdevant (click model sheet to enlarge). Animators include Herman Cohen, Rod Scribner, and Bill Littlejohn


Here’s a trade article about the Groucho “Abstract” opening spot – from the June 6th, 1955 issue of Broadcasting magazine. Click to enlarge.



  • Cool.

  • George Fenneman also hosted a 1964 “Behind the Scenes” TV special about Magilla Gorilla,
    for Hanna-Barbera and Ideal Toys.

  • Ahhhhhhhhhhh, easily one of THE funniest tv shows in tv history! When “reality tv” was entertaining!! And, man, that Fenneman docu was intriging!! Whoa!!

  • For those of us born after those DeSoto years, this was what we had.

  • I remember watching that Magilla Gorilla documentary in 1964. Thanks for posting that! 🙂

  • He started wearing a BERET so he could stop wearing a TOUPEE.

  • Somewhere in “The Groucho Letters” Groucho described his daily routine, which included watching “Huckleberry Hound” when the wife was home, and “Divorce Court” when she wasn’t.

  • Thanks so much for this post, Mike! I remember these commercials very well, and I certainly remember Groucho’s show.

    My next door neighbors had a ’57 Desoto. I rarely, rarely see one nowadays.

  • Groucho’s 55 Desoto currently lives in poor shape in Rancho Cucamonga.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *