Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo (January 14, 1908 – September 2, 1934), better known
as Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune, "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love," his compositions "Prisoner
of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words", and the legend surrounding his early death.
Columbo was born in Camden, New Jersey, the twelfth child of Italian immigrant parents, Nicola and Giulia Colombo. He started playing the violin while still very young, and debuted
professionally at the age of 13. He left high school at 17 to travel with various bands around the country.
Russ Columbo composed the songs "Prisoner of Love", "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)" with
Con Conrad, Gladys Du Bois, and Paul Gregory, "Too Beautiful For Words", recorded by the Teddy Joyce Orchestra in 1935, "When
You're in Love", "My Love", "Let's Pretend There's a Moon", recorded by Fats Waller and Tab Hunter, and "Hello Sister". "Prisoner
of Love" is a standard that has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Perry Como, the Ink Spots, Mildred
Bailey, Teddy Wilson with Lena Horne on vocals, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, and James Brown. Perry Como had a no.1 hit on
Billboard with his recording.
On September 2, 1934, Columbo was shot under peculiar circumstances by his longtime friend, photographer Lansing Brown. Columbo was visiting him at the studio one day. In lighting a cigarette, Brown lit the match by striking
it against the wooden stock of an antique French dueling pistol. The flame set off a long-forgotten charge in the pistol chamber
containing a lead ball. The ball ricocheted off a nearby table and hit Columbo. He passed away several hours later. Columbo's
death was ruled an accident, and Brown exonerated from blame. His funeral mass was attended by numerous Hollywood luminaries,
including Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard.
However, the news was withheld from his mother by his brothers and sisters for ten years due to her
previous heart condition. It was feared that the news would prove fatal to her (she died in 1944). They used all manner of
subterfuges to give the impression that he was still alive, including faked letters from him and records used to simulate
his radio program.
Click Here to see and hear Russ Colombo sing
Chico, Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act, originally from New York City, that enjoyed success in vaudeville, Broadway, and motion pictures from the early 1900s to around 1950. Five of the Marx Brothers’ thirteen feature films were
selected by the American Film Institute as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them (Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera) in the top twelve.
The core of the act was the three elder brothers, Chico, Harpo, and Groucho; each developed a highly distinctive stage persona. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, did not develop their stage characters to the same extent, and eventually left the act to pursue
other careers. Gummo was not in any of the movies; Zeppo appeared only in the first five.
Click Here to see a clip from "The Cocoanuts" (1929) starring The Marx Bros.