By Ty Burr
Updated April 11, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

It passes the basic litmus test of Marxophilia: There’s an entry for ”The Gookie,” the cheek-bulging, eye-crossing face that Harpo inflicted on all the pomposities that crossed his path. But in other respects, this sobersided compendium of the comedy team’s films, skits, and costars falls short: Instead of separate entries on each brother, Mitchell divvies up his information under headings like ”Births,” ”Marriages,” ”Characters,” and so forth. Committed followers will find more than enough arcana here — I never knew that besides Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo, and Gummo, there was a sixth brother, Manfred, who died in infancy. But like Groucho’s dowager objet d’amour Margaret Dumont, there’s almost too much for beginning Marxists to get their arms around. B

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