Monday, November 23, 2009

Honk! Harpo, Honk!

Adolph "Harpo" Marx was born this day in 1888, 121 years ago today.

Adolph was the second oldest of 5 brothers who would become one of the greatest musical-comedy teams that ever lived. Leonard "Chico", Adolph (who changed his name to Arthur in 1911 to not sound so German with the outbreak of WWI) "Harpo", Julius "Groucho", Milton "Gummo" and Herbert "Zeppo".

Pictured above left to right, Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (Mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (Father), Chico and Harpo.

All five appeared on stage in the 1910's though Gummo dropped out early to pursue a career off the stage. Zeppo appeared all during their stage career and into their film career, but left after five films, leaving the core group of Groucho, Harpo and Chico to continue on.

Harpo was probably the first of the brothers to become any one's favorite. Though his did speak early in their stage shows, it turns out he just wasn't very good at delivering lines. So he developed a silent persona and found he had a great ability at pantomime.

This silent clown was at once very appealing to kids and his women chasing and lecherous leer a hit with the men of the audience. His non-verbal and childlike (actually a pure personification of the id) mannerisms, made him acceptable to the ladies as well.

Check it out.

Harpo also tempered his feral and horny screen persona by showing a sensitive musical side. He was, after all, named Harpo because he played the harp.

Harpo also led an erudite social life. His grand home on the country club at Rancho Mirage and the Palm Springs night club life as well as jet setting the the right coast and being a member of "The Algonquin Round Table", invited by Alexander Woolcott himself.

He and his wife also adopted 4 children, Harpo's seen below clowning with three of them all adorned in "Harpo" wigs.

And did I mention he was freakin' funny? Oh yeah, I did. Check him out again.

Harpo was a gateway drug for me, leading me to the more verbal humor of his brother's Groucho and Chico as I grew older and to the interactive comedy of the team itself. I never tire of watching the Marx's on film and hopefully never will.

Thanks Harpo!

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