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Harpo Marx Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (30) | Personal Quotes (11) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 23 November 1888New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 28 September 1964Los Angeles, California, USA  (following heart surgery)
Birth NameAdolph Marx
Height 5' 5½" (1.66 m)

Mini Bio (1)

With the big, poofy, curly red hair, a top hat, and a horn, the lovable mute was the favorite of the Marx Brothers. Though chasing woman was a favorite routine of his in the movies, Harpo was a devoted father and husband. He adopted the mute routine in vaudeville and carried it over to the films. Harpo was an accomplished self-taught harpist whose musical numbers would many times bring tears to the eyes of the audience of an otherwise hilarious movie.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: John Nehrenz

Spouse (1)

Susan Fleming (28 September 1936 - 28 September 1964) (his death) (4 adopted children.)

Trade Mark (2)

Usually wore a raincoat, beat up top hat and a red wig. Rarely spoke in his roles and never in films with his brothers. He would use pantomime and often had a bike horn to communicate with. He often had a scene where he would play a harp with great skill.
In the Paramount films, his coat carried an infinite variety of items for whatever need whether it was a blowtorch for lighting cigarettes, a sword and fish for a speak-easy password, a candle burning at both ends, etc.

Trivia (30)

Recreated the mirror scene from Duck Soup (1933) in an episode of I Love Lucy (1951).
When he trained himself in the harp, he later learned that he did it the wrong way. However, when he became famous, many musicians came to him to learn his method of harp playing.
Harpo first using the gag of chasing a screaming girl as a quick prank to throw his brother Groucho Marx's timing off on stage. Groucho wasn't fazed, but Harpo got in trouble when he found out the hard way that the girl had a violent mobster for a boyfriend. He quickly made peace with the man and incorporated the girl chasing for the rest of his career.
After his death, he was cremated and his ashes were allegedly sprinkled into the sand trap at the seventh hole of the Rancho Mirage golf course in California, USA where he used to play golf on a monthly basis.
As a child, Harpo was apparently infatuated with music. He rejoiced when his family bought a piano. He then fell into dispair when he found out that they could only afford to let one brother have piano lessons. His brother Chico Marx ended up with the lessons, which he did not take seriously. Harpo, of course, later mastered the harp.
Harpo officially became a mime after a theater critic noted in 1914 that Harpo was brilliant until his character spoke. From then on, Harpo never spoke while in character.
Nephew of actor Al Shean.
Adopted father of Bill Marx, Alexander Marx, Minnie Marx and Jimmy Marx, from his marriage to Susan Fleming
Son of Sam Marx and Minnie Palmer.
Died on the day of his 28th wedding anniversary.
One of only two Marx Brothers to play a recurring role in their films (not counting when they used their own names). He played the role of "Pinky" in both Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933).
He was voted, as one of The Marx Brothers, the 62nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Legally changed his given name to Arthur around 1911 because he much preferred it to the very German Adolph.
Was seldom recognized when out of character because he was almost completely bald.
The character of Banjo in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's play "The Man Who Came to Dinner" is based on Harpo.
Once crashed a Hollywood costume party at the home of Marion Davies, dressed as Kaiser Wilhelm II. He had to hitchhike to get home and ended up being arrested by Beverly Hills police on charges of vagrancy, illegal entry, escaping from jail in Gloversville, New York, impersonating Kaiser Wilhelm II, and impersonating Harpo Marx.
He was portrayed by actor Daniel Fortus in the Broadway musical "Minnie's Boys," which ran at the Imperial Theatre for 80 Performances from Mar 26 to May 30, 1970.
Groucho Marx gave this reason for Harpo's silence: Once, while playing a theater in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during a vaudeville tour, The Marx Brothers had a disagreement with the theater's manager regarding their pay. At the end of The Marx Brothers' engagement there, the manager paid them the amount they had demanded...in several large sacks containing the proper amount in the form of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Since the brothers' train was departing in ten minutes, the brothers had no choice except to lug the sacks onto the train with them. As the train departed, Harpo shouted to the manager, "I hope your theater burns to the ground." And that night, it did. Groucho always said that Harpo's voice was like the axe hanging on the backstage wall of every theater: To be used only in case of emergencies.
Is portrayed by 'J.M Henry' in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994).
Harpo was vacationing in the French Riviera and was engaged in nude sunbathing when he was surprised by an elderly man and woman. He wrapped his towel around his middle and stood up and introduced himself. The husband introduced himself as George Bernard Shaw, the famous writer and philosopher. Without warning Shaw snatched the towel away and then said, "And this is Mrs. Shaw!" It was the start of a lifelong friendship.
Served as the basis for the character Banjo in the long-running comedy "The Man Who Came to Dinner" by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The play had one of its most memorable productions at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, where Kaufman played Sheridan Whitside (the character based on critic Alexander Woollcott, Hart played Beverly Carlton (the character based on Noel Coward, and Harpo played Banjo, speaking his first lines on stage in over twenty years.
Although it is popularly believed that Harpo never spoke on film, he is faintly heard in the newsreel footage during the premiere of MGM's "The Great Ziegfeld" in 1936. He approaches the microphone without his wig and make-up and says to Joe Schenk just out of range of the mic: "You gotta do the talkin'." (in a very thick New York City accent) Harpo leans in to the mic after Schenk finishes speaking, and loudly says: "Honk! Honk!".
At the beginning of the film Monkey Business (1931), The Marx Brothers, playing ship's stowaways concealed in barrels, are first introduced harmonizing unseen, singing the popular song "Sweet Adeline." And although he is cannot be seen, this musical performance marks the only time during one of The Marx Brothers' movie that Harpo's voice -- a clear and pleasant baritone -- is ever heard.
He and Chico were usually mistaken as twins when they were young.
Was cousin of Sadie Marks - better known as Mary Livingson; brother-in-law of Benjamin Kubelsky, aka Jack Benny.
W.C. Fields said that The Marx Brothers were the only act he couldn't follow on the live stage. He is known to have appeared on the same bill with them only once, during an engagement at Keith's Orpheum Theatre in Columbus, OH, in January 1915. At the time the Marx Brothers were touring "Home Again", and it didn't take Fields long to realize how his quiet comedy juggling act was faring against the anarchy of the Marxes. Fields later wrote of the engagement (and the Marxes), "They sang, danced, played harp and kidded in zany style. Never saw so much nepotism or such hilarious laughter in one act in my life. The only act I could never follow . . . I told the manager I broke my wrist and quit.".

Personal Quotes (11)

If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world's against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.
[When asked how many children he'd like to have]: "So many that whenever we go out, there can be one in every window, waving to us."
But I guess that's the way it is. When you lose something irreplaceable, you don't mourn for the thing you lost. you mourn for yourself.
I am the most fortunate self-taught harpist and non-speaking actor who has ever lived.
[on visiting Hamburg, Germany, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power]: "I saw the most frightening, most depressing sight I had ever seen - a row of stores with Stars of David and the word 'Jude' painted on them, and inside, behind half-empty counters, people in a daze, cringing like they didn't know what hit them and didn't know where the next blow would come from. Hitler had been in power only six months, and his boycott was already in full effect. I hadn't been so wholly conscious of being a Jew since my bar mitzvahs, and it was the first time since I'd had the measles that I was too sick to eat."
[on comedy playwright George S. Kaufman] He had great integrity. You never had to watch him when he was dealing.
The man who first inspired me was a guy called Gookie. Gookie had nothing to do with the theater. He rolled cigars in the window of a cigar store on Lexington Avenue. When he got going good he was completely lost in work, so absorbed that he had no idea what a comic face he was making. His tongue lolled out in a fat roll, his cheeks puffed out and his eyes popped out and crossed themselves. Over the years, in every comedy act or movie I ever worked in, I've thrown in a Gookie at least once.
[on 'Duck Soup'] It was the only time I can remember that I worried about turning in a bad performance. The trouble was not with the script, the director, or the falls I had to take. The trouble was Adolf Hitler. His speeches were being rebroadcast in America. Somebody had a radio on the set, and twice we suspended shooting to listen to him scream.
[describing how he was once thrown out of a New York brothel in the 1920s]: One night I'm playing the harp at this local brothel bar when I felt sick and I practically keeled off the stool. And the Madame says: "Get that son-of-a-bitch back on that stool and play! I've got customers here." So a minute later... again I fell off the stool. She said: "What the hell is the matter with him?" to one of the girls. The prostitute said to the Madame: "He must be sick. I think we should call a doctor." So, they sent for a doctor. Ten minutes later the doctor arrived, he looked at me, and he said to the Madame: "He's got the measles." The Madame said to the doctor: "Then get him the hell out of here. I don't want any sick Jews around me."
[on performing in vaudeville] If an audience didn't like us we had no trouble finding it out. We were pelted with sticks, bricks, spitballs, cigar butts, peach pits and chewed-out stalks of sugar cane. We took all this without flinching - until Minnie gave us the high-sign that we'd collected our share of the receipts. Then we started throwing stuff back at the audience and run like hell for the railroad station the second the curtain came down.
[on accommodation, while touring] Cheap hotels in the South and Southwest were apparently set up as bug sanctuaries by some Audubon Society for Insects. Fleas, ticks, bedbugs, cockroaches, beetles, scorpions and ants, having no enemies, attacked with fearless abandon. They had the run of the house and they knew it. After a while you just let them bite. Fighting back was useless. For every bug you squashed, a whole fresh, bloodthirsty platoon would march out of the woodwork. In one hotel hotel the ants were so bad that each bed was set on four pots of oxalic acid.

Salary (2)

A Night at the Opera (1935) $175,000 + 15% of gross
A Day at the Races (1937) $175,000 + 15% of gross

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