Sunday, November 23, 2014

(Mostly) Silent Star

Perhaps this should be a blog entry with only pictures, no words, to honor the memory of Harpo Marx, born (with the given name Adolph) on this date in 1888. His inimitable career in comedy drew almost entirely on his ability to mine laughs from facial expressions, sight gags, pantomime, and other nonverbal expressions. What little his characters had to say was often conveyed with the toot of a horn he carried almost everywhere, although most Marx Brothers movies also made room for at least one musical number performed on the harp that gave this great comedian his stage name.

A popular comedy team on stage and in movies, the Marx Brothers began to go their separate ways professionally in the late 1940s. Though Harpo's comedy was obviously ill-suited to radio, he made occasional television appearances in the 1950s and early 1960s, notably a classic episode of I Love Lucy (above) in which he and Lucille Ball play lookalike versions of his iconic character. He also appeared on episodes of The DuPont Show of the Week, The Martha Raye Show, Candid Camera, and his brother Groucho's popular quiz show You Bet Your Life. In 1961, he proved more eloquent than his comedic characters when he published a fascinating autobiography, Harpo Speaks.

Harpo Marx died on September 28, 1964, a few weeks short of his 76th birthday. He was survived by his wife of 28 years, former actress Susan Fleming, as well as by the four children they adopted. You can learn much, much more about this gifted comedian by visiting Harpo's Place, the website created and administered by his son Bill. 

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