Chaplin received a lot of praise as a great “silent” comedian—a man who relied on physical comedy to tell a story. However, I always found Harpo Marx to be more memorable (no slight to Chaplin of course, who was legendary in his own way).

Their differences were noteworthy…

Harpo was a world-class musician. And for me, the harp is a magical instrument—a device that hijacks the listener’s ear; it takes you into the auditory clouds and leaves you there. Heaven on earth! Harpo was a master of the instrument; he had a boyish charm, exemplified by the way that children loved him. My favorite renditions by Harpo were “Blue Moon” in At the Circus, “Suwanee River” in Love Happy (fast forward to 1:03:00 of the video) and “Everyone Says I Love You” in Horse Feathers. His performances can bring tears to your eyes.

Harpo strumming at his trademark instrument

Harpo was also part of a unique team—this allowed him to shine in a way that Chaplin never could. Harpo could lean on the talents of Chico and Groucho (my apologies to Zeppo and Gummo for the necessary omission). The Marx Brothers had a chemistry that melded into one—they were like a singular figure. Harpo worked well with Groucho, but I really liked his rapport with Chico. It’s funny how they were paired as “friends,” yet they were diametric opposites: an Italian gambler and a clownish mute. Yet their partnership was believable.  It was a strange combination that managed to fit perfectly—like chicken and waffles, or French Fries and mayonnaise.

Harpo shined in the presence of his brothers.

And finally, his antics were unique. He would honk his horn, place his leg in a person’s hand, or make a face called a “gookie.” These comedic charms have become a trademark. That’s the sign of a great actor—being unique. Anyone can copy, mimic, or imitate. But it takes a great mind to forge a unique idea. To give birth to an original thought. For these individuals, we reserve the title of “genius.”  They are the heroes of a generation.

Harpo does the trademark “gookie.”

For an introduction to Harpo Marx, watch the following link:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s