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Respect Dad's harp
September 11, 2010 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Harpo's Place A tribute to Harpo Marx, by his son Bill.
posted by Paragon (48 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool, looks like a good read. Also fun: The Story Behind Harpo's Gookie Face (auto playing music) (linked previously)
posted by carsonb at 3:45 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


As if the Marx Brothers' undeserved association with Marxism wasn't bad enough, Harpo's real name was Adolph? Laugh to keep from crying.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:54 PM on September 11, 2010


What a wonderful tribute. I loved this, thanks for sharing it.

Harpo was always my favorite Marx Brother. I always loved it when they came to whatever flimsy excuse they came up with in the movie for him to play the harp; he would completely lose the loony, bug-eyed expression of the Harpo character and just lose himself in his love for the music.
posted by Gator at 3:55 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved the Harpo Family Rules
First two:
#1: Life has been created for you to enjoy, but you won't enjoy it unless you pay for it with some good, hard work. This is one price that will never be marked down.

#2 You can work at whatever you want to as long as you do it as well as you can and clean up afterwards and you're at the table at mealtime and in bed at bedtime.
posted by eye of newt at 4:01 PM on September 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Harpo was always my favorite, and it's sweet to see this.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:09 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo speaks!

Sort of. Honk, Honk!
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got to see A Night at the Opera a couple months ago. I didn't realize what a great musician Harpo was until the scene on the ship's cheap deck where he plays the piano and then the harp. And it's realllly inspiring to know that he was self taught on so many instruments as an adult.
posted by hanoixan at 4:16 PM on September 11, 2010


This scene from Monkey Business is IMHO one of the funniest movie moments ever.
posted by sswiller at 4:22 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harpo makes me happy every time.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 4:29 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's so sweet and like the anti Mommy Dearest.
posted by shinybaum at 4:45 PM on September 11, 2010


I prefer the quieter, gentler mirror scene, but Harpo has enough golden moments that I'm not going to quibble over what's funniest. I will say, Harpo and the original King Kong are the things caused me to sit up and take notice as a child that "old" movies had much to offer.

By the way (and no, no need to quibble over this either.;) , this is the funniest scene in film. And for so much aside from the signature "bags" line. M'nai!
posted by bovious at 4:56 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's so much here that makes me go "Aww!!!" Groucho's my man, but I have gained a new appreciation for Harpo.
posted by arishaun at 5:07 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo's real name was Adolph?

From Wikipedia:
Harpo had changed his name from Adolph to Arthur by 1911. This was due primarily to his dislike for the name Adolph (as a child, he was routinely called "Ahdie" instead).
posted by John Cohen at 5:15 PM on September 11, 2010


When Harpo Played His Harp
posted by davebush at 5:26 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you have an impulse to do something that you're not sure is right, go ahead and do it. Take a chance. Chances are, if you don't you'll regret it - unless you break the rules about mealtime and bedtime, in which case you'll sure as hell regret it.

Jesus, I hope I'm that ballsy if I ever pop one out.
posted by emilyd22222 at 5:35 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ever read Harpo's autobiography? It's fantastic.
posted by Melismata at 5:45 PM on September 11, 2010


Anybody who mistreats a pet or breaks a pool cue is docked a months pay.

OMG priceless!!
posted by Melismata at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2010


Nice find..thanks! I loved that in Harpo's prop trunk was a set of the standard Groucho glasses and fake mustache!
posted by HuronBob at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo speaks!

There's also this.

There's a documentary about the Marx brothers where Bill Marx and some of Harpo's other kids are interviewed extensively and I have rarely seen people who radiate so much love and kindness (especially in relation to the other Marx kids, who appear to have had more...complicated relationships with their dads).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:06 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ever read Harpo's autobiography? It's fantastic.

I have, and it is. It's almost as much a memoir of Alexander Woollcott as it is of Harpo, since the two men were especially close. Groucho's autobiography is also an excellent book.
posted by briank at 6:17 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harpo's autobiography, Harpo Speaks, is my favorite of all the books by or about the Marx Brothers. In terms of writing, Groucho was quite good, but he couldn't catch a break - Harpo turns out to be the better writer.

And I'm a Groucho man, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:18 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and this link is fricken' fantastic. Well done, Bill Marx and thank you Paragon for sharing it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo turns out to be the better writer

Well, he had a ghostwriter. IIRC, Groucho wrote his own stuff.
posted by briank at 6:29 PM on September 11, 2010


Wow. I read Harpo's autobiography at the age of, maybe, 13? The Algonquin Round Table always fascinated me. Great post.
posted by Splunge at 6:45 PM on September 11, 2010


Briank, sometimes a ghostwriter is someone that you tell your stories to and then he or she writes them down. It doesn't mean that they are not pure Harpo. You will not ruin my memories! I still have my Harpo statue. So chill dude.

Honk, honk!
posted by Splunge at 6:57 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo's autobiography, Harpo Speaks, is my favorite of all the books by or about the Marx Brothers. In terms of writing, Groucho was quite good, but he couldn't catch a break - Harpo Rowland Barber turns out to be the better writer.
posted by John Cohen at 6:59 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting and fun reading, great thread links as well.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:06 PM on September 11, 2010


My second son has always reminded me (and numerous friends, acquaintances and strangers) of an odd confluence of Harpo, the young Bob Dylan and Michaelangelo's David (not necessarily in that order). Just take my word for it.

I'm looking forward to reading "Harpo Speaks." Thanks for the post.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:41 PM on September 11, 2010


Tonight I read this post in my pajamas. How it got into my pajamas I don't know.

(I realize it's the wrong brother, but the comments already included too many honks.)

What a wonderful site. I am lost in Marxian bliss. Thank you for the post.
posted by jleisek at 8:06 PM on September 11, 2010


Harpo was my favorite Halloween costume when I was a kid. (My brother was Groucho.)
posted by John Cohen at 8:18 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't believe I clicked the whole thing! Love how Bill represents for Harpo the harpist.
posted by bonefish at 8:18 PM on September 11, 2010


The author, Harpo's son Bill, was twelve years old when Dad made him his permanent personal prop man for all his subsequent stage and television appearances. Items in his prop trunk:

Telescope
Teeth
Long black formal Jacket w/tails
Yellow and maroon flannel shirt with sheriff badge that spins
Two ladies black satin skirts
Long horn
Extendable box
Bubble liquid
Lots of fake money
Several rubber bands
Skirt-cutting scissors and powder bag
Giant scissors
Giant diamond ring
Small diamond ring (with a jeweler's magnifying glass)
Tuners
Piano ticker (metronome Seth Thomas)
Trunk that says name of the theater on top
Knives that come out of coat (and coat)
Two wigs and wig head in excellent shape
Wardrobe trunk (empty) with Algonquin Hotel tags and Savoy Hotel stickers on it
Long black box with more teeth
Makeup
Another bag of knives
Rubber chicken
More wigs
Two mechanical monkeys
Large telescope in box
Hatchet and table (for cutting cards)
Black top hat
Wooden vase with flowers painted on and elastic attached to top
Three shoes with skates on bottom
Long metal tube with string that pulls out - weighted
Rubber carrot
Three belts
Rubber mallet
Two short horns
Tape measure
Large cow bell
Huge cigar
Long rope (for opening)
Clarinet (with mechanical bubble machine and tube)
Four harmonicas
Harp string case with tuning keys
Orchestra music for act
Signs for sewing on singers' rear end
Marshmallows
Garter belt

From this I have to conclude that Harpo single-handedly put some hardware, clothing and novelty store owners' kids through college.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:00 PM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


That's an awesome list, Hardcore Poser. And now I'd like to announce to everyone that, if I ever start a successful rock band, you're looking at my rider right there. Two mechanical monkeys, or we don't play.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I will occasionally throw my leg over the hand of the person I have put my own hand out to shake, a move I have borrowed from Harpo. I'm encouraged to hear that the successors of his estate have such an appreciation for his genius - this helps me feel less thief than inspired follower.
posted by Graygorey at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2010


This is the sort of thing that makes me glad the internet exists, and that MeFi is out there kinda weeding out the sheep from the goats.

It's incredibly sweet, informative, and wonderful all at once, and most important, it is done out of sheer love.

Is there anyway we can upgrade Paragon to the Silver Club membership or whatever ? Just for the whole awesomeness aspect. I'm cool if you require he can only talk through a horn anymore. If he cant play the harp...eh..can he harp sync?


Really.

NICE.
posted by timsteil at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


harpo and lucy redo the mirror scene
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 PM on September 11, 2010


Nthing the recommendations for Harpo Speaks (whoever wrote it).

it's realllly inspiring to know that he was self taught on so many instruments as an adult.

I seem to recall that Harpo went to a noted harp teacher and asked for lessons to help him play better. After watching him play the "wrong" self-taught way, the teacher advised against it -- trying to teach him the "right" way would not help.

I loved that in Harpo's prop trunk was a set of the standard Groucho glasses and fake mustache!

Hey, you never knew when they might come in handy. On at least one occasion, Groucho couldn't make it to the theatre, and Zeppo filled in for him, undetected.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:56 AM on September 12, 2010


Good link. It was interesting to read commentary on Groucho as the "stage Jew"and Chico as the Italian (who never got the dialect right). Reminded me of Robert Crumb's analysis of the Marx Brothers as ethnic types: Groucho/Jew, Chico/Mediterranean, and Harpo, the White guy, "crazy, but with some kind of magic or other".
posted by CCBC at 3:23 AM on September 12, 2010


Reading the first page, I found myself confused for a moment- his son described Harpo as a "confirmed bachelor" before his mother married him. I had always thought that term was used exclusively as a euphemism.
posted by JMOZ at 6:04 AM on September 12, 2010


Boy I remember seeing the "mirror scene" for the very first time. I was about twelve and for the first time in my life I laughed so hard, my stomach hurt.

The other scene where Harpo shines in Duck Soup is the ongoing fight that he and Chico have with the popcorn salesman... but then the whole film is terrific.
posted by storybored at 7:34 AM on September 12, 2010


The term "confirmed bachelor" or "lifelong bachelor" can refer to men who show little interest in marriage or classes of committed relationships. Additionally, a "confirmed bachelor" was and is used as a polite euphemism to describe gay men, dating to the Victorian Era.

This agrees with my understanding. The term can mean gay or straight-but-never-marrying. My guess is that the "gay" meaning is winning out, because the term is sort of creaky anyway. I rarely hear anyone even say "bachelor" any more. Guys just "aren't married," "gay," "players," "too nerdy to get a girlfriend" or "single."

I have a (straight) friend who is very much the "confirmed bachelor," and I wish people would call him that, because it trips off the tongue better than "that guy who is not interested in being in a relationship," but, still, no one calls him a "confirmed bachelor," either because they don't want to create the gay confusion or because it's not 1963.
posted by grumblebee at 8:01 AM on September 12, 2010


What a fun site! I have always been a great fan of the Marx brothers but my especial favorite was Harpo. My knickname has always been Harpo as I bear a striking resemblance to him with the wig on, and I've often carried a horn in my trench coat.

Check out his album of harp music: Harpo in Hi-Fi / Harpo at Work
posted by mfoight at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2010


I loved Harpo's autobiography. It's really a quite wonderful read.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:34 AM on September 12, 2010


Confirmed bachelor. Indeed.
posted by timsteil at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2010


Awww. I'm so happy that Harpo's kids are confirming that Harpo was, indeed, an awesome father. If they were writing a book about how Harpo was an asshole at home, that would just break my heart.
posted by Wavelet at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2010


Yeah, I think back then confirmed bachelor, to the public anyway, implied just straight-but-won't-settle-down-for-whatever reason. Who knows nowadays how many of those people were, sadly, gay and had to hide it.

Somewhere, there was a scholarly article suggesting that Harpo and Woollcott had a great love for each other but "probably not physical", without elaborating on that point. It notes that the autobiography spends way more time on Woollcott than his wife, and that they adopted four children and named one of them after Woollcott. Again, how sad that he may have had to hide his true feelings, if that was the case.
posted by Melismata at 9:26 AM on September 13, 2010


This looks great. And I'll be nthing Harpo's biography.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:57 AM on September 13, 2010


Oh, wow. I saw Bill Marx play the piano when I was little and he was touring. After my current piano teacher talked me up, he told her I should get in touch when I was older if I was still interested in music. I took that very seriously and remembered that throw away comment for at least the next seven years when I needed motivation to keep practicing and working. I am so tickled to find out that he seems just as much like a nice guy now as I'd built him up to in my seven-year old mind.
posted by wending my way at 10:29 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


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