Harpo Marx  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Arthur Marx (previously Adolph Marx), popularly known as Harpo Marx (November 23, 1888September 28, 1964) was one of the Marx Brothers, a group of Vaudeville and Broadway theatre entertainers who later achieved fame as comedians in the Motion Picture industry. He was well known by his trademarks: he played the harp; he never talked during performances, although he often blew a horn or whistled to communicate with people; and he frequently used props - one of his most commonly used props in films was a walking stick with a built-in bulb horn.

In film

He appeared without his brothers in Too Many Kisses (1925) four years before the brothers' first widely-released film, The Cocoanuts (1929). In Too Many Kisses, Harpo spoke the only line he would ever speak on-camera in a movie: "You sure you can't move?" Fittingly, it was a silent movie, and the audience only saw his lips move and saw the line on a title card.

In the Marx Brothers' movie At the Circus (1939), however, Harpo spoke in a movie with the brothers for the one and only time. In the scene in which he visits the room of Little Professor Atom (Jerry Marenghi), Harpo sneezes--clearly saying "At-choo!"

Harpo gained notoriety for prop-laden sight gags. In Horse Feathers (1932), Groucho tells him that Harpo cannot "burn the candle at both ends". He immediately produces, from within his coat, a lit candle burning at both ends. As author Joe Adamson put it his book, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo, "The president of the college has been shouted down by a mute."

Harpo further distinguished his character by wearing a "fright wig". Early in his career it was dyed pink, as evidenced by color film posters of the time and by allusions to it in films, with character names such as "Pinky". It tended to show as blonde on-screen. Over time, he darkened the pink to more of a reddish color, again alluded to in films with names such as "Rusty".

His non-speaking in his early films was occasionally referenced by the other Marx Brothers, who were careful to imply that his character's not speaking was a choice rather than a disability. They would make joking reference to this part of his act. For example, in Animal Crackers his character was ironically dubbed "The Professor". In The Cocoanuts, this exchange occurred:

Groucho: Who is this?
Chico: 'At's-a my partner, but he no speak.
Groucho: Oh, that's your silent partner!

In later films Harpo was put into situations where he would repeatedly attempt to convey a vital message to another person, but only did so through non-verbal means. These scenes reinforced the idea that the character was unable to speak.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Harpo Marx" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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