Category Archives: Harpo Marx

Yousuf Karsh 12.23.12 Thought of the day

“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” — Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh was born on this day in Mardin, Ottoman Turkey in 1908. Today is the 104th anniversary of his birth.

Karsh was a child during the Armenian genocide and his family was forced to flee from village to villiage. His sister died of starvation. In 1924 his parents sent him to Sherbrooke, Quebec to live with his uncle, George Nakash who worked as photographer. Karsh showed interested in the art and his uncle arranged an apprenticeship with John Garo, a portrait photographer living in Boston.

After his apprenticeship he returned to Canada and worked in a studio near Parliament Hill  in Ottawa. The Prime Minister discovered his work and arranged sittings with visiting dignitaries.

Karsh photographed Winston Churchill when the Britt came to give a speech to the Canadian House of commons in 1941. It became the most reproduced photographic print in history.

Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace"...

Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” address originated the term “Iron Curtain.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He went on to photograph 51 of the 100 most notable people of the century in the International Who’s Who (2000).

He died in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in July of 2002 at the age of 93.

Karsh : Créateur d'images

Karsh : Créateur d’images (Photo credit: mstcweb)

His art has been celebrated on Canadian postage stamps and in 2009 Ottawa hosted a Festival Karsh .

Yousuf Karsh - Hepburn

Yousuf Karsh – Hepburn (Photo credit: Père Ubu)

Photo of Humphrey Bogart by Yousuf Karsh, 1946...

Photo of Humphrey Bogart by Yousuf Karsh, 1946 (“Yousuf Karsh collection” at the Library and Archives Canada). According to image information the copyright has expired. Title: Humphrey Bogart, actor Year: 1946 Size: 19.75 x 16 inches Source:National Archives of Canada Reference number: PA-212506 Restrictions on use/reproduction: Nil Copyright: Expired on December 31, 1996 Credit: Yousuf Karsh / Library and Archives Canada / PA-212506 Creator: Karsh, Yousuf, 1908- (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948

Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nederlands: Paul Robeson in 1938; foto Yousuf ...

Nederlands: Paul Robeson in 1938; foto Yousuf Karsh; National Archives of Canada/PA-209022/Copyright: Expired (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

H. G. Wells in 1943.

H. G. Wells in 1943. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsc...

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsch: Martha Graham 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harpo Marx 11.23.12 Thought of the Day

“He looked like something that had gotten loose from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
–Harpo Marx

English: Photograph of Harpo Marx playing the ...

Adolph Marx was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1888. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

The second  of five brothers in the Marx family, Adolph didn’t make it past second grade in school. He was small for his age and he was picked on by the bigger boys because he was Jewish. Two boys literally threw him out of the (first floor) classroom window on several occasions before he gave up and left school.  He joined his brother Chico in doing odd jobs to help the family.

His uncle Al Schoenberg (stage name Al Shean) was in a Vaudeville act. His older brother Chico played piano, and his younger bother Julius (Groucho) was a boy soprano. Adolph joined Julius and Milton (Gummo) to form “the Three Nightingales” in 1910. Lou Levy joined them to make the group “The Four Nightingales.” When their mother, Minnie, and Aunt Hannah joined the act they changed the name to “The Six Mascots.”

The five Marx brothers with their parents in N...

The five Marx brothers with their parents in New York City, 1915. From left to right; Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (father), Chico, and Harpo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911 he changed his name to Arthur because he didn’t like the sound of Adolph. He adopted the stage name of Harpo when his mother sent him a harp. He didn’t know how to tune it or play it. He didn’t even know how to hold it until he found an image of an angel holding a harp at the 5&10 store. He tuned it the best he could and taught himself to play.

At that point Harpo’s two-fold schtick — he “couldn’t talk” so he blew his horn  or whistled to communicate; and he played the harp — was in place. (He could, in fact, talk. And he did so — a lot — off stage/scene. His “speaking career” stopped after he received a bad review for a largely ad-libbed performance in the play Home Again.)

A critic in the local newspaper described the show by saying, in part, “Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke.” Harpo then decided he could do a better job of stealing focus by not speaking. [The Marx Brothers; Harpo Marx from an article in Theatre Arts Monthly, October 1939]


The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocea...

The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocean vessel by hiding in barrels in this promotional still for Monkey Business. Left to right: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Vaudeville stage the Marx Brothers moved on to Hollywood. They made the short, Humor Risk, in 1921. (The film has since been lost.)  Harpo was then in Too Many Kisses as the character “The Village Peter Pan.” He actually has a line in this movie, but, as it’s a silent film, you don’t actually hear him speak it. His brothers did not appear in the film.

In 1929 the brothers put out The Cocoanuts.The film was based on their Broadway play of the same name. In it…

the Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves. [IMDB]

They shot during the day and performed in the stage show of Animal Crackers at night. It was an exhausting schedule and the Brothers were not happy with the result. They were “so appalled … that they offered to buy the negative from Paramount so that they could burn it.” [Ibid]

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, fa...

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brothers made Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers , Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West, The Big Store, A Night in Casablanca, and Love Happy in quick succession.

Starting in 1952 Harpo started doing guest spots on Television, most notably on the I Love Lucy Show.

His last film was The Story of Mankind in 1957.  He played Sir Isaac Newton.

Off screen Harpo, the elementary school drop out, rubbed shoulders with some pretty high level literary types. In the 1920’s he held his own at the Algonquin Round Table with writers such as George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. In 1928 he spent the summer on the French Riviera with George Bernard Shaw.

He attributes his welcome hanging out with the fast literary crowd at the Algonquin Round Table in New York in the 1920s to his ability to listen — in fact, to being the one real listener in that set. [Robert Wilfred Franson’s review of Harpo Speaks]

In 1933 Harpo did a 6-week goodwill mission in the Soviet Union. He was the “first American to perform in the Soviet Union after the United States government officially recognized it.” [Harpo’s Place] According to his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, the trip was part performance and part spy caper.  He smuggled papers out of the USSR by taping them to his leg.

Marx died while having open-heart surgery on September 28, 1964.

Here’s a clip of Harpo actually speaking (and honking):

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