Harpo Marx was a talented comedian and mime best known for his performances as part of the Marx Brothers comedy act.
Who Was Harpo Marx?
Born in New York in 1888, Harpo Marx was a talented comedian and mime who performed with his brothers as part of the famous Marx Brothers comedy act. He appeared in many films in the 1920s and 1930s, including Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers and Room Service.
Comedian and actor Marx Harpo was born Adolph Arthur Marx on November 23, 1888, in New York City. The second oldest of five boys born to Samuel "Frenchie" Marx and Minnie Schoenberg Marx, Harpo was the only Jewish boy in his public school class and, after being bullied one too many times, dropped out at age eight.
Harpo and his brothers, Leonard (Chico), Julius (Groucho), Milton (Gummo) and Herbert (Zeppo), performed countless odd jobs while growing up to help support the family. Minnie, however, was bound and determined for her boys to become stars of the stage. In 1910, the Marx Brothers singing troupe was formed, which was originally dubbed the Four Nightingales. Minnie even leased a harp for the occasion for her second eldest, and hence his stage name was born.
Harpo Mimes, Hit on 'Animal Crackers'
In 1912, the Marx Brothers' singing act devolved to madcap comedy, and the new show became the hallmark of their fame. Because Harpo couldn't compete with the comedic wits of his brothers, his lines were taken away from him. Though insulted at first, he soon became a gifted mime, particularly in his use of facial expressions and a honking horn. He never spoke professionally again.
The Marx Brothers comedy act was wildly successful, and they eventually made their way to Broadway and in films, including Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers and Room Service. Harpo also traveled the world entertaining troops during World War II and made numerous television appearances.
Personal Life and Death
Harpo married actress Susan Fleming in 1936. The couple adopted four children to whom Harpo was a devoted and loving father. He published his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, in 1961 and died three years later following complications from open-heart surgery.