New York City, New York, USA
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death
Post Open Heart Surgery
Claim to Fame
Silent harp playing Marx Brother
Classical, Comedy, Vocal, Show Tunes, Popular Music Entry, Cast Recordings, Stage & Screen, Traditional Pop, Musical Theater
Elegant, Refined/Mannered, Sentimental
Harp, Whistle (Human)
Profile Bio Text
In January 1910, Harpo joined two of his brothers, Julius (later "Groucho") and Milton, to form "The Three Nightingales". Harpo was inspired to develop his "silent" routine after reading a review of one of their performances which had been largely ad-libbed. The theater critic wrote, "Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke."
Harpo got his stage name during a card game at the Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois. The dealer (Art Fisher) called him "Harpo" because he played the harp. He had taught himself to play because he could not sing, or dance, and did not talk very well, so he needed something to do. Al Shean sent him a harp (In Harpo`s autobiography, he says that mother Minnie Marx sent him the harp.) Harpo learned how to hold it properly by going to a five-and-dime store where he found a picture of a girl playing a harp. No one in town knew how to play the harp, so Harpo tuned it as best he could, starting with one basic note and tuning it from there. Three years later he found out he had tuned it incorrectly, but he could not tune it properly because if he had, the strings would have broken each night. His way placed much less tension on the strings. Although he played this way for the rest of his life, he did try to learn how to play correctly, and he spent considerable money hiring the best teachers. They, however, spent their time listening to him, fascinated by the way he played. In the movies he is actually playing the harp with his own alternate tuning.
In his autobiography Harpo Speaks (1961), Harpo recounts how Chico got him jobs playing piano to accompany silent movies. Unlike Chico, Harpo could only play two songs on the piano, Waltz Me Around Again, Willie and Love Me and the World Is Mine, but he adapted this small repertoire in different tempos to suit the action on the screen. He was also seen playing chords on the piano in A Night at the Opera, in such a way that the piano sounded much like a harp, as a prelude to actually playing the harp in that scene. Harpo 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). Urban legends to the effect that the name change came about during World War I -- due to anti-German sentiment in the US -- or during World War II -- due to the stigma that Adolf Hitler imposed on the name -- are groundless.
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Full Name at Birth
Actor/Actress, Soundtrack, Writer
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Arthur "Harpo" Marx (born Adolph Marx; November 23, 1888 – September 28, 1964) was an American comedian, film star, mime artist and musician, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho and Chico, Harpo's comic style was exclusively visual, being an example of both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blonde wig, and never spoke during performances (he blew a horn or whistled to communicate). He frequently used props such as a horn cane, made up of a lead pipe, tape, and a bulbhorn, and he played the harp in most of his films.
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Brown - Dark
Groucho, Gummo, Chico, Zeppo, Manfred
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Music Profile Complete
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