Harpo Speaks
If You Ever Wondered Why Harpo Didn't Speak Onstage, Read On...
During the Marx Brothers' early days in vaudeville, their Uncle Al Shean (of Gallagher and Shean fame) wrote some new material for the brothers, the show "Home Again". Harpo was rather upset that Uncle Al neglected to write any speaking parts for him. When Harpo questioned his uncle, he told Harpo that he thought it would add wonderful contrast to the act if he played it in pantomime. Harpo hated the idea and told him that he was going to ad lib all the parts he wanted to, and Uncle Al said "Ok, ok, go right ahead."
But then when they played in Champaign, Illinois, Harpo received some unfavorable reviews about his speaking parts and the critic thought that part of his act was as amusing as a car accident. But underneath this metaphorical wreckage of old cars made out of his mangled ad libs, the critics were happy to give very favorable reviews about his pantomime.
Here is what the review said:
"The Marx Brother who plays 'Patsy Brannigan' is made up and costumed to a fare-thee-well and he takes off on an Irish immigrant most amusingly in pantomime. Unfortunately the effect is spoiled when he speaks."
So from that point on, Harpo never uttered another word, onstage or in front of a camera.

There were a few exceptions though:

The year was 1936, and Harpo was attending the premiere of "The Great Ziegfeld". While waiting to be introduced, Harpo said to the M.C., "You gotta do the talking."  They hadn't realized that the camera began rolling a bit early and this was recorded.  Then Harpo is officially introduced and you hear him saying "Honk, honk".

In "Monkey Business" in the scene when they were all singing "Sweet Adeline" in barrels, some music experts say they can hear a four part harmony, while others say they can only hear three.
There is a great debate over this one.  

Harpo's 1964 farewell performance when he uttered, "Now, as I was about to say in 1907...." and went on and on and on.... (LOL!) To the delight of the audience!

(Unfortunately, I do not have a recording of this, nor does one exist as far as I know.)


Click Here To Hear Harpo Say "You Gotta Do The Talking!" And "Honk Honk!"
Click Here To Hear The Marx Brothers Sing "Sweet Adeline"
Here is a 30 second recording of Harpo telling a story about his early days playing the piano in a brothel! Supposedly this recording was made by Harpo in preparation for the writing of his autobiography "Harpo Speaks" which is a marvelous book and is readily available at amazon.com.

The recording of Harpo's voice was broadcast by a British radio program called "The Birth of Screen Comedy" which was aired by BBC2 on November 28, 2000. The show was hosted by Richard Curtis, with an introduction by Harpo's son Bill Marx. At that time Bill discussed why Harpo did not speak while onstage.

Harpo was a quiet man, but had no trouble talking up a storm when he had something to say! He's got a wonderful voice!

Click Here To Hear Harpo Talking About His Days Playing Piano In A Brothel!


















Harpo refers to the songs "Waltz Me Around Again Willie" and "Love Me and the World is Mine" many times in his autobiography "Harpo Speaks".
Now's your chance to hear what they sound like!
"Waltz Me Around Again Willie"
Sung by Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet in 1905
"Love Me and the World is Mine"
Sung by Jussi Bjorling in 1931
Listen to Zeppo, Gummo and Harpo wish Groucho a Happy Birthday on the Monitor '63 Program on October 6, 1963.

Hear Some Selections On The Harp By Harpo

Want to hear more?!

 Harpo's beautiful CD, which is a compilation of two of his earlier albums, is called (Two Classic Albums From Harpo Marx - "Harpo In Hi-Fi" and "Harpo At Work")
and is readily available for purchase at