Adolph “Harpo” Marx, the pantomime clown of the Marx Brothers, died on this date in 1964 at age 75. The second oldest of the brothers after Chico, he was an elementary-school dropout (Irish kids, he wrote in his 1961 autobiography Harpo Speaks, were bullying him as a Jew in school by throwing him out a first-floor window repeatedly each day) and a self-taught harpist who invented his own tuning for the instrument. His shtik as a silent comedian was developed in response to a review of one of the Marx Brothers’ early performances, in which the critic wrote that “Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke.” The only line he actually ever spoke in a film was in a silent movie, and many of his fans believed he was actually mute. In fact, he had a fairly deep and resonant voice (similar to Chico’s), and a New York Jewish accent. Harpo enjoyed a marriage from the age of 47 until his death with actress Susan Fleming, with whom he parented four adopted children. To see him carrying on with Milton Berle, click here.
“Groucho: Who is this?
“Chico: Dat’s-a my partner, but he no speak.
“Groucho: Oh, that’s your silent partner!” —Cocoanuts
Watch Harpo carrying on with Milton Berle on The Kraft Music Hall TV show in 1959: