Why Harpo Marx Never Spoke, Plus: Here's What His Voice Actually Sounded Like

Why Harpo Marx Never Spoke, Plus: Here's What His Voice Actually Sounded Like

May 23, 2013


Harpo Marx, a third of the legendary comedy trio the Marx Brothers, is known for his quiet pantomime style. And by quiet we mean he never talked in any of his television or film performances. He was so convincing, in fact, that many audiences believed he was actually mute. Early in his career, however, the actor did use his speaking voice in his routines — and we feature a rare video below of Harpo talking. 

When the Marx Brothers were known as the Three Nightingales on the vaudeville circuit, the brothers' uncle Al Shean — a noted performer himself — wrote a new act for the funnymen. There were no speaking parts in his script for Harpo, which perplexed the performer. He didn't want to be left out of the gags, so he went ahead and ad-libbed his role. The performance got terrible reviews, with one critic writing: "Adolph Marx [Harpo's birth name] performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke." Harpo took the comments to heart and developed his now-famous silent routine, making some of the funniest rubber faces in showbiz. 

It turns out that the comedian has a lovely voice, full of character. Hear it for yourself in this clip where he talks about his younger days.

[via Fark]

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