- Paperback: 482 pages
- Publisher: Limelight Editions; 1 edition (July 1 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780879100360
- ISBN-13: 978-0879100360
- ASIN: 0879100362
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.6 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 635 g
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #164,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Harpo Speaks! Paperback – Jan 1 2006
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To Marx Brothers fans who have yet to read this book: Put it off as long as you can, because once you are finished, you will wish you could read it again for the first time. Harpo's life was interesting in itself, but it also frequently intersected with the lives of other fascinating people, most notably his own brothers and drama critic Alexander Woolcott. Marx also was part of the legendary Algonquin Round Table; he's got plenty to say about that. Wait'll you hear about what it means to "throw a Gookie." You'll never be able to watch a Marx Brothers movie again without looking for the Gookie!
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This book... Wow, I dont even know where to start. Harpo Marx is such an inspirational man, after reading this book I just wish he was still around as Id love to meet the man behind this amazing collection of stories, life highs, lows and laughs of living with the Marx family and all the interesting and totally off the wall bonkers friends he made over the years.
I never thought a book could make me laugh out loud... not only that but SO OFTEN.
Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber really did an amazing job on putting this book together.
Highly recommended to any fans of The Marx Brothers. Harpo does a great job of telling the tales of The Marx Family.
Absolutely amazing read. I couldn't possibly tell you anything more without reciting full pages from the book.
Marx Brothers Fan? ... Dont hesitate to buy this. You wont regret it.
As you read through this book, you'll find yourself thinking, "There just aren't people like this guy anymore" - Harpo Marx was the cheerful, resourceful product of turn-of-the-century New York, and vaudeville, at that. His childhood of scrapping out a survival of relative destitution (the jobs he took are hilarious, and fascinating, to read about), in a loving, albeit quirky, family couldn't be found in fiction - it's too wacky to have been invented. And his introduction to life on the stage - well, you'll have to read for yourself.
Harpo Marx's life seems never to have had a dull moment - from a hugely successful life on stage and screen, to his intimate friendships with members of the legendary Algonquin Round Table (the croquet fixation among those folks is a book in itself) - it's practically a life worthy of fairytale status. His stories about Alexander Woollcott are absolutely hysterical, and a great treat by themselves. And don't even get me started on the section about Oscar Levant - just thinking about it makes me laugh out loud. Finally, we read about Harpo's marriage to Susan Fleming, and their adoption of five children. The warmth and humanity that were such a huge part of Harpo can be summed up by the reason he chose to adopt five children - so that when he came home every day, there would be a face in each window to greet him. What a great, great man.
My review only skims the surface of this great book's content - it's a fascinating read, and will definitely open your eyes to a new way of seeing the world. It's worth every penny, and chances are you'll want to hold onto your copy for a good, long time. I sure have.
Harpo Marx was famous for being the silent clown who never uttered a word during any of the dozen or so Marx Brothers movies. However, his story is quite a fascinating one. I'll admit to being slightly surprised at exactly how engaging the prose style of this book was. Having no idea what he sounded like, even in scripted movie conversation, I was curious as to how he'd come across in print. Fortunately, either he or his co-author, journalist Rowland Barber, was quite good at the art of storytelling. The reader really feels close to the action, as though one were really there. It's a simple and straightforward style, but it's one that is quite effective.
As I mentioned, the events of Harpo's life were extraordinary in themselves. Quite literally a rags-to-riches story about a group of vaudeville brothers who made it very big, this book is excellent at reconstructing those early days when they rarely had enough to eat, but always had a laugh and a game of cards to pass the time. The autobiography goes into great detail about his early childhood, from being literally thrown out of school (from a first floor window) and never returning, to every lousy part-time job that he had. The book spends quite a lot of time detailing the various schemes that Harpo and Chico (at that age, they were often mistaken for twins) had to try to make the largest amount of money possible while doing the smallest amount of work. Each method is equally hilarious, as are the attempts by Harpo to spend, or hide the resulting cash before Chico had a chance to "re-invest" it.
Much of the chronicle of his adolescence and early adult life centers on traveling on the road with his brothers and getting booked into a variety of theatres and clubs. Being on the road meant very little time to oneself, so we get a real sense of the relationship that existed between the members of the Marx family. Although this portion of the book is the most heavily involved in his stage performance, a great deal of time is still spent talking about different ways the Marx Brothers found themselves relaxing between shows. That means that there are a lot of anecdotes about card games, but don't worry -- the stories are wonderful.
The sections dealing with his adult life revolve more around his friends than on the work he was doing with his brothers on the silver screen. Fortunately, Harpo was mixing with some fascinating people, and you hardly miss the lack of discussion about his movie career. His descriptions of the time he spent during the '20s make for fascinating reading. Who would have guessed that Harpo Marx, the clown who ran around in a slashed raincoat, was mixing with intellectual heavyweights such as George Bernard Shaw and Alexander Woolcott? Even after the market crash and the end of that decedent decade, there are numerous amusing anecdotes, my favourite being the occasion that Harpo ended up being a spy for the U.S. Government, smuggling secret documents out of the Soviet Union.
The majority of the final few chapters deal with his wife and children. It's quite obvious that he cared deeply for his family, and one gets the impression that talking about them in this way is his equivalent of showing us his cherished family photographs. While this has the tendency to be slightly tedious in places, Harpo's enthusiasm is contagious. It's fascinating to see him learning lessons from his own childhood and from his children.
HARPO SPEAKS! is quite a recommended read for anyone, whether they're a Marx Brothers fan or not. Harpo's adventures make for wildly entertaining reading. Even during his later years of declining health and diminishing energy, Harpo never stops seeming like a kid who never grew up, yet one who was never childish or petty.
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