Gerald's Reviews > Harpo Speaks!

Harpo Speaks! by Harpo Marx
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Jun 30, 08

Recommended for: Anyone interested in The Marx Brothers
Read in June, 2008

Harpo Marx wrote his autobiography, "Harpo Speaks", in 1961 three years before he died.

The reader gets a first-hand account of what it was like growing up in New York at the turn of the century in the early 1900's: day to day living, hustling for food, hustling for money, gangs, crime, odd jobs, etc. In the first part of the book I felt like I was reading Dickens except on this side of the Atlantic - and in non-fiction format.

He also wrote about touring the vaudeville circuit for 14 years. I often hear vaudeville referred to but have never read a first-hand account of what it was like until reading this book. (I never knew that a "slapstick" was an actual object.) He said something to the effect of, "If anyone talks about the glory days of vaudeville, they weren't there."

He led an interesting life.

-He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table with Dorothy Parker, Alexander Wollcott, George S. Kaufman, etc.

-He was the first American to perform in Russia after the Russian revolution (and was asked to/forced to smuggle papers back to the country for the U.S. government)

-He was an amazing actor and harp player:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H16vDi...

-He has interesting stories about his encounters with with King Edward VII of England, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sergei Prokoviev, William Randoph Hearst, Somerset Maugham, John Barrymore and other people.

He never brags about the things he's done or the people he's met. He doesn't write about any scandals (i.e. Thelma Todd) and doesn't write about any sexual exploits. He didn't need to in order to write an interesting book.

He comes across as a nice guy and humble and gives the impression of, "I can't believe that this kid who grew up poor and never finished the second grade got to have all of these amazing experiences and meet all of these interesting people." To me he gives the impression of still being kind of amused by it all and wanting to share his experiences.





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