Chaplin received a lot of praise as a great “silent” comedian—a man who relied on physical comedy to tell a story. However, I always found Harpo Marx to be more memorable (no slight to Chaplin of course, who was legendary in his own way).
Their differences were noteworthy…
Harpo was a world-class musician. And for me, the harp is a magical instrument—a device that hijacks the listener’s ear; it takes you into the auditory clouds and leaves you there. Heaven on earth! Harpo was a master of the instrument; he had a boyish charm, exemplified by the way that children loved him. My favorite renditions by Harpo were “Blue Moon” in At the Circus, “Suwanee River” in Love Happy (fast forward to 1:03:00 of the video) and “Everyone Says I Love You” in Horse Feathers. His performances can bring tears to your eyes.
Harpo was also part of a unique team—this allowed him to shine in a way that Chaplin never could. Harpo could lean on the talents of Chico and Groucho (my apologies to Zeppo and Gummo for the necessary omission). The Marx Brothers had a chemistry that melded into one—they were like a singular figure. Harpo worked well with Groucho, but I really liked his rapport with Chico. It’s funny how they were paired as “friends,” yet they were diametric opposites: an Italian gambler and a clownish mute. Yet their partnership was believable. It was a strange combination that managed to fit perfectly—like chicken and waffles, or French Fries and mayonnaise.
And finally, his antics were unique. He would honk his horn, place his leg in a person’s hand, or make a face called a “gookie.” These comedic charms have become a trademark. That’s the sign of a great actor—being unique. Anyone can copy, mimic, or imitate. But it takes a great mind to forge a unique idea. To give birth to an original thought. For these individuals, we reserve the title of “genius.” They are the heroes of a generation.
For an introduction to Harpo Marx, watch the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udGuX7BdXyM