Just how much did you really know about the silent Marx brother?
Our man Harpo was a first class clown-mimic who made the most out of being the unspeaking member of the Marx Brothers troupe. Younger brother Groucho is the most famous member, of course. But we believe Harpo may well have been the funniest.
In any case, let’s get to the answers to yesterday’s Monday Quiz. To review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: a) Milton (Gummo) was really not part of the Marx Brothers act, at least not a core member. For example, he does not appear in any of the Brothers’ movies. Adolph (Harpo), Leonard (Chico) and Herbert (Zeppo) were core members as was, of course, Julius (Groucho).
2) Answer: Minnie’s Boys opened on Broadway in 1970, starring Shelley Winters as Groucho’s mother Minna. The show flopped.
3) Answer: b) A vaudeville critic reviewing the Brothers’ act praised Harpo’s mimicry, but badmouthed his performance “when he speaks.” Harpo took it hard, and vowed then and there never to speak onstage or in the movies. I went silent. I never uttered another word, he wrote.
4) Answer: Both b) and c). Harpo was surprise gifted by mother Minnie of a battered, fifth-hand stringed harp in order to liven up the boys’ comedy act. It worked, especially since Harpo was a talented if totally unschooled musician. He fully mastered the instrument to the astonishment of even fully tutored classic musicians.
5) Answer: a) The final Marx Brothers Hollywood movie is 1949’s Love Happy, a musical comedy featuring Ilona Massey, Vera-Ellen, a young Raymond Burr and an even younger Marilyn Monroe.
6) Answer: c) Charlie Chaplin. Harpo confessed he used to sit through repeated showings of Chaplin’s movies at one sitting. What an artist, he exclaimed.
7) Question: d) Writer-critic Alexander Woollcott, who worshipped Harpo’s talent and also became a lifelong friend.
8) Answer: Harpo’s “gookie” was his most reliable facial expression, rarely failing to get a laugh. It was named for and borrowed from a professional cigar roller in Harpo’s boyhood New York City neighborhood, working out of the front window of a cigar store on Lexington Ave. Gookie got so involved in his work that he made strange faces — his tongue lolled out in a fat roll, his cheeks puffed out, and his eyes popped out and crossed themselves. Harpo, an excellent mimic even as a child, picked up the expression and employed it throughout his career.
9) Answer: a) Soviet Russia. Harpo, performing as a single, was one of the first American performers to play the bad old Soviet Union. Just before he departed, he was asked by an American diplomat to smuggle government documents out of the country, taped to his leg. Nervously, Harpo complied — and pulled it off.
10) Answer: b) False. Although Harpo played around as a bachelor, he settled down in 1936 to a long (until his death in 1964, at age 75) and happy marriage to Susan Fleming. The couple adopted four children.