Book Reviews: Harpo Speaks! by Harpo Marx

Author: Harpo Marx
Title: Harpo Speaks!
Publication Info: London : Gollancz, 1961.

The silent Marx Brother is surprisingly wordy in this entertaining memoir.  Harpo’s early days are full of stories of hustling and mischief in a Jewish enclave of Manhattan.  Then his mother Minnie shaped the Marx Brothers into a performing troupe with years and years of grueling tours across the country.  They become famous on Broadway and then in Hollywood, although Harpo spends surprisingly little time talking about their films.

The book sags a bit when Harpo talks about how his friendship with theater critic Alexander Woollcott earned him a spot on the Algonquin Round Table.  There are pages and pages of stories about playing croquet and traveling the world with the literati.  Things pick up again in 1933 when Harpo became the first American performer to tour the Soviet Union and how he became a courier for the State Department on the way home.  Later parts in the book are charmingly wholesome as he gives up his longtime bachelor status to marry Susan Fleming and together they raise four children.

A great book for fans of the Marx Brothers and anyone with in interest in early 20th century show business.

Rating: ****