Guest post: Bill Marx (son of Harpo) speaks!

By | October 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm | 4 comments | Features, News | Tags: ,

I suppose that because I am the last living person on Planet Earth to have worked professionally with the three Marx Brothers, those being my dad, Harpo, and uncles Groucho and Chico, one could say it is a distinct honor that could be considered both fortunate and dubious. It was in a time span extending over twenty-six years, starting with my being a prop man for Harpo and Chico in 1949 while touring the British Music Hall circuit, and ending with my accompanying Groucho on piano in his later years up until the time of his passing in 1977.

Fortunate? Quite indeed. However, I have since learned there is a vast difference in the comparing of my mindset during the time. I was actually involved while working with dad, and the reflections I have now of those all too distant past events. The level of importance to me at the time could never come close to that of audiences’ immediate responses, as I was always too consumed by the moment, never feeling that I was taking part in something of any major significance. I was just always busy being more concerned about getting my job done. But today, I am humbled beyond belief that both as a father to me and entertainer to millions, I was even a part of his life, and so very grateful for the unwavering confidence he had in me.

Fortunate was I, quite indeed. It started from the time I was twelve years old, when my dad first validated me as a pro by making me responsible for his harp and all of the “magical” props he would use in his shows. Gradually he inserted me into his act as a foil for his wonderfully childlike shtick. By the time I was sixteen, he had ordained me as his official musical arranger/conductor, thus my working closely with him in that capacity for the next twelve years until his life came to an end, and with it, so did a precious part of mine as well.

By then, I had come to realize my having accepted the role of his father. But now that gig was over. And without him, I would have no more bits to rehearse, no more arrangements to pen, no more piano/harp duets to jam, no more role to play. From then on, I was a pro on my own. No more “Harpo’s kid.” All of a sudden, I had to become responsible for the new role of “Bill Marx,” whoever he might be.

And it is not surprising to me that during my early years, though I really in fact did hear all the life messages that Harpo Marx would impart to me, my awareness of the wisdom behind them would subsequently gain far greater importance as they slowly resurfaced when I most needed them in my fortunate journey through life.

Oh, and the passing of Marx Brothers’ great screenwriter Irving Brecher a few years ago has left me alone with the other part of this distinct honor, that of it being dubious…….which appears, quite indeed, self-explanatory.

Son of Harpo Speaks!: A Family Portrait by Bill Marx is available Nov. 15, 2011 from Applause Theatre and Cinema Book, an imprint of Hal Leonard. Visit the Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group blog.

About the Author

Bill Marx

Bill Marx is the son of Harpo Marx and the author of "Son of Harpo Speaks!"

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  • Nsm555

    Hi Bill,

    Beautiful post.  Thanks for that.  You were recently interviewed by a friend of mine, Jamie Brotherton, and you’ve encountered two others….>Steve Stoliar (a friend of 30 years), and my girlfriend, Claire Lockhart (at the Academy of Motion Pictures).  So, I ALMOST know you.  I so enjoyed your book, by the way.

    Also, I hate to be a stickler, but you aren’t the last to work with all three Marx Brothers.  Tony Martin is still with us. 

    Hope all is well with you, and I hope to actually meet you someday.

    Best wishes,
    Nick Santa Maria

    PS:  I’m writing my OWN book for Bear Manor.  It’s called COMEDY CRAZY, 50 Essays About Vintage Comedy.  Your dad and uncles are well represented.  :)

  • MadnessCreature

    Mr. Marx

    I know this may seem
    and sound crazy, but I have, along with my brother by soul, communicated
    with Harpo. Please do not dismiss this. It has been a very real
    phenomena for the last 14 years of my life. We did not ask for him, nor
    had any clue who the Marx brothers were when we had our first encounter
    with Harpo. The medium of conversation was through a Ouija board. My
    friend and I were 15 or so and had never used such a thing before. I
    would love to delve into the many conversations we have had with him,
    but will wait until I know if you care or even believe me. The reason I
    contact you is I feel like there is a reason we were chosen by him. He
    told us we would one day make movies, as if he had a plan for us. He
    once told me to follow the road with the lights. Since that day, street
    lights have flickered when I’m near and doing the right thing with my
    life. I know none of my story matters unless you show interest, so I
    will stop now.
    Thank you for your time.

    Mike Hays

    P.s. I was always given the number 7 by Harpo. I always asked
    what it meant, and all he would respond with was – you’ll see. He also
    told me something when I asked him what heaven was. “Freedom is Heaven
    to me.” Those are words that have stuck with me for my entire life
    since.

  • George J. Manisco

    Bill
    Remember taking an acting class with you In LA . was on Lankershim. You were very nice to talk to.and proud of your dad

    George Manisco