Citizen Kane

If you are reading this to hear me say “it’s overrated” then you have come to the wrong place. Some say it’s the best film ever made…I will not argue that statement. I have watched this 1941 film at least 8 times and have enjoyed it every single time. Before I watched this movie I had read all the accolades the movie received through the years. This is one of the few movies that lived up to them.

Orson Welles is the most natural actor in this movie I’ve ever seen. He IS Charles Foster Kane.

The camera work is still fantastic and holds up to this day and it’s been copied over and over. The below floor level shots and others make it a beautiful film to watch. You can see this movie’s influence in a countless number of movies that followed.

Orson based his character off of William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, actress Marion Davies. That fact brought Orson trouble that would haunt him. Hearst owned everything at that time…newspapers and businesses across the globe and had as much influence as a person could have. He didn’t care too much for this movie because it was too close for comfort. If you ever get the chance…see the documentary “The Battle Over Citizen Kane.”

He stopped advertisements in his newspapers and did everything in his power to stop and sabotage the film.

Orson made some great movies after this but never…to me reached this pinnacle again. That is really unfair because I don’t think anyone has reached this high again.

The plot? The movie, unlike other movies at the time, starts at the end. The mighty Charles Foster Kane dies but before he does he utters one last word “Rosebud” and everybody tries to find out what he meant by that. Reporters will go interview everyone in his life trying to find the answer and all the while…Kane’s story is being told. One of the lines in the movie is “I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life.” That is true but it’s what “Rosebud” represents that helps make this movie great.

The movie flows so well from beginning to end.

When the silent movie era ended…the first “talkies” were clumsy with the actors/actresses overacting with their theater training. The studios were also using bulky cameras and microphones that left the scenes stationary. This movie ended all of that. Citizen Kane changed the cinema for good. Up until this movie, we got the same old shots, stiff acting, theater makeup, and mediocre music scores… You couldn’t get by with that anymore after this movie.

Is it the best movie ever? That is subjective but for me, the answer is…yes.

 

Here is the cast from Wiki

Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland, Kane’s best friend and a reporter for The Inquirer. Cotten also appears (hidden in darkness) in the News on the March screening room.

Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane, Kane’s mistress and second wife.

Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane, Kane’s mother.

Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane, Kane’s first wife.

Ray Collins as Jim W. Gettys, Kane’s political rival for the post of Governor of New York.

Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter, editor of The Inquirer. Sanford also appears (hidden in darkness) in the News on the March screening room.

Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein, Kane’s friend and employee at The Inquirer.

William Alland as Jerry Thompson, a reporter for News on the March. Alland also voices the narrator of the News on the March newsreel.

Paul Stewart as Raymond, Kane’s butler.

George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher, a banker who becomes Kane’s legal guardian.

Fortunio Bonanova as Signor Matiste, vocal coach of Susan Alexander Kane.

Gus Schilling as John, headwaiter at the El Rancho nightclub. Schilling also appears (hidden in darkness) in the News on the March screening room.[8]

Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston, News on the March producer.[8]

Georgia Backus as Bertha Anderson, an attendant at the library of Walter Parks Thatcher.[8]

Harry Shannon as Jim Kane, Kane’s father.[8]

Sonny Bupp as Charles Foster Kane III, Kane’s son.

Buddy Swan as Charles Foster Kane, age eight.

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy newspaper publisher

 

20 Famous Duos

Many times you cannot think of one person without thinking of the other. That is true for many on this list. From Lennon – McCartney to Romeo and Juliet. It was a lot of fun coming up with these famous duos. Here are a few in no order…

 

1.  Lennon and McCartney – The most influential Rock/pop writing duo

The Beatles - It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught ...

2.  Andy Griffith and Don Knotts – Andy and Barney…Great comedic timing between the two…with Andy being the straight man.

20 wonderfully irrelevant Andy Griffith Show conversations

3.  Jack Klugman and Tony Randall – The Odd Couple

TV's 'Odd Couple' in the '70s: Jack Klugman & Tony Randall as ...

4. Abbott and Costello – Who’s on first? Great comedy team. I still like Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein

From the Archives: Lou Costello, Famed Comedian, Dies at 52 - Los ...

5. Belushi and Aykroyd – The Blues Brothers and part of the first cast of SNL

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd | Oscars.org | Academy of Motion ...

6. Orville and Wilbur Wright – Credited as creating the first motorized plane.

Orville and Wilbur Wright: The Brothers Who Changed Aviation ...

7. Jagger and Richards – The Stones Glimmer Twins

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, NYC, 1972 | Bob Gruen

8. Simon and Garfunkel – American folk-rock duo

You made me look like a fool': inside Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge ...

9. Laurel and Hardy – They made over 100 short and feature movies combined.

Laurel and Hardy – Three Shorts

10. Martin and Lewis – The hottest act in the 50s.

Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin's 20-Year Feud - Comedy Duo Jerry ...

11. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – The Apple architects.

Are You A Steve Jobs Or A Steve Wozniak? » Leaderonomics.com

12. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield -Ben and Jerry’s  I’ll take some Cherry Garcia, please.

Ben & Jerry's Unveils "Pecan Resist" Flavor Ahead of Midterm ...

13. Phil and Don Everly – Two voices blended as one

Video: Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers dies at 74 (updated ...

14. Gerry Goffin and Carole King – Two of the top songwriters in the 60s.

Gerry Goffin | The Times

15. Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall – Laverne and Shirley

The most famous women duos in pop culture - Insider

16. Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker – Infamous Bonnie and Clyde

Police kill famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde - HISTORY

17. David Duchovny and  Gillian Anderson – Mulder and Scully from the X-Files

Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder Will Pick Up Their Badges Again

18. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith – Jay and Silent Bob

Kevin Smith Teases 'Jay and Silent Bob' Reboot With Miramax

19. Batman and Robin – I couldn’t leave these guys out

Adam West and Burt Ward to return as Batman and Robin in new ...

20. Romeo and Juliet the two star crossed lovers from Romeo and Juliet….a tragedy written by William ShakespeareThe Balcony Scene in 'Romeo and Juliet' Is a Lie - The Atlantic

BONUS…How could I forget Bert and Ernie!!!

Frank Oz weighs in on 'Sesame Street' writer saying Bert and Ernie ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is…Rosebud from Citizen Kane Now?

There were three Rosebuds made to burn at the end of the film. Orson Welles directed all the insert photography and Welles was happy with the second sled they burned, and so the third sled was not needed, and that was put in storage at RKO Pictures.

After that…The sled had been owned by John Hall, RKO’s chief archivist, who had bought it from a studio watchman. The watchman had found it in a trash heap outside the prop vault in the old RKO studios in Hollywood.

Steven Spielberg bought Rosebud during a Sotheby’s auction in 1982.  He paid $60,500 for the prop sled, beating out other bidders.

Spielberg has now donated the sled to the Academy Museum. The Museum is set to open on December 14, 2020, per their website.

Steven Spielberg: “It’s going to be at the Academy Museum eventually – the new Academy Museum. It’s in my office right now and it’s been there for years and years, ever since I purchased it. It was at home for a while and then it was in my office. But I think it really belongs in a museum so everybody can see it.”

spielberg sled

Steven talks about Rosebud starting around 7:12

It’s A Wonderful Life

I didn’t watch this great movie until the late 80s. All it took was one time and I haven’t missed a year of watching it. I don’t tear up very easy..but it never fails at the end of the movie when Zuzu says… Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings…it gets me every time. This movie was released in 1946.

Poor George Bailey. All he wanted to do was travel and get out of Bedford Falls to see the world. Every single time he gets close…so close that it hurts…something happens and George ends up doing the right thing.

Bedford Falls needs George Bailey…every town needs a George Bailey but many end up with only a Mr. Potter. There is one thing about this movie which was unusual. Mr. Potter was never punished for what he did…which drew criticism at the time but it was more in line with reality to me.

This is a Christmas movie but really only the last part of the movie is about Christmas. It is a movie for any time not just for December. We were thinking of names for our unborn child and couldn’t think of one…I was watching this movie in November of 1999 and it hit me…Bailey…so the movie means more than some movies do.

Here is a small summary from IMDB…don’t read it…watch the movie instead. If you haven’t seen it…give it a shot…whether it is Christmas or July.

George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He has always longed to travel but never had the opportunity in order to prevent rich skinflint, Mr. Potter, from taking over the entire town. All that prevents him from doing so is George’s modest building and loan company, which was founded by his generous father. But on Christmas Eve, George’s Uncle Billy loses the business’s $8,000 while intending to deposit it in the bank. Potter finds the misplaced money and hides it from Billy. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage later that night, George realizes that he will be held responsible and sent to jail and the company will collapse, finally allowing Potter to take over the town. Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George, with the promise of earning his wings. He shows George what things would have been like if he had never been born.

The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941

Also known as “All That Money Can Buy” was released in 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures.

One of my favorite old movies. I do like fantasy movies and this one doesn’t need spinning heads or special effects of cities melting. It’s also patriotic back before cynism kicked in too much. The movie is black and white and they do a great job retelling the old story. It opens with Jabez Stone, his wife Mary Stone, and his Mom in an old farmhouse. Everything that can go wrong… does for Jabez.

He then meets “Scratch” (The Devil) inside of his barn and then is one of the many talked into the proverbial deal for his soul. The cast assembled for this movie is perfect. Not a bad performance in the movie. Edward Arnold is convincing as the popular congressman and senator, Daniel Webster. The 1940s had some of the best character actors of any era. Walter Huston as the Devil was played chillingly and brilliantly.

Image result for devil and daniel webster

Not trying to give much away but it comes down to a battle between Daniel Webster and the Devil over Jabez’s soul. The jury is the jury of the dammed. The movie is defiantly worth a watch.

The movie was based on a short story by Stephen Vincent Benét.

The Cast per Wiki

  • Edward Arnold as Daniel Webster
  • Walter Huston as Mr. Scratch
  • James Craig as Jabez Stone
  • Anne Shirley as Mary Stone
  • Jane Darwell as Ma Stone
  • Simone Simon as Belle
  • Gene Lockhart as Squire Slossum
  • John Qualen as Miser Stevens
  • H. B. Warner as Justice John Hathorne
  • Alec Craig as Eli Higgins
  • George Cleveland as Cy Bibber
  • Lindy Wade as Daniel Stone
  • Jeff Corey as Tom Sharp (uncredited)
  • Carl Stockdale as Van Brooks (uncredited)

 

Hank Williams – Lost Highway

This man was brilliant and so was the song but this is one song that Hank did not write. Leon Payne wrote and released this song in 1948. Blind since he was a child, Payne wrote hundreds of songs, some of which were recorded by  Hank Williams, John Prine, Elvis Presley, George Jones, and Johnny Cash, and many more.

Payne had been hitchhiking around and working jobs. One day he needed to get home to his sick mother in Alba Texas. No one would pick him so he wrote this song on the side of the road.

Hank Williams released this song in 1949 and it peaked at #12 in the Country Charts. This song is one of my favorite country songs.

From Songfacts

This song gave us two of the most famous metaphors in music: the Lost Highway and the Rolling Stone (from the line, “I’m a rolling stone, I’m alone and lost”).Both images represent a wandering spirit that keeps moving but often ends up in dark places. Many musicians who left town to pursue their dreams could relate to these concepts and used them in songs. The Lost Highway shows up in:“All I Left Behind” and “Guitar Town” by Emmylou Harris“Heart Is A Drum” by Beck (“You’re falling down across your lost highway”)“Happiness” by Lee Ann Womack (“Down by the lost highway cafe I met a man there with a map in his hands”)“Jesus Of Suburbia” by Green Day (“At the end of another lost highway. Signs misleading to nowhere.”)Those New Jersey ramblers Bon Jovi made their song “Lost Highway” the title track of their 2007 album; in 2009, Willie Nelson also released an album of that name. In 1997, director David Lynch released a suitably disconcerting movie called Lost Highway.

The saying “a rolling stone gathers no moss” dates to biblical times, but this song popularized it in the musical landscape. It was Williams’ version that gave Bob Dylan the title for “Like a Rolling Stone,” which has been the subject of many essays, including one written by Ralph Gleason, who used the phrase when he founded the magazine Rolling Stone.In 1950, Muddy Waters released the song “Rollin’ Stone,” which is where The Rolling Stones got their name from.

This became one of Hank Williams’ most famous songs, but he didn’t write it. It was written by a blind singer named Leon Payne, who released the original version in 1948. According to an interview with Payne’s widow published in the book , he wrote the song when he was hitchhiking from Texas to California when he got stuck for a stretch and was taken in by the Salvation Army.His version is surprisingly upbeat, featuring a string band and various quips by Payne throughout the song.Payne’s version didn’t reach the charts, but when Williams recorded it in 1949, that rendition made #12 on the Country chart. The song grew in popularity as Williams legend grew, as it was so associated with his itinerant lifestyle of wine, women and song.Payne, who died in 1969, also wrote the popular songs “I Love You Because” and “Psycho.”

Lost Highway was used as the title for an off-Broadway play about Williams that ran in 2003.

Artists to cover this song include Leon Russell, Tom Petty, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Osborne Brothers, Bill Frisell and Johnny Horton.

Lost Highway

I’m a rollin’ stone all alone and lost
For a life of sin I have paid the cost
When I pass by all the people say
Just another guy on the lost highway

Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
And a woman’s lies makes a life like mine
O the day we met, I went astray
I started rolling down that lost highway

I was just a lad, nearly twenty two
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you
And now I’m lost, too late to pray
Lord I take a cost, o the lost highway

Now boy’s don’t start to ramblin’ round
On this road of sin are you sorrow bound
Take my advice or you’ll curse the day
You started rollin’ down that lost highway

Artist Neysa McMein

I discovered Neysa McMein through Harpo Marx’s autobiography “Harpo Speaks” and I looked up her artwork. I’ve seen her art plenty of times by reading and collecting 20’s and 30’s magazines but never knew the artist. She was also a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table.

She sold millions of magazines with her covers for McCall’s, Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, McClure’s, Woman’s Home Companion, Photoplay, Liberty, Associated Sunday Magazine, Ladies World. Ad work: memorably for Palmolive; also Cadillac, Lucky Strike, Adam’s Gum, Coke, Hummingbird Hosiery, Gainsborough Hair Nets, Colgate.

She painted portraits of two sitting presidents, Warren G. Harding, and Herbert Hoover.

She also created the first Betty Crocker and updated her through the years.

 

Image result for neysa mcmein suffragette

Neysa marching in 1917 in a Suffrage Parade.

Harpo Marx said this about Neysa: The biggest love affair in New York City was between me—along with two dozen other guys—and Neysa McMein. Like me, Neysa was an unliterary, semi-illiterate gate-crasher at the Algonquin. But unlike me, she was beautiful and bursting with talk and talent. A lot of us agreed she was the sexiest gal in town. Everybody agreed she was the best portrait and cover artist of the times.

She taught Harpo Marx how to paint and according to Harpo she only had one failing as a teacher: Neysa had one failing as an art instructor. It was, as far as I knew, her only failing, period. That was her passion for fires. If a siren or bell should sound during one of our late-night seminars, that was the end of the seminar. Neysa was such a fire buff that she once dashed to Penn Station and jumped on a train when she heard there was a four-alarm fire burning in Philadelphia.

The Harpo quotes are from his autobiography “Harpo Speaks.”

Neysa died in 1949 and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 1984.

To see more of her artwork check out this from Pinterest. 

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NM1.jpg

 

 

Andrews Sisters – Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

I can’t help but like this song. It’s super catchy and the vocals sound so good. My 18-year-old son of all people got me into listening to 40s music…Frank Sintra and big band and I heard this one on satellite radio and remembered hearing it when I was younger.

The Andrews Sisters made the song famous when they performed it in the 1940 Abbott and Costello movie Buck Privates. The song begins in the movie with a solo trumpeter opening Reveille jazz style before a piano enters with a boogie-woogie bass vamp. Dressed in military uniforms and sitting on barstools drinking malts, the sisters stand up and start singing their inimitable close harmonies (notes near enough to grab with one hand on a piano). At the Academy Awards the following spring, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” won the Oscar for Best Song.

By the time they retired from singing professionally, the Andrews Sisters had become the most successful female vocal group in history to that point, recording some 600 tunes that sold 75 million to 100 million records. When the Vocal Group Hall of Fame opened in Sharon, Pennsylvania, in 1998, they were among the original inductees. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” remains their signature song and was voted number 6 of 365 on the 2001 list Songs of the Century.

There is a 70s version with Bette Midler and a newer version with Katy Perry…I’ll stick with the Andrew Sisters.

 

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way
He had a boogie style that no one else could play
He was the top man at his craft
But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft
He’s in the army now, a-blowin’ reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam
It really brought him down because he couldn’t jam
The captain seemed to understand
Because the next day the cap’ went out and drafted a band
And now the company jumps when he plays reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

A-toot, a-toot, a-toot-diddelyada-toot
He blows it eight-to-the-bar, in boogie rhythm
He can’t blow a note unless the bass and guitar is playin’ with ‘I’m
He makes the company jump when he plays reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

He was some boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B
And when he plays the boogie woogie bugle he was busy as a “bzzz” bee
And when he plays he makes the company jump eight-to-the-bar
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

Toot toot toot-diddelyada, Toot-diddelyada, toot-toot
He blows it eight-to-the-bar
He can’t blow a note if the bass and guitar isn’t with ‘I’m
Ha-ha-hand the company jumps when he plays reveille
He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

(Instrumental)

He puts the boys to sleep with boogie every night
And wakes ’em up the same way in the early bright
They clap their hands and stamp their feet
Because they know how he plays when someone gives him a beat
He really breaks it up when he plays reveille
He’s boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

Drive-In Movie Theaters

I remember Drive-In Theaters from way back. My sister is 8 years older than I am. When she was 16 I was 8 and mom made her take me with her on dates and that included the Drive-In. Most Drive-Ins charged by the person so guess where I was located? A mile up from the Drive-In I would know the routine…I would climb in the trunk. I remember smelling the old dirty tire and whatever else…I would hear us roll over the gravel and then the car would stop…my sister would let me out.

I would climb in the back seat and start watching. Although I make fun of her for this I actually enjoyed it. It was fun to do as a kid. I was a laid-back kid anyway. I remember the only movie showing one time was an R rated movie. It was called “Revenge of the Cheerleaders” from 1976…I got quite an education on the female anatomy. She would tell me don’t look now… then she and her date would go out and talk to friends parked around. I was of course looking and I never told mom…I knew I would not get to come back if I told her.

There are a few around here and once in a while, we will go see them. No Cheerleaders though.

In 1933, eager motorists park their automobiles on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater, located on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. Richard Hollingshead opened it up. He thought of it because his mother was to large for theater seats. He charged just 25 cents per car.

The Drive-In didn’t really take off until the in-car speakers were invented by the late 40s. By 1958, the number of drive-ins peaked at 4,063.

Indoor theaters were more practical because they could show a movie 5-6 times a day and not have to worry about the weather or being light so the Drive-In’s started to get B movies (Revenge of the Cheerleaders!) and the fad started to slow down. Also, land value pushed the Drive-In’s out.

Now there are roughly 400 Drive-Ins left in America.

In Nashville, they are building an indoor Drive-In Theater. When it is finished I will check it out. You will not drive in with your car…you will walk in and sit in one of the classic cars they will have ready for you…I’m ready…but no trunks

A rendering of the August Moon Drive-In theater planned

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Magic 8 Ball

I was told as a kid that a Magic 8 Ball could predict the future. I bought it hook line and sinker…I was also told by my older sister (8 years older) that snakes bite the second person in a line while I was merrily leading the way hiking in the woods as a 5-year-old…so I caught on pretty quick after I stepped on a snake…didn’t get bit though…but I never let her forget it.

I bugged my mom till she got me the mysterious Magic 8 Ball. I was amazed at this toy…well it wasn’t a toy to me. I thought this was great. So being 5-6 years old I thought I would put it to use… Oh, Magic 8 Ball should I color in the encyclopedias with my crayons? I shook it up and waited for the triangle to give me the answer… “signs point to yes”…those signs must have pointed in a different direction than my Mom… she wasn’t a fan of the Magic 8 ball after that.

Abe Bookman invented the Magic 8 Ball, a fortune-telling toy currently manufactured by Mattel.

During World War II Alfred Carter in Cincinnati had created a tube-like fortune-telling toy. To help him he got his brother in law to help…that would be Abe Bookman. they created a 7” tube device with glass on both ends with a pair of floating dice with responses. It was sold as the “Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune Teller.” Their company was called Alabe Crafts.

The original Magic 8 Ball was tubular and went by the name Syco-Seer. The Magic 8 Ball above. The Syco-Seer metal cylindar above. The Syco-Slate Pocekt Fortune-Teller at right.

Carter died in 1948 and Bookman revised it into a crystal ball but it still didn’t sell really well. Then the Brunswick Billiards company commisioned Bookman to make them one for them shaped like an 8 ball as a promotional giveaway.

After the giveaway was finished Bookman kept producing them shaped like an 8 ball.

The Magic 8 Ball that we have known since then has contained a 20-sided polygon inside a hollow plastic ball, floating in a liquid-filled, 3-inch diameter tube. The liquid largely consists of dark blue ink and alcohol. The predictions, yes, no, or non-committal, appear on each triangular face of the polygon.

Bookman marketed it as a conversation piece, a paperweight and then a toy.

Ideal Toys bought Alabe Crafts in 1971. Next, Tyco Toys bought the ball in ’87. Mattel owns it today and sells one million units a year.

Here are the magical statements of the Magic 8 Ball

  • As I see it, yes
  • Ask again later
  • Better not tell you now
  • Cannot predict now
  • Concentrate and ask again
  • Don’t count on it
  • It is certain
  • It is decidedly so
  • Most likely
  • My reply is no
  • My sources say no
  • Outlook good
  • Outlook not so good
  • Reply hazy, try again
  • Signs point to yes
  • Very doubtful
  • Without a doubt
  • Yes
  • Yes, definitely
  • You may rely on it.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_8-Ball

 

Harpo Speaks

I have mentioned this book before but not in detail. It is my favorite autobiography I’ve ever read. He starts off in his childhood in the late 1800s and ends up in the 1960s. I have read this book at least 7-10 times. It’s always my traveling companion on trips just in case I need something else to read. I’ve read books by and about Groucho and others written about the Marx Brothers but this book that Harpo and Rowland Barber wrote tops them all. He doesn’t go through all of the movies by detail but he packed so much living in his life that his life was full enough without much info about the movies.

He was always himself no matter what. The Brothers never would conform to anyone’s standards. He was counterculture before counterculture. Harpo jumped out of the window in 2nd grade and never came back but ended up hanging out with some of the best-known intellectuals of the 20th century and was a member of the Algonquin Round Table but yet he could hardly spell. He frequently stayed at William Randolph Hearst’s super-estate San Simeon. He called himself a professional listener…the only one of the bunch.

He taught himself the harp and played with an unorthodox style. Professional harp players would ask him to show them how he played some of the things he did…

Harpo was a good friend of Alexander Woolcott and Wolcott would invite Harpo and a select few to Neshobe Island in Lake Bomoseen in Vermont that Woolcott owned for the summers to play games and hang out every day. Harpo could make life interesting in the dullest of surroundings. He was friends with Robert Benchley, Salvador Dali, Dorothy Parker, Charles MacArthur, Alice Duer Miller, George Bernard Shaw,  Beatrice Kaufman, and Ruth Gordon.

Wolcott also arranged for Harpo to tour Russia in the 1930s. Harpo actually did a bit of Spy work for the American government at the time…transporting some papers on his leg out of Russia to America.

If you read this just to read about the Marx Brothers movie career…don’t…if you want to know what they went through to get where they did…then yes read it. This book tells what old-time Vaudeville was really like. Not a romantic version of it by some old timers that told their story after they retired. Awful boarding houses, spoiled food, and harassment by promoters.

He never seemed to age in spirit. He kept up with new things and was not stuck in the past.

His son Bill Marx wrote a book later on about his life with Harpo. When the Beatles came out Bill…who studied jazz and played piano, hated them. Harpo told him in 1964 that he better start liking them because their songs would last through time. He said this in 1964 before the Beatles matured. The guy had been around George Gershwin, Oscar Levant, and Irving Berlin. Bill said in 1970 he was playing piano in a club somewhere and what was he playing? Let It Be… “Dad was right.”

Harpo married Susan Flemming when he was 48 in 1936. George Burns asked him in 1948 how many children did he want to adopt? Harpo said “I’d like to adopt as many children as I have windows in my house. So when I leave for work, I want a kid in every window, waving goodbye.”

Harpo was known to wake one of his children up in the middle of the night if he worked late just to play games with them.

They ended up adopting 4 children…below was the house rules for the kids…

  1. Life has been created for you to enjoy, but you won’t enjoy it unless you pay for it with some good, hard work. This is one price that will never be marked down.
  2. You can work at whatever you want to as long as you do it as well as you can and clean up afterwards and you’re at the table at mealtime and in bed at bedtime.
  3. Respect what the others do. Respect Dad’s harp, Mom’s paints, Billy’s piano, Alex’s set of tools, Jimmy’s designs, and Minnie’s menagerie.
  4. If anything makes you sore, come out with it. Maybe the rest of us are itching for a fight, too.
  5. If anything strikes you as funny, out with that, too. Let’s all the rest of us have a laugh.
  6. If you have an impulse to do something that you’re not sure is right, go ahead and do it. Take a chance. Chances are, if you don’t you’ll regret it – unless you break the rules about mealtime and bedtime, in which case you’ll sure as hell regret it.
  7. If it’s a question of whether to do what’s fun or what is supposed to be good for you, and nobody is hurt whichever you do, always do what’s fun.
  8. If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.
  9. Don’t worry about what other people think. The only person in the world important enough to conform to is yourself.
  10. Anybody who mistreats a pet or breaks a pool cue is docked a months pay.

 

If you are looking for an autobiography…get this book.

Here is a small portion of Chapter 1 of Harpo Speaks!

I’ve played piano in a whorehouse. I’ve smuggled secret papers out of Russia. I’ve spent an evening on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I’ve taught a gangster mob how to play Pinchie Winchie. I’ve played croquet with Herbert Bayard Swope while he kept Governor Al Smith waiting on the phone. I’ve gambled with Nick the Greek, sat on the floor with Greta Carbo, sparred with Benny Leonard, horsed around with the Prince of Wales, played Ping-pong with George Gershwin. George Bernard Shaw has asked me for advice. Oscar Levant has played private concerts for me at a buck a throw. I have golfed with Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. I’ve basked on the Riviera with Somerset Maugham and Elsa Maxwell. I’ve been thrown out of the casino at Monte Carlo.
Flush with triumph at the poker table, I’ve challenged Alexander Woollcott to anagrams and Alice Duer Miller to a spelling match. I’ve given lessons to some of the world’s greatest musicians. I’ve been a member of the two most famous Round Tables since the days of King Arthur—sitting with the finest creative minds of the 1920’s at the Algonquin in New York, and with Hollywood’s sharpest professional wits at the Hillcrest.
(Later in the book, some of these activities don’t seem quite so impressive when I tell the full story. Like what I was doing on the divan with Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I was reading the funnies to her.)
The truth is, I had no business doing any of these things. I couldn’t read a note of music. I never finished the second grade. But I was having too much fun to recognize myself as an ignorant upstart.
 
 I can’t remember ever having a bad meal. I’ve eaten in William Randolph Hearst’s baronial dining room at San Simeon, at Voisin’s and the Colony, and the finest restaurants in Paris. But the eating place I remember best, out of the days when I was chronically half starved, is a joint that was called Max’s Busy Bee. At the Busy Bee, a salmon sandwich on rye cost three cents per square foot, and for four cents more you could buy a strawberry shortcake smothered with whipped cream and a glass of lemonade. But the absolutely most delicious food I ever ate was prepared by the most inspired chef I ever knew—my father. My father had to be inspired because he had so little to work with.
I can’t remember ever having a poor night’s sleep. I’ve slept in villas at Cannes and Antibes, at Alexander Woollcott’s island hideaway in Vermont, at the mansions of the Vanderbilts and Otto H. Kahn and in the Gloversville, New York, jail. I’ve slept on pool tables, dressing-room tables, piano tops, bathhouse benches, in rag baskets and harp cases, and four abreast in upper berths. I have known the supreme luxury of snoozing in the July sun, on the lawn, while the string of a flying kite tickled the bottom of my feet.

I can’t remember ever seeing a bad show. I’ve seen everything from Coney Island vaudeville to the Art Theatre in Moscow. If I’m trapped in a theatre and a show starts disappointingly, I have a handy way to avoid watching it. I fall asleep.
My only addictions—and I’ve outgrown them all—have been to pocket billiards, croquet, poker, bridge and black jelly beans. I haven’t smoked for twenty years.

The only woman I’ve ever been in love with is still married to me.

My only Alcohol Problem is that I don’t particularly care for the stuff.