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Was Harpo really an angel?

There is a story on about how when a theatre manager was trying to stiff the brothers and they insisted on getting the pay agreed upon, he gave it to them in sacks filled with pennies, dimes, and nickels just as they were leaving for their train. "I hope your theatre burns down!" Harpo yelled at the manager. That night, it did.

This "Vengeance of the Lord" to the side, the anecdotes here and everywhere about Harpo speak of him as one of the most perfect souls ever to walk this Earth. He seemed to have compassion and understanding toward everyone. I've even seen it suggested he stuck around the obnoxious Alexander Woolcott because he understood Woolcott, who was gay, was likely in love with him. I don't think Harpo was gay (there's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary), but I think he had an attitude of acceptance of people's differences that would likely be ahead of most of us today.

He seems to have been this extraordinary being who could mete out the effects of karma in emergencies, but whose purpose was to make everyone's life as pleasant as he could. That's a large part, if not all, of his comedy.

Groucho may often make us smile intellectually at the speed of his delivery and the audaciousness of his insults toward authority, but Harpo makes us laugh out loud. I cannot think of a single Marx Brother movie where he doesn't do something that literally makes me shriek with laughter.

It may seem, if he were an angel, he seems a rather mangy and maniacal one. Yet, I remember an appearance by the actress Eileen Brennan on the Tonight Show right after she had recovered from being run down by a car outside a Hollywood club. She said as she was being wheeled into the operating room she was later told she uttered, "Tell Mr. Redford I won't be available for our date tonight." She made a comment after telling this anecdote that "Laughter is the voice of God."

A true angel would not just sit there upon a cloud being boringly nice all the time, halo always on straight, robe always freshly ironed. A true angel would bring endless joy to the world, a world where joy is often sadly absent.

I know the wig was not originally intended as angel's hair, but the wild red hair of an outrageous Irish ethnic character. I know the harp wasn't originally intended to be angelic, it was just that Chicko got the piano lessons, and Minnie's mother accompanied her magician father's act on the harp long before their grandson, Harpo, was ever born. But somehow, the imagery, the joy, the character, and the occasional smiting of a rotten theatre manager all came together to create a human being far more extraordinary than a mere screen clown.

They say the good always die young. Well, Harpo made it to 75 and maybe God said, "OK, this once I'll let one of them live to be old. After all, he's too good to use up so fast."

Copyright 2006, Michael Berest. All rights reserved.

Re: Was Harpo really an angel?

Well i wouldnt say that he was exactly an Angel...but if he took out the swearing...i might consider it.

hope this

Honk Honk!

Re: Was Harpo really an angel?

I wouldn't inflict the burden of divinity on Harpo. He was, according to all accounts, just a lovely human being, who lived in a manner that shows the rest of us what might be possible of any of us. His God given gifts were simply a treasure in his custody.