Did Harpo Marx ever speak on film

I’m working on a set of questions for a show on NPR called Says You (It’s a quiz show and they solicit questions from the listeners). I just need some of the experts here to check my facts a little. So, did Harpo Marx ever speak in any of his movies? Also, I want to make sure that Charlie Chaplin did speak on film. I’m pretty sure he had some dialog in The Great Dictator, but I’m not absolutely sure. Thanks, all.

I know the character on “The great Dictator” gave a radio address. As to whether that was actually chaplins voice, I don’t know.

Yes he did but not in his character of Harpo. He was in another movie before the Marx brothers and had at least one speaking role that I know of.

In the Great Dictator Charlie Chaplin speaks A LOT. he was the main character and had this really nice polite British accent. Rent the movie you’ll enjoy it.

I know Charlie Chaplin spoke on film (Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight come to mind–he still had a good career in the “talkie” era).

I’m not sure one way or the other about Harpo.

Hmm, this site says

But I do recall seeing film of him speaking. It was a very early western and he said some words in front of a house. I think I saw it in The Unknown Marx Brothers. I wonder if this was an uncredited appearence?

Well I’d guess it would be smart to lean towards Harpo as a ‘No’ unless someone could find evidence since I can’t. But I do still feel he did.

BTW another famous silent person who did speak in film was Marcel Marceau who had the only speaking role in Mel Brooks’ comedy Silent Movie. His line? “No!”

Actually, the answer to the Harpo question is great. Yes, he had a speaking role in a film. I don’t remember the name of it. But here’s the kicker: it was a silent film.

They showed a clip of it in The Unknown Marx Brothers.

I don’t think it was a very big part either. Maybe just one line. But we still haven’t heard his voice.

There is only one time Harpo’s voice was ever recorded, and it was by accident. He was on a radio show or something (no idea why; but if Edgar Bergen could do ventriloquism on the radio, Arthur Marx could do Harpo). They came back from commercial and he didn’t realize; he was still talking to the host.

It was like five seconds but I’ve heard the tape in one of those “old time radio bloopers” sets.

Other than that . . . again according to the documentary, Harpo and Chico switched characters for one performance, but it was a stage performance and no one was taping it.

Could you say that again? I assume you meant that the audience couldn’t hear him speak, but his character in the movie said a line, which was probably shown on the screen as a written line of dialogue. Correct?


We couldn’t hear it, but we could read it, and either way his character still had a line. It’s one of the few things I remember from the documentary last time I saw it on PBS.

Thanks, everyone. Osiris, you almost stumbled on to the actual question. Says You has done questions along the line of “which is the odd man out?” So one of my questions is:

Which is the odd man out?

Charlie Chaplin
Kevin Smith
Harpo Marx
Marcel Marceau

Even though they all played silent characters, Harpo Marx is the odd man out because he never actually spoke. I may add Buster Keaton to the list, I’m pretty sure he spoke in Sunset Boulevard.

I recall seeing part of a talky running on AMC a couple months ago with Chaplin. He talked quite a bit in the scenes I saw. Keaton also spoke in some sound films.

Of course Kevin Smith spoke: He gave the big final speech in Clerks, he spoke in his other films too, didn’t he?

Marceau spoke the only line (one word, actually) in the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie.

As for Harpo, the person who would know for sure is the worlds Marx Brothers expert, Paul Wesolowski. He publishes (on an infrequent basis) the Freedonia Gazette. Every year he holds an open house, with Marx fans traveling great distances to see his immense collection of memorabilia and rare film clips. I attended one (he lives within an hour of me), and he offered to play the ultra-rare recording of Harpo speaking, but cautioned that it would kind of ruin our image of him never speaking (apparently Harpo had a very thick Brooklyn accent). Everyone decided not to play it. I don’t know however if it was a film or audiotape.


Did Harpo ever speak on film? Absolutely not.

But he did sing! Or at least that’s the accepted theory. From Glenn Mitchell’s The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia. . .

“There is a strong possibility that Harpo may be heard singing in Monkey Business: when the Marxes, concealed in barrels sing Sweet Adeline, there are most definitely four voices to be heard. The last to finish, a strangulated tenor, does not resemble the three familier voices and may have been a deliberate joke, permitting audiences to hear Harpo’s voice without betraying its source.”

Glenn also confirms that Harpo did indeed speak with “an unusually strong New York accent.”

This site says it has two clips of Harpo speaking. He’s telling a story of this doctor’s reaction to him being sick
The guy from BBC2 calls it a perfect voice for radio

There’s another too. As Reading Rainbow would say, “Read it!”

Sidenote: Keaton did a boatload of speaking roles in the 1930s.

Um he (as silent bob) had onla a few lines in clerks.
let me paraphrase. “There are a million women out there, Most do not bring you Lasangua, they just cheat on you.”

in Mall Rats he said (again paraphrase) “money, power, a jedi craves not these things.”

Of course in Chasing Amy Silent Bob had a long speach about chasing amy. a long lost woman in his life.


I remember reading in a library book about a dozen years ago that in one of the films Harpo says “AAAAAACHOOO!” when he sneezes. (I want to say At the Circus which would’ve been one of the last films. The book claimed that was Harpo’s only “speaking” line. Obviously judging by the other posts the accuracy of the book could be in question.)

I think the answer to your trivia question would be Kevin Smith is the odd man out because although he plays a “silent” character, he has at least one speaking line in EACH of his movies. (To complete the list above, in DOGMA he says “No ticket!” to a guy on the train, and in J&SBSB he has a tour de force yelling scene at Jay.)

Of COURSE she speaks in her films. You think she won the Academy Award in " Annie Hall " for her freaking wardrobe???/

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


Allan Sherman, according to his autobiography, became good friends with Harpo toward the end of the latter’s life. They performed together once (in LA, I think) when AS was much bigger than HM (Sherman says he had to insist they put Harpo’s name on the sign… since the show was already sold out they saw no reason to bother).

When the show was nearly over, Harpo told Allan this was going to be his last performance. Allan walked onto the stage and tried to tell the audience but he started to cry. Of course, the audience had no idea what was going on.
Harpo strolled onto the stage and said “Allan, you talk too much.”

Naturally, the crowd went nuts.

According to the book Harpo went on to talk about retiring. So he definitely talked on stage at least once, if not on film.

Harpo spoke on stage a number of times. He loved playing with people’s heads! He would usually start off with “Unaccustomed as I am at speaking…” and watch the jaws drop in the audience.

Harpo was smart enough to know that his entire shtick would be in jeopardy if he tried this routine in film or on the radio, so no permanent record of his voice (excepting the rare instances already noted in this thread).

Never heard the Allan Sherman story. He had time to put out an autobiography? Happen to remember what the book is called?