THE SOUND OF SILENTS

You sure you can’t move? –what Harpo Marx “said” to the tied-up hero (Richard Dix) before punching him in the 1925 film TOO MANY KISSES (fortunately, the film survived)

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Italicized above are the only words ever “spoken” (but not heard) on film by the man whose birthday we note today, HARPO MARX. The audience didn’t hear those five words because the film was a “silent” — “talkies” didn’t come on the scene until 1927, two years before the first of thirteen Marx Brothers movies (1929-49). Harpo spoke in none of them.

But why, oh why-o, should I try-o to “bio” Harpo, when here-o you can click on the official thing from his offspring:

https://www.harposplace.com/

Because Harpo associated with Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and other wits in the famed Algonquin Round Table repartee, I expected to turn up a number of witty Harpo Marx quotes for this piece. No such luck — I found only one I enjoyed enough to post here (both the “she” referred to in the quote, and who it is addressed to, are unknown):

“She’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.”

One quote being three quotes short of a gallon, I shall return to giving you “the silent treatment” with a quota of four quotes of silence said by forethoughtful others:

“Listen to the sound of silence.” –Paul Simon, American singer, songwriter, and actor

“Silence is golden unless you have kids, then it’s just plain suspicious.” –anonymous

“If nobody ever said anything unless he knew what he was talking about, what a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth!” –A. P. Herbert, English humorist, writer, and politician

“I believe in the discipline of silence and can talk for hours about it.” –George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic

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Since I didn’t give Harpo the last word, I’ll let him give his audience the last laugh….and though he doesn’t speak, you’ll hear captivating sounds escape his lips 2:42 into this clip:

Bravo, Harpo!

EPILOGUE: Listen — 90+ years after the “silents” ended*, you can still hear….

*with the exception of two Charlie Chaplin masterpieces in the 1930s, CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES

RETIREMENT TIME

Hard as it may be (for me, at least) to fathom, it seems that many people approaching retirement don’t look forward to it because they don’t know what they’ll do with all the time they’ll have when they have no job. That has never struck me as a problem, what with books to be read, writing to be written, learning to be learned (unless you already know everything), trips to plan, music to enjoy, sports to follow, chores to avoid, mislaid items to look for, naps to take, etc….not to mention human behavior forever to be baffled by.

Believe me, friends, if I had half the time my once-upon-a-time fellow wage slaves assume I have, I would be posting a post almost every day instead of once a week or so (which, I concede, may still be too often for you malcontents and party poopers out there).

So, how busy am I?

Oops — how did that clip get there? Fact is, I’m so busy, I don’t even have time to think of more to say about the subject….so I’ll avoid that chore by passing it on to others:

I have never liked working. To me, a job is an invasion of privacy. –Danny McGoorty

I’ve crunched the numbers in your retirement account. It’s time to figure out who will be wearing the mask and who will be driving the getaway car. –Unknown financial advisor

My retirement plan is to get thrown into a minimum security prison in Hawaii. –Julius Sharpe

I will not retire while I’ve still got my legs and my make-up box. –Bette Davis

The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off. –Abe Lemons

I find the biggest trouble with having nothing to do is you can’t tell when you’re done. –Unknown

As for me, except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did. –Robert Benchley

I can’t wait to retire so I can get up at 6 a.m. and drive around real slow and make everybody late for work. –Unknown

What do you call a person who is happy on Monday? Retired. –Unknown

When a professional golfer retires, what does he retire to? –Evan Esar

When you retire, you switch bosses — from the one who hired you to the one who married you. –Unknown

Time’s up. COMING, DEAR!

 

 

 

PARDON MY QUOTES

It is easier to buy books than to read them, and easier to read them than to absorb them. –William Osler

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Now that’s a quote I can relate to — of the near-50 books I bought at that November used book sale I wrote about recently, in 3 weeks I’ve managed to find time to read all of 2 1/2; that’s all of two books (plus half of one) traversed in 21 days, as the crow flies. At that rate, I’ll have bought 50 more books before I’ve read an iota of my quota from the last batch — and I’ve already bought ten more books since then. Nonetheless (actually all the more, both batches combined), rather than completely skip a post as I did December 5, I’ll at least try to save composing-time by posting (aka com-posting) the words of others.

Fittingly, I’ll quote the six Masters of Wit (from my previous post) to whom Groucho Marx dedicated his book GROUCHO AND ME. The last quote below cites another timesaver some people practice, but rarely admit….however, I’ll open with Robert Benchley, who undoubtedly said the following following A Night At The Opera with the Marx Brothers:

Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings.
–ROBERT BENCHLEY

I didn’t like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions  — the curtain was up.
— GEORGE S. KAUFMAN

An optimist is a girl who mistakes a bulge for a curve.
–RING LARDNER

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?
–JAMES THURBER

The fact is that all of us have only one personality, and we wring it out like a dishtowel. You are what you are.
–S. J. PERLEMAN

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.
–E. B. WHITE

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HIGHER AND HIGHER

This post isn’t about what you may think it’s about (like maybe mountain climbing, drugs or seduction). No, friends — just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge the title of a post by its lover.

And what am I a lover of? Faithful readers know that from time to time, I indulge my love for 1920s-1940s popular music/jazz with a post honoring a songwriting giant of that era (forgotten though he or she may be today). Dec. 10 is the birthday of one such songwriter, and this is such a post (sorry about the letdown).

Lyricist Harold Adamson was born on this date in 1906. He studied law at Harvard, but songwriting had a greater appeal and, as luck (and talent) would have it, his first published song became an all-time standard: Time On My Hands, written for the 1930 stage show SMILES, starring Fred and Adele Astaire….and who better to do it justice than Billie Holiday, backed by Teddy Wilson, Lester Young & other jazz greats:

Working with such composers as Jimmy McHugh, Vincent Youmans, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke and Victor Young, Adamson went on to write lyrics to such hits as Manhattan Serenade, Everything I Have Is Yours, It’s A Wonderful World, It’s A Most Unusual Day and many more. Here, from the 1936 film SUZY starring Jean Harlow and a very young Cary Grant, is one of Adamson’s lesser known songs (and the only time Cary Grant ever sang in a movie):

In 1943 (at the height of WW II), Adamson teamed with McHugh to write the songs for Frank Sinatra’s first starring movie, HIGHER AND HIGHER. Quoting McHugh:

Adamson and I trekked into our office at RKO and found the script glaring coldly at us from the top of the piano. It informed us that there’d be a minor lover’s quarrel in the story, also the need of a big production number. Nothing happened with us that first day, but at 3 a.m. the next morning, Adamson phoned me and said he’d been listening to a musical shortwave program that suddenly had been cut off for a news announcement.
“There’s our title for the production number, Jim,” he said, “The Music Stopped.”
Then I began concentrating on the lovers’ spat and came down with insomnia. As the thousandth  sheep jumped over the fence, both tune and title landed: “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night.”

But to my mind, the best of the McHugh-Adamson songs from that film is this one:

Note that the above recording is a V-Disc, which is a story in itself. James Petrillo, head of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), had called a national ban on recording by its members in 1942, meaning no new recordings could be made by commercial record companies using AFM musicians. To get around this ban, songs were recorded a capella, without instrumental accompaniment. However, there was an exception for records, called V-Discs, made for American troops overseas….thus the orchestral accompaniment for this song from the film’s CBS rehearsal session was recorded as a V-Disc. This, and many other V-Discs, survive to this day because, although such discs were supposed to be off-limits in the U.S., this edict was largely ignored by returning GIs.

I close at the bottom of  this HIGHER AND HIGHER post with the title song from TOP OF THE TOWN, a film with screenplay co-written by humorist Robert Benchley: