Friday, October 16, 2015

Sepia Saturday 302: A Half-Harped Attempt


The photographer, Mr. Windeatt, is clearly identified in this photo.There's no mystery about him; lots of information is readily available online. Others who contribute to Sepia do a much better job than I can on this type of research, so I'll quit there and leave the sleuthing to the experts. 

Instead, I'll concentrate on the instrument. At first I thought it was a harp, but it actually looks like a half-harp. Accepting that it's in the harp family, I think I can focus on my favorite harpist, Harpo Marx. For some unknown reason, my conservative French-Canadian mother loved him. Not that I don't think Harpo is fun and entertaining, but slapstick wasn't exactly my mother's style. It was rare to hear her actually burst into laughter but she'd do it for Harpo. 




I did a Wiki search on Harpo and refreshed my knowledge about him. In 1912, the Marx brothers, formerly a singing group called the 4 Nightingales, switched to comedy. Harpo couldn't keep up with the others comedically and resorted to facial expressions and miming for his part. It worked well. He was a self-taught harpist and turned out to be very good. Considering it was his mother's idea to rent a harp in 1910 for the Nightingales performance, it was pure luck that he liked it enough to pursue it and become "Harpo." His real name was Adolph which he later changed to Arthur. Here's how he became Harpo, from Wiki:

Harpo gained his stage name during a card game at the Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois. The dealer (Art Fisher) called him "Harpo" because he played the harp. He learned how to hold it properly from a picture of an angel playing a harp that he saw in a five-and-dime. No one in town knew how to play the harp, so Harpo tuned it as best he could, starting with one basic note and tuning it from there. Three years later he found out he had tuned it incorrectly, but he could not have tuned it properly; if he had, the strings would have broken each night. Harpo's method placed much less tension on the strings. Although he played this way for the rest of his life, he did try to learn how to play correctly, and he spent considerable money hiring the best teachers. They spent their time listening to him, fascinated by the way he played.

In the spirit of fun and music Harpo employed so well, I'm submitting a picture of my sister which I'm sure would have horrified Mr. Windeatt, a proponent of the classic stage pose.  My father has noted on the photo that her outfit was a Halloween costume and the date looks like Dec. 12th or 13th, 1947 well past Halloween 1947, so perhaps they were practising for Halloween 1948? The temperature ranged on Dec. 12th and 13th 1947 (I looked it up) between -4 to 14 F. which looks about right given the snow appearance - firm and solid, not melting; the Inuits would call this piegnartoq - "snow that is good for driving sled." Or maybe they would call it something else....as we all know, they have many, many words to describe snow. As for Eilleen, the over-stuffed bosom, the hat, the sandals (in the snow) and the coquettish looks (Inuits would say she is aiyuilisuuruk) are completely unlike her, but that's what wearing a costume is all about, eh?

I'm sure as she went door-to-door in this outfit, singing out -  "Halloween Apples!" that she came home with a bagful of treats...and some apples. You see, even at Halloween, Canadians, or at least Manitobans, couldn't bring themselves to be threatening door-to-door and yell "Trick or Treat" opting instead for the mild and almost pleasant sing-song request for apples.


Grab a garland and sashay over to Sepia Saturday to read more stories.


 

13 comments:

  1. Love the video clip of Harpo and friends. I didn't realise he was a real harpist, I must confess. Is he also playing the cello and violin or are they just look-a-likes do you think? It looks rather cold for your sister to be outside in that outfit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was too cold. There's probably a backstory which would involve my mother telling my father to cut it out and let Eilleen back in. Eilleen was probably following my father's stage direction and grateful she had that artificial bosom to keep her upper half warm. "Dad, will you hurry up!!!"

      Delete
  2. Interesting post. I didn't really know anything about Harpo. Your sister's picture is intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wonder what she was doing out in the snow in that outfit and it wasn't even halloween!?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I never knew Harpo's background. That was a good lesson & I'm glad to know, also, why he wound up being the silent one of the bunch. Thanks! Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The history of those old performers is always quite interesting. I read a bit about the Three Stooges and how jealous they were of the attention and MONEY that the Marx brothers commanded. Oh well. I enjoyed both ends of this post - from Harpo to Eileen. May you get plenty of Halloween Apples.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am so glad you went in this direction with the theme as Harpo was always a favourite of mine as well. The video clip brought back all sorts of memories. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Too funny, I love the photo and the story behind it. Socks and sandals are always such a good look and in the snow too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'd forgotten how good Harpo was on the harp. I'm not a fan of Halloween but I like the idea of Halloween Apples. That sounds more friendly and I guess there is a history behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. great post! Harpo helped to make "serious" classical music popular with his comic style. It's curious that in the mirror he plays the cello and violin backwards holding the bow with the left hand.
    Your sister's photo is a supper match for the theme.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm sure your sister received lots of Halloween treats in this get-up! We didn't have the 'trick' in 'trick-or-treat' in Dublin either, - we'd have to do our 'party-piece' to get the treats.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh goodness, I like the photo of your sister, very informative post as well, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love the pun in your title of such a fun post.

    ReplyDelete