Skip to content

Red’s letter to Harpo Marx

Soldiers Red Skelton and Harpo Marx, on opposite sides, play checkers

Recently, I read the autobiography “Son of Harpo Speaks!” by Harpo Marx‘s son Bill. It’s an interesting book, with lots of details about Harpo that I hadn’t already known. Including a very sweet letter from Red Skelton to Harpo Marx.

Harpo’s final television appearance was on The Red Skelton Hour season 12 episode, “Somebody Up There Should Stay There“. Harpo made his (final) retirement shortly after. When the news of his retirement become public, Red sent him the following letter:

“Dear Harpo,

When most actors announce their final performance, it’s a meir crescendo to incidental music. But when greatness rings down the curtain, a lonely feeling shrouds out thoughts. We feel the stillness of an empty theater. There will never be another poetic figure, with your humanistic concern, whose philosophy is laughter, a kindly sort, with out belittling his fellow man. You didn’t have to speak, each gesture is shier eloquence. Your very precence proved, “Silence is Golden.”

The only time you made any one sad, was when you spoke to your audience, and bid them farewell. We were privlaged indeed, that you didn’t decide to speek sooner.

We are proud to have been a small atom in your life, our appearance on television will be my most memorable hour how we displayed every trick in the clown’s bag, romping our way through a harlequinade of farcical buffoonery.

A warm glow pervades, when I think of the nite you and your dear lady came to see me perform, and that extraordinary glow we get, when your name is mentioned.

The selfish will keep shouting for more, where happiness is concerned aren’t we all selfish. Man is always seeking laughter from their clown, you are theirs. But do they ever care if the clown gets tired, or wonder who diverts him with antics.

You’ve given to the world, enjoy the tributes long past due, your decision is your diploma from the school of adversity. Wisdom in now your teacher. Life has been good to you. Now you be good to your life.

Now you’ll be able to enjoy your family, your play, and your painting your painting speek far more beauty than any poem written, and your music. Now you’ll hear your greatness too. You’ll learn why you are loved, depth will sing from the strings. You’ll never have to say it could be better, or it has to be better. You will say, thank god I didn’t relize how great it is.

And your dear face, you won’t have too wonder if they will laugh at your impish contortions. You’ll see yourself and say there is a happy man with out half-formulated fears.

Give free rein too your enthusiasm, not the the whim of a box office. You’ll have to curb your grumbles now. There is no performance to blame the quivering nerves on.

On thing certtian you may not hear it but there is thunderous applause for you every day. You are believed. We are all Gods children, if God puts his image in his children all I can say is, you sure look like our old man.

Love always,
God Bless

Red Skelton (his signature)

[Editor’s notes: all typos and spelling errors are from the original]