Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wild allusions to God Speaks

Vanna White
Okay, I'm going out on a limb here. A friend once pointed out to me that Vanna White, who was the silent model for years on the TV game show Wheel of Fortune, wrote a book called Vanna Speaks, mirroring the title of the silent master Meher Baba's book God Speaks. Just in case this wasn't strange enough, the town of North Myrtle Beach erected a sign in the 1980s that read, "Welcome to North Myrtle Beach, Home of Vanna White." North Myrtle Beach, of course, is not only Vanna's home town, but also the home town of the Meher Spiritual Center.

Now I have just learned something so oddly parallel that I have to mention it. Harpo Marx was the Marx brother who never spoke. In fact, he was always silent in movies, even though he was proud of his elocution. In fact, he even made a guest appearance in his traditional wig and costume on the I Love Lucy show in 1955, still silent.

Gabriel Pascal on Set of Androcles, 1952
Well it turns out that there was in fact a movie he nearly appeared in speaking. It was Hungarian film producer Gabriel Pascal's last film, Androcles and the Lion. Gabriel Pascal, shown on the right on the film's set in Los Angeles in 1952, was a very close follower of Meher Baba, who died just two years after finishing the film. Pascal wanted Harpo Marx to play the lead speaking role, having learned from playwright George Bernard Shaw before Shaw's death the kind of Chaplinesque character had in mind to play Androcles. Harpo tested enthusiastically for the part and by all accounts did extraordinarily well. But RKO head Howard Hughes thought the idea absurd and insisted against it. Jean Simmons got the role instead. So far Pascal's screen tests of Harpo Marx speaking for the role have not resurfaced.

Harpo Marx
Harpo himself died in 1964, never having spoken in a theatrical motion picture. And guess what his autobiography was called. You guessed it. Harpo Speaks. The last sentence of the book is a characteristic "Honk! Honk!"

1 comment:

  1. The Egyptian God of Silence: HARPOCRATES !