Comic Pianists you might not know #3: Chico Marx(By Les)
Greetings, Manic Fans. Les here to conclude my 3 part blog about great comic pianists. Having covered Victor Borge and Liberace, Iâ€™m bringing you a great one from the Vaudeville era:
If youâ€™ve ever seen a Marx Brothers film, chances are real good youâ€™ve seen this man play the pianoâ€¦.and his brother, Harpo play the harp. His style can be described in a single phrase: Consummate show off! With an undeniable classic background, he introduces a playful technique of using glissandos and single note hits with his forefingerÂ posed like a pretend gun shooting the keys. Itâ€™s fun, and in the films, he uses them to impress girls and children(Not necessarily in that orderâ€¦).
He also takes pop tunes of the day and transforms them using classical style of performing to make them even more impressive. The first time I saw him play the piano, was in the film â€œA Night at the Operaâ€ where he performed the song, â€œAll I do is dream of you,â€ by Nacio Herb. When sung with lyrics by Arthur Freed, this was the song Cathy Selden(Debbie Reynolds) sang in â€œSinging in the Rain.â€ I was astonished at his skill and effortless delivery while making faces at the kids who watched him, spellbound. Here, take a look.
I mean, here is a guy whoâ€™s just having a good time on the piano, and heâ€™s getting off on showing off for his crowd. Here, in the film, â€œAnimal Crackers,â€ Heâ€™s doing a variation on the song, â€œSilver Threads among the Gold,â€ by H P Hanks.
The amazing thing about Chico is how EASY he makes it look. He never sweats! In the film â€œThe Big Store,â€ He does a 4 hand duet of the song, “Mama Yo Quiero,” with Harpo complete with(What looks like) spontaneous choreography as the two trade off sides and attack each other without missing any of the notes. Itâ€™s incredible!
Can you imagine being in the orchestra accompanying him? Iâ€™d be perpetually trying not to laugh out loud! Here he is in the film â€œMonkey Businessâ€ literally challenging the boys in the band to â€œKeep up!â€ Â Ladies and Gentlemen,Â “Pizzicato” by Leo Delibes….
For my final example, he performs “The Woodpecker Song” by Harold Adamson and Eldo Di Lazzaro in the film “Go West.” Â Check out his ending of this piece by stealing Harpoâ€™s apple to do the right hand part(Granted, it must have been a prop apple, as a real apple wouldâ€™ve bruised and leaked apple juice all over the piano LOL!â€¦still, damned impressive trick, reallyâ€¦from what I’ve seen, this trick is usually done with an average sized navel orange).
Did you ever see Chico Marx play the piano, my friends? What was your opinion of this keyboard tickling clown? Peace.