I am preparing a follow-up to my “Hooray for Harpywood” presentation devoted solely to the on-camera performances of Harpo Marx.
I’m hunting down the best available pre-print footage available, and am very interested if anybody has specifics about the overdubbing of his post-Paramount features.
I know, directly from Gail Laughton, who told me before he passed away, that he did some recording for Harpo. It was all very secret, hush hush, strictly back-room sort of thing. As a former sound editor/film editor/music editor, I understand the process used for the MGM films, which necessitated a pre-record and since Harpo didn’t read music, he couldn’t sight-read nor learn a virtual concerto in only 1-2 days.
I seem to remember it’s Gail Laughton’s hands in a couple of shots in THE BIG STORE, but if anybody has any more specific info, I’d love to hear it. If not here on this blog, then “anonomously” at my email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Before anybody gets upset or distraught, Harpo ABSOLUTELY COULD play the harp, and extremely well! It’s just that the production pipeline at MGM, being the Tiffany of movie studios, demanded pre-records and Harpo wasn’t up to that.
One of the things I’ll be doing in my presentation is presenting a detailed film analysis of the numbers, showing what is a what is called a “standard recording” or a “live on-set” recording, and what is a playback.