Did Adolph ‘Harpo’ Marx Change His Name Because of Hitler?


An age-old method for mobilizing a populace to battle a conflict is to so completely demonize the enemy that the battle turns into seen by the general public as an ethical battle fairly than a political one. This method was used to most impact in America throughout World War I, when for the primary time the U.S. was engaged as a late entrant in an abroad conflict, a conflict that many Americans wished no half of. Accordingly, the Germans had been recast as “Huns” to whom all types of atrocity tales had been attributed, and all of the sudden every thing Germanic turned anathema.

In response, German-Americans sought to keep away from being branded as disloyalists, traitors, or spies by declaring themselves to be Dutch or anglicizing their names, and customary gadgets with German names had been retitled: sauerkraut turned “victory cabbage,” hamburgers became “liberty sandwiches,” and “hamburger steak” was henceforth often called “Salisbury steak.” And a younger comedian named Julius Marx, who got here from a German household and was touring America in a vaudeville present together with his three brothers, altered the persona of his stage character from German to Yiddish and eventually to American. Julius would later turned nationally well-known as “Groucho,” one of the celebrated Marx Brothers.

This renaming frenzy didn’t carry over to World War II, largely as a result of the Germans did such a radical job of demonizing themselves, however one end result of the Nazi period in Germany was the long-lasting stigmatization of the names “Adolf” and “Hitler.” Thousands of folks bearing these names modified them to be able to keep away from any affiliation with the infamous German dictator.

So, when Marx Brothers followers ultimately discovered that though “Harpo” Marx had at all times acknowledged his actual first identify as Arthur, he had really been born Adolph Marx, they naturally assumed he had modified his identify for the same cause. But in truth, that assumption was an faulty and anachronistic rationalization for a transition that had really taken place a few years earlier for unrelated causes.

Explanations for why the comic who would later turn out to be world-famous as “Harpo” adopted the identify Arthur fluctuate, starting from the declare that he had been nicknamed “Ahdie” early on and easily most well-liked that identify to Adolph, to the notion that he sought to keep away from an affiliation with a infamous present enterprise lawyer bearing the homophonous identify of Adolph Marks:

With an irregular schedule of bookings within the later half of 1910, Adolph had rather a lot of time to apply his new [harp]. He additionally discovered time to deal with a problem that had been bothering him since he entered vaudeville. Adolph Marx was not happy by the truth that he shared a reputation, not less than audibly, with Adolph Marks, a Chicago legal professional whose specialty was the amusement enterprise. Marks had turn out to be a infamous determine to vaudeville performers for his pesky behavior of suing them on behalf of purchasers such because the United Booking Office, Martin Beck, and the Shubert brothers. Although Adolph Marks would later serve, for a few years, within the Illinois State Senate and turn out to be recognized for championing racial equality and the rights of the much less lucky, he made his dwelling suing vaudevillians in 1910. Adolph Marx was an unlucky identify to be caught with as a vaudevillian primarily based in Chicago. Adolph began utilizing the identify Arthur in 1909, however he had not made it his authorized identify.

Whatever the exact cause for the identify change, it undeniably occurred lengthy earlier than Adolph (Harpo) Marx would have had event to listen to of Adolf Hitler, as Robert S. Bader famous in his historical past of the Marx Brothers on stage:

The utterly faulty notion that Adolph altering his identify had something to do Adolf Hitler has its roots in an April 22, 1970, Variety article in regards to the Broadway musical Minnie’s Boys, primarily based on the adolescence of the Marx Brothers. “According to Marvin A. Krauss, general manager for Minnie’s Boys, he was told that Harpo changed his name informally to Arthur when Hitler seized power in Germany in the early 1930s, and shocked the world with his Nazi policy of Jewish persecution. The comedian made no attempt to have the name Arthur legalized.”

Minnie’s Boys, was cowritten by one other Arthur Marx, Groucho’s son, who occurred to be born on July 21, 1921 — exactly eight days earlier than Hitler turned head of the Nazi social gathering. Arthur was named after his uncle (i.e., Harpo), who had, by then, been often called Arthur for greater than a decade … the true story is that Adolph Marks persecuted vaudevillians twenty years earlier, and that was sufficient to make Adolph Marx into Arthur Marx.

Newspaper critiques of Marx Brothers performances additionally doc that Adolph was recognized as Arthur not less than as early as 1913. Thus Adolph Marx’s identify change demonstrably occurred lengthy earlier than the world had heard of an Austrian named Adolf Hitler, nicely earlier than the outbreak of World War I (a lot much less World War II), and even years earlier than the momentous day when the comedian was first tagged with the moniker of “Harpo.”




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