"I Was Harpo Marx' Voice Coach"

Written by Ralph E. Shaffer

Friday, 24 January 2020

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Hollywood, CA. Woof Blister reporting for SIS - Stuff in Spoof. With the Golden Globes handed out and the Academy Awards to come, Cinema Publishers have announced a forthcoming book, the heretofore unpublished diary of the late Etaoin Shrdlu, whose moments of screen fame came in the mid-1950s when he was nominated for three Academy Awards in three unrelated categories.

The book, entitled "I Was Harpo Marx' Voice Coach," details the bitter, dog-eat-dog goings-on behind the scenes in mid-20th century Hollywood. For instance, Shrdlu was Harpo's coach for several years in the mid 50s, but never received a dime in pay since the Marx Brothers made no films during that period, and he never logged an hour on the supposedly lucrative contract he had with Harpo that would have paid him by the hour.

Likewise, his composition of the score for 1954's "Executive Suite" was minimal. A standard contract would have earned him six figures for a major film like that, but Shrdlu's contract paid him by the number of minutes of screen music. For that he received O, nada, nothing... since in the end the producers decided to send the film out with no musical score at all. Shrdlu thus received an Academy Award nomination for the film with the fewest musical minutes on any film ever nominated, much less than the 19 minutes of music that gave Burt Bacharach the award for "Butch Cassidy."

Shrdlu also recounts in the diary his work on "The Thief", the 1952 film noir mystery for which he received a nomination for the dialogue, not for the script. His sole job on the film was to write dialogue, but the script writers thought it would be clever to write a story in which none of the actors spoke. It wasn't a silent movie, however, as it was full of street sounds, etc. But not a word was spoken. So Shrdlu, unpaid, was at the award ceremony as a member of the script team for which he had written nothing.

Shrdlu wrote in his diary, "Never in the history of the Academy had anyone been so frequently nominated for having done nothing!" He left the film industry after that, in bitter disappointment.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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