First published in culturefront, “The Odd Couple: Alexander Woollcott and Harpo Marx” (1999) was reprinted as “Alexander Woollcott and Harpo Marx: A Love Story” as a Long Reads Member Pick (2014). Through the essay, Ned Stuckey-French details the relationship between Alexander Woollcott and Harpo Marx from their first meeting to their last letters.
The two men formed an odd couple in the constellation of oddballs that was the Algonquin Round Table. Woollcott was pudgy, fastidious, and bookish, a dandy with a sentimental, Victorian heart and an acidic, modern wit. James Thurber called him “Old Vitriol and Violets.” Harpo, on the other hand, was Harpo, a real-life version of his goofy, Pan-like, horn-honking self. He was all libido, always “on,” seemingly up for anything. Their relationship prompted much conjecture.
The full essay can be read here.