My blog buddy Roger Green recently wrote about the Three Stooges, specifically, one of their classic stage routines, the iconic “Niagara Falls” bit. Also known as “Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch.”
Here’s the clip in question.
Crazy thing about this clip. It wasn’t originally filmed as part of the “Gents Without Cents” movie. This clip was filmed a year before, and was supposed to be used in a film called Good Luck, Mr. Yates, a patriotic war film starring Claire Trevor and Jess Barker. But the routine was trimmed from Good Luck, Mr. Yates in the final cut. Not wishing to waste such a great routine, Columbia Pictures and the Stooges worked the footage into one of the Stooges’ popular two-reel comedies.
To the uninitiated, the Stooges’ comedy seems to consist of nothing but slaps and punches and eye-gouges and pratfalls. But there was so much more to Stooge comedy. There was Borscht Belt humor, clever wordplay, and classic Vaudeville that found its way into so many Stooge comedies.
For example, here’s one of the waycool Stooge routines, the Maharajah of Vulgaria. This involves Moe and Curly pattering in a mixture of Yiddish and doublespeak, as Moe translates for Curly, who is dressed like a nearsighted Middle Eastern sultan.
This clip is from the 1941 full-length motion picture Time Out for Rhythm, in which the Stooges co-star with Rudy Vallee and Ann Miller.
The routine was revisited a few years later in the Stooge two-reeler “Three Little Pirates,” and this is impressive – especially when you consider that during this time period, Curly Howard had suffered a series of brain strokes, which severely affected his acting ability – but even in these few minutes, he brought the Maharajah back for another effortless go-round.
In fact, I could go on and on about the Stooge movies and shorts. When they were on their game, the stuff was magic. And yeah, there were several clinkers in the series, especially when they had to recycle old footage from prior films to make a new picture, and on occasion you could see that the film budget was financed with couch cushion money.
But in all that, the Stooges did have their charm and their humor.
And if you’re going to appreciate the Stooges, there’s no better Stooge clip than “Disorder in the Court,” a great combination of slapstick, wordplay and lowbrow humor. Have a seat, take off your hat, now place your left hand here, judgy-wudgy.
Even into the 1960’s, the Stooges could still make people smile, with their appearances in various big-screen pictures. Like this shot from the film Four for Texas, starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
And just one silent scene in the 1963 comedy caper It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, and you know that hiarity will ensue off-camera.
Now granted, I could blog for days about the best Three Stooges shorts and movies, and maybe someday I’ll put together such a list. But for now, I’ll just relax and enjoy these clips one more time. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.