Baby Boomer Chronicles: The Three Stooges-A Softspot for Slapstick
As a little boy, I remember sitting cross-legged in front of a 13” screen black and white television set. This television set was some sort of cube, elongated toward the back with a clunky channel tuner, horizontal and vertical hold adjustment knobs on the side. It always gave you a jolt when you inadvertently touched it, as current was running through the entire chassis. There was a whole generation of young people who watched TV like this. I asked my father once when we were ever going to get a color TV; he used to say, “The TV that you are watching already has two colors, black and white”. You could always count on him for a witticism or two.
I was hardly old enough to go to school, but being exposed to the Three Stooges was one of those early memorable experiences. Their 15 minute movie shorts were broadcast at specific times during the weekdays. It was back in the day when you wanted just a good laugh. The kind of laugh wasn’t at the expense of anyone, had no ideological tilt, nor was smart-assed. The kind of laugh you get when Wile E. Coyote mishandled Acme products, you know. I miss that kind of a laugh, it was therapeutic. I cannot really measure how much of that kind of laughter disappears with childhood. In a world where there is so much to lament as an adult, I still watch cartoons and try to find the Stooges when available, because I enjoy that kind of laughter. I was thinking of this song while I was writing this, enjoy.
The Curly Shuffle by Jump N the Saddle Band (1983)
I won’t go into a detailed biography of the Stooges as that is available in great detail from Wikipedia. The purpose of this article and articles like them is to add a bit of me to the story. Most of the movie shorts I think about were filmed during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Larry, Moe, Shemp and the several Curlys have long since passed from the stage. But, I will always have them around in my fond memories and when I can find them on TV.
You may remember one short entitled “A Plumbing We Will Go” produced in 1940, where the three were hired as plumbers and managed to wreck the plumbing system and ruin the house.
There was another one where the Stooges brushed shoulders with high society, Curly got a spring from a sofa stuck on his rear and kept bouncing like a toy from the floors, walls and the high society guests during a party. If anyone knows the title, let me know. There are a lot of great pie throwing scenes in this one. Nothing gives a slapstick fan a rise like a pie in the face.
Then there was the 1941 short, entitled "I'll Never Heil Again", where Moe parodies Adolph Hitler, and Curly is supposed to resemble Benito Mussolini. There is no one that does “Hitler” like Moe. They say that the cause of Germany and Italy declaring war on the United States was the alliance with Japan, but I say the real reason was that Mussolini and Hitler previewed this film and were outraged. The comic antics and facial expressions of these guys were part of the fun. Of course, the only other parody of Hitler was that of the Charlie Chaplin (Adanoid Hinkel) character in the “Great Dictator” (1940). I had the memorable opportunity to say hello to this icon of cinema when he came through Denver Stapleton airport in 1972 on the way to Los Angeles to receive a lifetime achievement award. He was quite wheel chair bound then. I was just a high school kid working part time for a small newsstand.
I still get to find the Stooges on late night TV sometimes, when I get lucky. I now have all the time in the world to try to get to relive a little bit of childhood joy and wonder. It does not get any better.
If you have the time, check out other installments in the Baby Boomer TV series