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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Stooges In The Saddle


Three (Stooge) Reasons to Watch Rockin' In The Rockies (1945)

Were I not inclined toward mercy, I'd call this a real stinkeroony. Again there is deference to Three Stooge historians: Was this a Columbia attempt to launch them in features, as was done successfully by Hal Roach in the 30's with Laurel and Hardy? If so, it's sure enough a botch. The boys aren't tendered as a team, Larry and Curly "vagrants" snookered into a mine scheme by Moe, the latter almost a Groucho played off against Chico/Harpo equivalents. Were Columbia scribes guided by 1940's Go West? Columbia did cheap tunefests along lines similar to Monogram; there's even Tim Ryan from latter in again frustrated mode. The idea was to gather everyone in a room and one or more of them sing. Toward that end comes The Hoosier Hotshots, Spade Cooley, and The Cappy Barra Boys. Rockin' In The Rockies might be more noteworthy as vehicle for them rather than the Stooges. There's better opportunity for the comics in Time Out For Rhythm, where at least routines are sustained and they're working as a team like in shorts. Rockies allows but occasional pass at the trio as they background characters we're less interested in. Columbia did not use the Stooges well in features, but would any other company have used them at all?

26 Comments:

Blogger lmshah said...

Well, Monogram used them pretty well in SWING PARADE OF 1946, there they actually are a team and blend pretty well into the plot, but I have to admit to more of a liking for ROCKIES than you John, it's no Stooge classic, but it is a pleasant timekiller, and I like both the Hoosier Hotshots and Spade Cooley (at least as a musician). I also find it interesting when comedians find themselves placed into a comic situation where they have to work against type. I doubt that ROCKIES was originally written for the Three Stooges, but whomever was originally planned fell through and they were available. Moe Howard was a fair comic actor on his own, and he does a fine job here when he is playing relatively normal.

I like most of these 70 minute Columbia (or Universal, or Republic, or Monogram, or heck, even PRC sometimes come to think of it)musicals that are built around the musical acts they have available for a number or two and throws some comicsor old pros (or even sometimes band members)into enough plot to stick the musical numbers together, as a fan of both movies and music of the period, frequently it's all the film on some of these musicians apart from a Soundie or two, and you usually get a decent comic like Shemp Howard or Harry Langdon or Tim Ryan somewhere in the mix. When one's requirements are an evening's entertainment and not something like CAMILLE or Carl Dreyer, these can fit the bill quite painlessly.


RICHARD M ROBERTS ("Hey Honey, I've got a few hours before I have to mow the lawn, put on J'ACCUSE!")

6:35 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

THE THREE STOOGES built Columbia Pictures. Audiences flocked to the theaters to see their shorts despite the feature film they were paired with. The box office figures though were credited to the feature not to the shorts. Harry Cohn knew this which is why he kept them making films right up to his death. The new management didn't so they dropped The Stooges which left Moe and Larry washed up until their shorts were aired an TV and they came back HUGE. The good thing was they made more money from their work in the last years of their lives than in all the years before that. Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition Auditorium is immense. The Stooges were the first to fill it. I sat in a grind house theater once that had 4 films playing one of which was a Stooges feature. The place was empty until it was time for The Stooges. Then there was not an empty seat. The audience went wild with laughter. Seeing these films at home on a TV by ourself or with a few friends just does not compare to experiencing them with hundreds of other people nearly losing control of their bodies they are laughing so hard. I grew up with Moe, Larry and Shemp. I saw their films in the theatre in Minto, New Brunswick. We kids howled. When Moe, Larry and Curly hit TV I had no idea who Curly was. Columbia used them. Columbia did not use them well. But that's Hollywood. Never has so much greatness been squandered away as in Tinseltown. I wrote a skit for a high school variety show using routines I had seen in Stooges films. The audience went wild. It was wonderful. Thanks for this post.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I agree with Imshah. Rockies appears to have been written for two guys, and when that fell through, somebody thought to add a third and give it to the Stooges. I wonder, though. If this was also Columbia's attempt to turn them into feature players by toning down the slapstick and slicking down Moe's hair. It's a strange movie -- not really a Stooges vehicle, but starring them anyway.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

My key memory is that the leading man was so unimpressive, I assumed he had to be a singer trying to act. He wasn't.

Victims of their own success: They reportedly filmed a couple of scenes for MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, but that one reveal of them as the "crack rescue team" was too big a laugh to follow.

For the record, PUNCH DRUNKS --with a script credited to the Stooges themselves -- presented the three as strangers meeting for the first time: Moe is a fight manager; Larry a wandering musician, and Curly a waiter. Within a couple of scenes they're functioning as the usual team.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I saw Mad Mad World on its original Cinerama release, and the Stooges were there. One shot, holding firehoses. Got a big laugh, but so disappointing for a 7 year-old fan like me. I caught the last 45 minutes of it on TCM recently, and the Stooges shot was gone. Where'd they go?

9:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

Kevin -- you're looking for the Stooges in the wrong place. They do not appear in the big final scene with the fire escape and the tall building and the fire truck ladders. The 3 Stooges' one shot cameo appears earlier, as firemen at the airport, I believe.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Tom -- Thank you. That's what happens when you haven't seen a movie in 53 years!

9:41 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Re: Reg Hart: "Seeing these films at home on a TV by ourself or with a few friends just does not compare to experiencing them with hundreds of other people nearly losing control of their bodies they are laughing so hard."

Amen to that in spades! I went to a midnight showing of comedy short featuring the Stooges and Our Gang and I have literally never heard an audience laugh as hard as they did at the Stooges that night. In fact they eventually began booing the Rascals, so eager were they for more Stooge mayhem. A little unfair, but quite a tribute to The Boys.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Paul Dionne said...

best tagline ever: RICHARD M ROBERTS ("Hey Honey, I've got a few hours before I have to mow the lawn, put on J'ACCUSE!")

paul dionne

11:38 AM  
Blogger antoniod said...

Frank Capra built Columbia, not the Stooges. I always liked the Stooges, but this hero worship gets nauseating, sometimes.

11:28 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

Frank Capra never built anything but Frank Capra. Harry Cohn, like him or not, was the one who made Columbia into what it was by the time he died, a major studio, and he did it by wooing the best talents he could get even temporarily, and holding onto the ones he could hold onto and allowing them to do thir best work. Both Capra and the Stooges were important parts of that, and both flourished at that studio.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

9:51 AM  
Blogger antoniod said...

But I wonder why the studio that had Capra, Grace Moore, and Rita Hayworth under contract didn't treat the Three Stooges like major stars? Gee, it doesn't make sense!!

11:03 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Treating THE THREE STOOGES like major stars meant paying them the money major stars get paid. It may not make sense to you but it made cents to Harry Cohn. The best thing that happened to THE THREE STOOGES was that Columbia dropped them after Cohn died. The studio thought there was no market for their films. As a result THE THREE STOOGES made more money (way more money) in the final years of their lives than in all the years before that put together. I agree that Harry Cohn built Columbia into a major studio. He was sharp and tough. THE THREE STOOGES was a guaranteed product. Their films were produced for less and less and less (the use of stock footage in their final films is overwhelming sometimes). Cohn had something he could count on to pack theaters that cost Columbia little to produce. I believe they were kept out of features (with the exception of a handful of titles) to avoid having to pay them star salaries. Cohn was almost universally hated yet stars poured out for his funeral. Asked why so many stars turned out for Harry's funeral one star said, "We are here to make sure he is dead." I believe the same thing was said at Louis B. Mayer's funeral. Unloved they might have been. Giants they were. They understood the business yet could take enormous risks when they believed in something. For Harry THE THREE STOOGES were his ace in the hole.

4:47 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

Because they were major stars where they were going to be major stars-----in two-reel comedies! They were voted the most popular comedians making short comedies in exhibitor polls pretty much from the time they began making shorts for Columbia until they quit making shorts for Columbia, and Columbia kept their shorts subject department open long after most of the other studios had closed or severely truncated them because the Stooges shorts were money makers for them. Then Columbia found they still had to reissue old Stooge shorts to theaters because of a continued demand there and the hit that they were making releasing the shorts to television that they then brought them back as feature stars in the 1960's. Please----the Three Stooges made way more money for Columbia than Grace Moore ever did, and the fact that the Stooges had longer careers at Columbia than any of the names you mention seems to point to some indication that the studio found them rather valuable.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

5:35 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...


Answering Reg, Harry Cohn indeed knew how to deal to keep his stars under contract, but lets look at the math regarding the Stooges. Columbia paid the Stooges $7500.00 a short, this never changed through the whole time they made shorts. Yes, Moe Howard probably could have been a tough negotiator and got more, but the real truth behind the reason he didn't was that it really wasn't that bad a deal. The Stooges made eight shorts a year for Columbia, the shorts had a four-day shooting schedule (even shorter later on), this meant Columbia paid the Stooges $60,000.00 a year for thirty-two days work. This meant that the Stooges could spend the other 10 months, 28 days touring as vaudeville and nightclub headliners, where they were easily pulling down $2-5,000 a week, and make feature film or television appearances when they could get them. Do the math, split it three ways, and realize none of these guys were hurtin' in the days when a good middle-class salary was 5-10 grand a year.

And later on, when Normandy Productions (which was run by Moe Howard's son-in-law and all the Stooges had profit participations) were producing the features in the 60's, and they were making lots of money from marketing tie-ins, television cartoons, and still doing theater and nightclub work, indeed theirs was a very profitable final decade, and the Stooges continue to earn coin for Columbia's current owners and their own families. The Stooges did just fine.

And ya know, for all the guff ol' Harry Cohn gets from historians, I've heard more Columbia stars and employees who spoke well and respectfully of him than most other studio heads, Cohn was a tough and crass fellow, he had to be in that cuttthroat business where he and his studio started as little guys and ended up not only surviving but on top, but he did seem to be able to work with talents who were willing to stand up to him, and the more of the general Columbia product one has been exposed to over the years, the more one realizes that it had far more going for it than Frank Capra. I'll take an average Columbia B from the 30's and 40's than many an MGM A. That Red Skelton quote has been attributed to both Cohn's and Louis B. Mayer's funerals, and is probably apocryphal in either case. Harry may have chased Rita Hayworth around the couch, but even Orson Welles respected him. How many had nice words about Jack Warner?


RICHARD M ROBERTS

7:41 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Not arguing against any of your points as they are all on the mark. Columbia, however, after Cohn's death dumped THE STOOGES. Larry and Moe were high and dry. Read their autobiographies. I did. Curley and Shemp were dead. Joe Besser wanted little or nothing to do with them. Then Curly Joe De Rita became part of the act. Moe got them a two week date. They tanked. The venue they were booked into tried to get them to reduce their guarantee. Moe refused. In his autobiography he wrote he thought they were done, kaput, finished.

Rescue came when their shorts were sold to TV. Overnight they became huge and hugely sought after. If you did not notice that I have a helluva lot of respect for those old moguls then I'm telling you outright they were giants. I admire them immensely. We are not going to see their like again. Liked they may not have been by everyone but they made movies the world loved and loves and, while I have nothing against nudity, they did it without flashing the bits their stars would prefer to keep private. Getting dumped turned out to be the best thing for them. When they came back they came back with a lot more control.

10:48 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...


When Harry Cohn died, Columbia dumped not only the Stooges, but the whole Columbia shorts department (the serial department disappeared as well), but as you say, Columbia soon learned the errors of their ways with the Stooges, and when Moe Howard retooled them with Curly Joe DeRita, after a few anxious months, they came back with a splash. Take a look at their return appearance on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW in 1959, they killed, I use it to prove to Curly Joe-hating Stooge fans how good De Rita was, especially in front of an audience. The down-time in the Stooges career was pretty darn short compared to many stars and when it happened it was indeed far more of a bit of luck than failure.

There are probably few movie moguls in Heaven, but they indeed knew how to make movies worth watching and how to make movie stars worth watching with clothes on. What annoys me about todays stars is even they're naked, they are just as fake as all the CGI you get in the action scenes.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

1:31 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I think all those moguls are in Heaven. They deserve to be. They gave dreams and hope to billions. I'm glad you and I are getting things smoothed out as I like your ideas. Like yourself, I like De Rita. Without him Moe and Larry would not have been able to continue the act. He was a much better sport than Joe Besser.

We lose life with CGI, I agree, but it has its value.

2:31 PM  
Blogger antoniod said...

The Stooges also had the misfortune to arrive at Columbia just as Hollywood was losing interest in building Comedians as major stars. Jimmy Durante, for instance, was becoming a big name at MGM, but after 1935 one saw him more in support(and at other studios), and when he went back to MGM he was back as support. Major build-ups for comedians returned about 1940, but I think you had to be a radio star first(Like Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello). Danny Kaye was a grand exception.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Danny Kaye had the good fortune to have Sam Goldwyn behind him.

9:45 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

MGM never tried to build up Jimmy Durante as a major star, he was brought in to shore up Buster Keaton and the minute Keaton was fired, MGM worked out Durante's contract by putting him in supporting roles, usually to other comedians just like they had done with him and Keaton (he's only the nominal star of the ill-fated HOLLYWOOD PARTY by default, and his screen-time even in that is not much more than the other guest stars), and most likely Durante didn't care, he was making far more money headlining in Vaudeville, Nightclubs, Broadway and Radio, where he was always a bigger star than he was in films.

There was no lag in Hollywood building up comedians, the major studios all had major comedians working for them in the mid-30's, MGM loses Keaton, they pick up the Marx Brothers, and are distributing Hal Roach's Laurel and Hardy features. Paramount loses the Marx Brothers, they pick up W. C. Fields and Mae West, Warner Brothers had Joe E. Brown, RKO had Wheeler and Woolsey, Fox had Will Rogers. By the late thirties, when the studios needed new comedians, the new comedians were coming from Radio, so that was where they were getting them from.

The Three Stooges "misfortune" was to sign with a studio that they remained with for the next thirty years, and for the most part, it was a good relationship. Looking down one's nose with a "shorts/features" snob card is completely missing the point and the facts say otherwise, the Stooges excelled where they were going to excel, they were not the type of comedians destined for feature masterpieces of comedy based on the Human condition, but their comedy was so brilliant and popular in the form they presented it that they and their studio basically kept that form alive and successful decades after it had faded from many other studio rosters, and today they may be more well known to the general American populace than any of the other comedians of their age, including Chaplin.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

1:52 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Agree with you their comedy at that moment was best suited to shorts. Their features, when they finally did start making them, performed extremely well where it counted. The main reason that Chaplin's work does not resonate with the public is that it just doesn't get the airplay THE STOOGES get. Chaplin's films are silent and spread over several outlets. Up until recently with the wonderful restorations we now have Chaplin's work could not be seen at its best. The same for Buster Keaton's great silent films, shorts as well as features. I have seen theaters physically rocked by the laughter generated by the work of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy. THE STOOGES films are brilliantly funny, yes. Have moments of pure, undiluted genius, yes. But rock a house to the point where people are falling helplessly out of their seats? No. Only Chaplin and Keaton films in my experience do that. The BBC ran live to all of England over the radio the twenty minutes of solid laughter generated by THE GOLD RUSH when it was first screened in London. That would have driven people sitting at home mad about having to see the film. They don't make them that good anymore. Sound film just does not allow for it. Thanks for the info on Durante. Keaton should never have been saddled with him. I find those films in which he co-stars with Keaton painful to watch though I have the dvds. Again, as always, your info fills in gaps. As for sublimity, Chaplin alone achieves that. No one has ever equaled let alone surpassed the ending of CITY LIGHTS. That moment is one of the two (the other being the ending of the Lon Chaney PHANTOM OF THE OPERA)that made me fall in love with the potential of the movies.

4:21 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...


I guess you have never run IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE before a large audience then, or MICROPHONIES, I have had the pleasure to do both and have heard some of the biggest laughs I have ever heard ANY film get, and these were not audiences of STOOGE fans, these were just regular old movie buffs and people not so immersed in this stuff.

Since I have been sharing my collection and preaching the gospel of the Comedy film Industry to audiences for many decades now, I have to say that one cannot really appreciate the talents of any of the Great Comedians unless you put them up in front of a crowd, it is not until then that you really understand the value of what they do. Watching at home alone can bring a completely different reaction, especially if you are a generally depressive cinephile daring the clowns to make you laugh in the first place, or feel you are above chuckling at "low" comedy.

I have seen and heard most of the main and minor practioners of comedy hit and miss with audiences, even the Big Three, and it is always interesting to gauge audience reactions, but it is most interesting when you see comedians like Larry Semon who can come off rather repetitive in lonely viewings come to life with a crowd and you see that his repetitiveness is what stage comics used to call "tickling the audience", just like the Music Hall Comics oft-repeated catch phrases.

The Stooges comedy is visceral and to the bone, and in a group one just can't help oneself to join in the belly-laughs, and the musical rhythm and precision timing honed from that many years playing on stage works like clockwork. They work very darn hard and earn those laughs honestly.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

6:26 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

My favourite theater moment was seeing Richard Lester's THE THREE MUSKETEERS in a packed 5,000 seat house. The film started with a hushed silence, then the gasp of 5,000 people gasping in collective awe and that was just the start of that roller coaster ride. Then there was the moment I ran the Republic ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL to a packed house. They laughed derisively when Billy Batson said, SHAZAM!" and turned into Captain Marvel. But when he walked to the edge of a cliff, dove and SOARED the entire crowd shouted (and I quote), "FAR FUCKING OUT!" They were sold from that moment on. I'll have to find a way to show IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE and MICROPHONIES to a crowd. I was trying to get a theater owner who would not run Buster Keaton to his audience to do so. I stuck SHERLOCK JR. into a mammoth 4 hour animation marathon I did. The packed audience collectively moved forward in their seats once Keaton began shooting pool. He wowed them. The applause at the end was deafening. The theater owner was furious with me for taking the risk. What risk? First rate material always pays off. I loathe cinephiles. Oscar Hammerstein III, "Being knowing and blase is the sign of a very unsophisticated person. The most sophisticated thing one person can say to another is 'I know nothing about that. Please tell me.'" I'm with Oscar. That is why I love GREENBRIAR PICTURE SHOWS. So many people here who can tell me about things I know nothing about.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

The Stooges wanted to make features badly but as it turned out, doing shorts was the best thing for their longevity. The shorts were perfect for half hour television slots. They are now probably the best known of all the 30's stars to the public. I'd love to go back in time and tell Clark Gable or Greta Garbo that most Americans will have no idea who they are in 80 years but would know the 3 Stooges.

5:13 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

It should be of no surprise to Clark Gable or Greta Garbo that no one remembers who they are 80 years later, no one can ever predict what will be lasting in art or historical memory as the years pass, but it's almost a guarantee that the most popular successes of any era will most likely not carry on in popularity in the succeeding eras because it is usually their importance or resonance to that specific time in history that is the reason for much of their success in the first place. It's the whole message of Peter Schaffer's AMADEUS to begin with, Salieri was one of the most successful composers of his day, but his much less successful and much more tragic at the time contemporary Mozart is the one whose music lasts for centuries.

Do you know what was voted the biggest moneymaking and most successful film of 1925 in a national exhibitors poll? It wasn't THE GOLD RUSH, it wasn't THE BIG PARADE, it wasn't THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, it was KEEPER OF THE BEES, an independent made by Gene Stratton Porter Productions and released by FBO. Type it in to Lantern and read about it, it was a huge success for exhibitors based on an equally best-selling novel, who's heard of it today?

One of the biggest best-selling authors of the 1930's was Clarence Buddington Kelland, whose books sold millions and movies galore were made from his stories, who reads him today?

It says far more about current generations than it does the work when something old is still revered or supercedes bigger successes of it's time. I think the fact that Hitchcock's rather silly VERTIGO has displaced CITIZEN KANE from it's "greatest Film of All Time" slot speaks far more to the current crop of obsessive, out of reality internerd film buffs and critics than it does the actual quality of either work. As much as I like the Three Stooges, and have spent a lifetime watching and studying the Comedy Film Industry of the early Twentieth Century of which they were a part, I would never put them at the top of any arrangement of hierarchy of talent and ability from that era I would compile, but the fact that they outshine their competitors today says to me that perhaps the current comedy viewer understands a poke in the eye more readily than any deeper discussion of the Human Condition.

Then again, perhaps a poke in the eye IS a good description of the Human Condition.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

9:36 AM  

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