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Monday, December 15, 2014

Something New Has Been Dug Up

Ted Healy Gives His Stooges The Customary Treatment

Missing Stooge Link Hello, Pop! (1933) Is On DVD

What goes more viral than a thought-lost movie turning up? Hello Pop! was found in a garden shed by an Australian collector who'd come between the 35mm print and oblivion most film faced when outback runs were finished. Word was that Hello Pop! had been lost in an MGM vault fire back in 1967 (along with London After Midnight, many others), but there's been suggestion that the negative was junked before that. It had never been shown on television or made available to rent. There probably weren't a handful of people who saw Hello, Pop! since 1933. Being that it features the Three Stooges at early stage, the short assumes greater interest than most any that ravage of time could give up. Lots would rather this surface than Magnificent Ambersons uncut, Stooge enthusiasm not having cooled as seems case with other comics. The five or so other MGM shorts w/Stooges have been TCM-shown and doled here and there on video. Most are low on laughs, but off the chart as curiosities, being best a reflection of misguided missiles Leo aimed at theatres as support for features more carefully thought out.

Ed Brophy Tries To Reason with "Children" That Are Larry, Curley, Moe

Dancing Drop-In From Another, and Unfinished, Film
How many drove hours or rode subways from a horizon to see Hello Pop! when it re-premiered at the Film Forum last year? And now there's Volume Three of Warner Archive's Classic Shorts From The Dream Factory to wrap rest of MGM Stooge subjects around this one resurrected from among rakes and weed eater. How to account for treasure kept in out-sheds? And yet that's where I came across 35mm during college-age search, old-timers storing nitrate alongside chickens laying, or corn in cribs (you wonder if it affected taste of the stuff when served). Hello Pop! is a little banged, but seems all there, amazing in itself for those eighty inclement years. Such rediscovery renders meaningless the question, Is Hello Pop! funny?. Fans will take what's there and levitate accordingly, as surely I would if that uncut Ambersons turned up.

My attraction to Hello Pop! is more Ted Healy than the Stooges. To these eyes, the man was a panic and all-time least people person of funny folk, not excluding W.C. Fields. Larry, Moe, Curly had been along to crab Ted's act, the three a definition of "stooge" as practiced by vaudeville. Healy held liquor badly and didn't pull slaps. I expect most relationships in the man's life went way of crack-up with the Stooges, but there's not sense he gave much of a damn. Healy reached apex as surly sidekick, the always-vinegar served with music and more mainstream comedy. Hello Pop! is easily confused (at least by me) with Hey, Pop!, a Roscoe Arbuckle Vitaphone comedy released but months before (were showmen and their patrons as puzzled?). Hello Pop! has impurities, not just those Healy-imposed, but music numbers scraped off floor that was The March Of Time, a Technicolor revue MGM had blown wads on and couldn't release for the thing being so incoherent. They'd write off waste by using what numbers were finished as "highlights" of otherwise frugal two-reelers like Hello Pop!. You can see a good chunk from The March Of Time by sit through the six shorts on a disc otherwise best recognized as altar upon which Ted Healy may be worshipped, but be warned, he doesn't like wise guys, and always leads with a slap.


Blogger Kevin K. said...

I was one of those fans who sat on the subway to see this at the Film Forum. It wasn't the only the short on the bill -- lots of long-unseen items, including a Robert Benchley from Universal, along with a 35mm print of the Stooges' "Woman Haters."

Very enthusiastic audience, as you might guess, "Hello, Pop!" being received as if it were the greatest comedy ever made. Just for the sheer novelty, it *was* entertaining. How many Stooges shorts, after all, feature gags you've never seen before? I have a feeling that I was one of the few, however, who enjoyed Ted Healey almost as much as the Stooges. His cynicism seems aimed straight at the audience, daring them to laugh at his dry humor. He reminds me of David Letterman, who I actually find far less funny.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

I read somewhere that Ted Healey died following a beat-down by Wallace Beery. One of those stories that the MGM front office covered up. Can you verify?

11:11 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

That story has, I think, been exposed as a myth, according to researchers who have dug pretty deep into accounts of Healy's death.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Always been fascinated by similarities between Healy's and Fields' tics. The frosty squint, florid business with the hands and that insincere smile that reverts to a nasty little frown in an instant. And, of course, Jerry Howard, in turn, seems to have mimicked Ted's odd walk, enhanced it a bit, thus turning it into a Curly trademark!

12:07 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Good for Dan Mercer! He appreciates how great Ted Healy was:

Ted Healy's greatest appearance may have been in "San Francisco." You always have the sense that he believes that it's his show and that the audience is just waiting for Gable and the others to get out of the way, so that they can see him do his stuff. Gable may be having a conversation with Harold Huber or someone else in the foreground, but there's Healy in the background, falling down stairs or doing some other bit of business. He knows that all eyes are on him. And when he presses that wrinkled potato of a puss into Jeannette MacDonald's face to mutter, "Nice going, kid," as though congratulating her on being not nearly as nice as everyone thought she was--everyone other than him, that is--it's easy to understand her distress. Healy's sardonic personality was always a breath of reality to films, though not necessarily of fresh air.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, you need to get Bill Cassara's NOBODY'S STOOGE: TED HEALY, just released by BearManor Media, under your tree this year. This is the definitive work about your favorite iconoclast, and I say that not just as a fan, but as the book's editor. Mr. Cassara already has two acclaimed volumes out (on Edgar Kennedy and Vernon Dent), and so has earned his classic comedy chops. But he was also previously a police officer working in Internal Affairs (the dept that investigates officer malfeasance), and he brings the appropriate eye to the evidence and rumors surrounding Healy's unfortunate demise. It's a must-own for any Stooges fan, and I look forward to seeing it at Greenbriar's "Book Corner" in a few months!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I can`t stand Healy. I find these MGM shorts a real chore to sit thru.

9:12 PM  
Blogger aldi said...

I always loved Ted Healy, he was a great, great comic. Yes, the myth about Beery's part in Healy's death is just that, a myth. See the exhaustive articles in the LA Daily Mirror. Link to Part 1 below - it really is a fascinating read.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Ted Healy - the Rosie O'Donnell of his day.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I attended a midnight screening of the Healy/Stooge shorts in 1985. As I had expected, the house was filled with manic Stoogeheads. Before the show they were making Curly noises, quoting Stooge dialogue, and generally gearing up for a typical Columbia laughfest. The theater management had made no attempt to prep the patrons for what they were getting, so -- to forestall any rioting while I was trying to watch the movies -- I piped up with, "If you're expecting the Stooges you see on TV, forget it. These are musical shorts."

That shut them up quick. I might as well have yelled, "Hooray for the Ayatollah!" Shocked silence, then rueful muttering, and a few projectiles aimed in my direction.

The show consisted of THE BIG IDEA (mostly Healy, way too little Stooges, poorly received), NERTSERY RHYMES (they liked the color), BEER AND PRETZELS (got its share of laughs), ROAST BEEF AND MOVIES (it died, with poor George Givot playing Healy to Curly Howard and Bobby Callahan), and finally, PLANE NUTS. In the darkness during the reel change, a pugnacious patron shouted, "This last one better be good!"

Open on Moe, saying the worst possible thing he could have said to this crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen -- Ted Healy is next." "BOOOOOO!"

But I have to praise Ted Healy for his running line of wisecracks and song snatches. Utterly fearless, and it's easy to see why he was so highly valued as a master of ceremonies. By the three-quarter point in PLANE NUTS, Healy had actually won the viewers around, and instead of jeering at him they were now laughing with him. Too late to save the show, though: somebody came up to me afterward and sadly said, "You were right, man."

The management wisely handed out program notes for ensuing screenings, which modified the reaction somewhat.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

I also saw this at Film Forum. It was on a program with several other shorts, including some other rare shorts, all of which I found much funnier than "Hello Pop" (two in particular - one a male-female vaudeville team doing a patter bit, and another involving a dunderheaded pair of sailors involved in a bedroom farce - were expertly done and hysterical to me).

The real treat here for me was seeing the YOUNG Stooges in color, particularly Curly, in NON-home movie footage.

As for Healy, I've tried to warm up to him but have had a hard time. It just a matter of how things hit you. I love Hugh Herbert for example and I know many folks can't stand him. There's no right or wrong here - you're either going to like a performer or not. Healy just doesn't make me laugh much. Maybe that will change someday. Perhaps I just need to see more of his work.

In the meantime, I'll give another plug for my most recent obsession, who (in my opinion) in a way is a more user-friendly (more of a "people person") sharpster than Healy: Tim Ryan. Ryan was an actor-comedian and also a screenwriter and script contributor (he's got a lot of "Additional Dialogue by..." credits). I've been enjoying his films which turn up streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime quite a bit... in my eyes, the man was consistently entertaining.

8:56 AM  

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