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Thursday, October 06, 2016

A Screenful Of Knuckleheads!

Stop! Look! and Laugh! A 1960! Must! See!

Some names that meant much fifty years ago could not be more forgotten now: Paul Winchell, Officer Joe Bolton, The Marquis Chimps, but not, of course, The Three Stooges, who remain, whatever the argument over merit, a best known comic team of all. Moe, Larry, and Joe De Rita sought a restraining order to block Columbia release of Stop! Look!, and Laugh! on basis it would queer their planned feature for 20th Fox, Snow White and The Three Stooges. The order was granted in July, 1960, then dissolved weeks later after further hearing, issue largely moot as Stop! Look!, and Laugh! opened on twenty Los Angeles screens during the interim. Variety referred to the team's "lolli-popularity" among tricycle trade and "thriftily spliced together ... old shorts," none of this a knock on Columbia, as trades encouraged family fare to take onus off adult-theme The Apartment, Elmer Gantry and such that made parents wonder if theatres were still safe haven for youngsters.

The "Original" Stooges are touted large, kids aware from TV views that Curly-featured shorts were funniest of the lot. Nice to see Charley Chase and other past vets receive fresh onscreen credit, Chase having directed several of the old excerpts. Someone clearly took care to minimize eye-pokes and slapping among the boys, rougher stuff left off as it had been in recent feature Have Rocket --- Will Travel, with latter-day Stooges. Music is added to the truncated oldies, a distraction not welcome. Winchell and the TV gang were to some extent regional lures, a cameo from "Officer Joe Bolton" meaningless outside New York markets where he hosted WPIX Stooge runs (unless Joe was syndicated and I missed him). Winchell had at least some network exposure here/there, so his tiltings with Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, even if filched off Edgar Bergen's act, came welcome to moppetry in attendance. Winchell assumes parental role vis a vis the dummies; he even burps Jerry at one point. The Marquis Chimps have one skit, a too long one based on Cinderella. Their act was strictly a snooze, but one of them merits Stop, Look's fade by taking a pie in the face. Would the ASPCA sit still for that today?


Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Saw this at the local fleapit in My Clemens Mich. probably 3 years later on the kiddie matinee merry go round. Pretty sure i saw ...MEET HERCULES at the same place. Of course it didn't really matter much WHAT they put on the bill but odd which ones you recall....

11:34 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Paul Winchell was a pretty interesting guy. In addition to his ventriloquist career he patented (along with Dr. Henry Heimlich) an artificial heart. How this might relate to his puppetry is an interesting area for speculation.

12:53 PM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

Paul Winchell sleeps with Jerry Mahoney? Shocking!

Used to watch this on local TV when I was a little nipper. Officer Joe is blotted from my memory.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

When I think about it,when I saw the various Stooges films at the particular theatre, I don't recall the shorts being on TV so much as later in the decade... perhaps the owner figured they were a good draw, however bad some of them seem now...

6:33 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I saw one review from 1960 (New York Times, maybe?) that singled out the Marquis Chimps as the funniest and most worthwhile thing in the movie.

The producer and instigator of STOP! LOOK! AND LAUGH! was Harry Romm, Larry Fine's brother-in-law, who had gone from booking agent to movie producer (he produced the Stooges' SWING PARADE OF 1946). Columbia was always alert when it came to cashing in on a popular phenomenon, as ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK and the 1965 BATMAN revival will attest.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

In NJ, my brother Jim and I were big Stooges fans and watched Office Joe Bolton's "Three Stooges Show" on WPIX daily. This was in the Joe DeRita era.

Whenever the Stooges had an appearance scheduled on Ed Sullivan's Sunday night show, Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita would stop by Officer Joe Bolton's show during the previous weekdays and plug their upcoming Sullivan gig.

The Joe Bolton Stooges show always started with close-ups of balloons: the first balloon featuring an image of Moe, the second of Larry, the third of Curly. On the rare days when the actual Three Stooges appeared on Bolton's show -- unannounced -- the show started with those same balloons, but each balloon popped, and behind the popped balloon was the actual live Stooge: Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe! It probably sounded like a good idea on paper. Problem was, for my brother and me, Moe had his hair slicked back and he looked like he was 90 years old, so we wondered, "Who the hell is this old guy?" Same with Larry -- he had his hair slicked back as well. And Joe DeRita didn't look anything like the Curly pictured on the balloon. Of course, within seconds, Officer Joe Bolton explained the identity of these three elder statesmen of comedy, and we could then appreciate their attempt to surprise us with their balloon-popping entrance.

As for "Stop Look and Listen," our neighbor pal and contemporary Ralph Mayo arrived at our doorstep one morning to announce that, on the previous night, he had seen "Stop Look and Listen" at a local movie house. Ralph immediately became the center of attention for several days in the neighborhood as he was asked to describe in detail every moment of Stooges comedy and action in this new feature film. Since the film featured nothing but Curly episodes, it was automatically deemed to be excellent, since we neighborhood kids felt Curly's presence was crucial to a quality Stooge experience. I was also a Paul Winchell fan, so "Stop Look and Listen" became a film I needed to see as a kid, but I never did. I didn't see this movie till I was in my 20's, and by then, I could see it for what it was: a thrown-together compilation with new wraparounds to make a quick buck off the then-current Stooge phenomenon.

Finally, about Paul Winchell -- you probably know this, but I thought I'd toss it in: during the 60's and 70's, Winchell had a syndicated daily kid show called "Winchell-Mahoney Time." It was on for years. Made by Metromedia. Hundreds of hour-long. Once the series stopped production after many years, Winchell went to Metromedia and asked for the video tapes of all his shows, since he owned them outright... he wanted to repackage them and sell them to other stations, to home video, etc. Turns out Metromedia erased all the shows in order to reuse the videotapes. Erased every episode. Big lawsuit, big damages. Small solace for Mr. Winchell -- a major chunk of his ventriloquism career was erased forever.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

The Macomb in Mt Clemens...trawling thru newspaper ads to see if there was a plethora of Stooges.

5:04 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

As a kid I felt cheated by the non-Stooge material in this. I grew up with THE THREE STOOGES in the movie theater with Shemp. I had no idea who Curly was. Of course, now I see things differently.

5:04 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

KTVU Oakland had Sir Sedley, aka Bruce Sedley, hosting. Between reels he'd do Howdy Doody-type stories involving his troupe of dummies and puppets, led by King Fuddle (sort of an old Charlie McCarthy), Mr. Crafty (a shyster), and Clarissa the Witch. No peanut gallery and a rudimentary castle set, but looking back it was pretty ambitious for a local kid show. Sedley was one of the TV hosts appearing in "The Outlaws is Coming!", and of course he plugged it heavily.

I remember seeing "Have Rocket Will Travel" as a little fellow in a theater; likewise "Snow White and the Three Stooges". The rest I somehow missed until many years later, when I stumbled across them on television. Now I've scooped up all of them from bargain bins and used racks. Not on a par with "real" movies, even last-gasp Bud and Lou, but still oddly endearing in their eagerness to play to little kids and cheerful cheapness (excepting the bizarre "Snow White").

How well did the Stooges' own features do? Surprised they were all released by Columbia -- between Stop, Look and Laugh and the TV sales, there must have been some resentment on the Stooges' part.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

There are Stooges fans who swear that, strictly from an acting angle, Shemp is better than Curly. I get what they're saying, and I appreciate Shemp more than I used to, but I'll always prefer Curly. Except for his last year or two in the shorts, when he was obviously not a well man.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I still prefer Shemp, when I watch Stooge comedies at all.

11:23 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

The 60's Three Stooges Normandy Productions features did very well indeed, as did the NEW THREE STOOGES cartoon series, all were owned by Moe Howard's family and allowed them to recoup percentages that certainly set them up for a happy retirement and another decade of work, especially when one adds all the Stooge marketing tie-ins: commercials, records, live appearances, etc.

And yes, you can put me in the "Shemp is a better comedian than Curly" camp too, Curly's bag of tricks is really rather limited, but on the other side of the scale is that the films made during Curly's tenure are much better comedies overall, they were made during the Columbia Shorts Department's golden era, but the ones with Shemp are truly still underrated today.

Then again, what do I know, I like a lot of the Joe Bessers too.


3:19 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Shemp may have been equally brilliant, but there was something about him a little too similar to Moe. Curly's character was different from the other Stooges, and different from anybody.

Away from the Stooges, Shemp was often the hardest working guy in the film. In the mild "Joe Palooka" shorts he's like a stage comic fighting to wake up the audience; elsewhere he's working like crazy to sell a weak piece of business. In "The Bank Dick" he's a perfect supporting player, funny but always complementing rather than competing with Fields (and how often does Shemp go a whole film without a pratfall?).

He's a bit like William Demarest, another character actor always ready for knockabout.

6:36 PM  
Blogger antoniod said...

I cajoled my Elementary School teacher into renting STOP, LOOK, AND LAUGH, as I had an Asperger's inspired obsession with compilation films. I didn't live near a movie theatre until mid-1967, so I missed virtually all of the later Stooge films and Robert Youngson compilations, and had to wait for all-too-rare TV showings(many of these barely got shown on Boston TV at all, for some reason).

7:40 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Have to agree with Donald that Shemp and Moe were probably too similar looking but Shemp could hold his own with a lot of very good actors. ... and I agree with Richard, who certainly knows his slapstick, that the generalisation of the superiority of Curlies,which does hold some water, is not the end of the story by any means. As a kid I didn't really notice the difference twixt the two and was open to each short as a distinct entity rather than part of a bigger scheme of things....and having seen most of the films at Sat matinees I don't write off Besser and DeRita automatically. really does depend on the individual film. In fact I seem to recall part of one film where DeRita was carrying the other two! Now if I could just remember which one....

5:41 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

And as a further,and some hope final comment, I am SO surprised at the volume of comment on this! Here in the UK,the boys have been somewhat unappreciated by broadcasters since the 80s or so...and not much served on video/DVD/BLU RAY either. After 20 odd years of almost constant Stoogery on the box,I could never imagine a world without them,or LUCY or any of the things that ran for years. Now we have hundreds of channels but less and less of the kind of thing that seemed ubiquitous to even the smallest broadcasters....getting old is just no picnic...

5:49 AM  
Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

Saw this in 1961 at a Loew's theater in NYC as the bottom bill of a double feature with The 3 Worlds of Gulliver. Fun time.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

"Getting old is just no picnic." Speak for yourself, there pardner. The Three Stooges were the first act to fill the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto's Grand Stadium. 20,000 showed up. While we may not see THE THREE STOOGES on TV as much as we should all it will take to bring them back is a slight push. Meanwhile we have their entire output on dvd (at least I do). Enjoy these links to THE THREE STOOGES in Toronto.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I stand with the Shemp fans: Shemp's ad libs in the Stooge shorts are priceless. (Curly's various noises and reactions are often because he forgets the dialogue and finishes the scene any way he can!) Producer Jules White said that if there were a contest for the funniest Stooge, "Shemp would win."

Yet Shemp was too creative for the do-it-my-way director White. When Ted Okuda asked White about Shemp's improvisations, White responded, "I used to hate when he did that."

7:56 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

In 1969 in Ottawa I sat in a quadruple bill grindhouse that offered four films one of which was THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. Three of the four films played to a near empty house. But when THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES came on the place was PACKED so full as W. C. Fields was wont to say, "They could not clap horizontal they had to applaud vertically." And, boy, was it fun to watch THE STOOGES with about a thousand other people.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Reg. ...the lack of picnic that I refer to relates mostly to UK broadcasters mostly monopolised by Sky ie Rupert Murdoch...basically 999 channels but no room for old shorts cartoons or TV aside from a few bits and pieces that are obviously cost effective to show...anything else might turn up very occasionally but not holding my breath waiting... ironically the PD stuff is easier to find but at the moment,silents are nearly non existent and anything high profile, that is,what would cost too much, has no place to show. I understand from various people that the heyday of things like TV LAND or the various classic movie channels in the States are nowhere near what they once were. Considering what I used to watch on Detroit TV in the 60s /70s, it seems as though the powers that be would rather we buy things we want to see....the beauty of it was we would see things we didn't even know existed and those became the ones we buy... again and again and again.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Then it has nothing to do with getting old for your TV situation, like ours, is no picnic for young or old.

10:09 PM  
Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

When I was a kid up in the mountains of NC, there was an older couple that had a vacation home there near my parents's house.

The man in the couple had served in the Pacific during World War II and, being interested in old movies, I asked him if he had any memories of watching movies back then or favorites.

He didn't hesitate - he talked about being in the Pacific in the Army and how all they would always send Three Stooges shorts their way with any feature. He couldn't remember any of the features he saw, but he grew to absolutely detest the Three Stooges after that.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Brother Herbert said...

Sadly the only place on TV that I've seen Stooge shorts lately is IFC(!) where they periodically run several in a row in off-time slots. They also have no qualms about editing them either, a far cry from the old Independent Film Channel days. One time I saw a listing on my Dish guide for a short with a running time of '5 mins.' I thought the guide was in error until I watched it - sure enough, IFC truncated a Three Stooges short to fit a five-minute time slot!

11:38 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

I don't know Reg. ...seems to be more than enough channels for every demographic but of course they only program to the ones they think spend the most money....our version of the History Channel has precious little history but like pretty much EVERY other outlet relies on reality shows
to fill the day...their reasoning is "young people" won't watch B/W or silent or too slow etc....and I might even agree there. After decades of non exposure, most youngsters wouldn't watch ANYTHING like this. So our version of TCM,which makes yours a the diamond standard, plays very little in the way of 30s or 40s, practically no silents and NO shorts. ...cartoons are similarly ill served...only PD stuff shows up on "cheap" channels that come and go,Willy nilly....

12:12 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Yet Shemp was too creative for the do-it-my-way director White. When Ted Okuda asked White about Shemp's improvisations, White responded, "I used to hate when he did that."

I imagine White would. There's a quote I've read from regular Stooge player Emil Sitka about how White gave actors no room to create anything themselves. Before shooting a scene, Sitka said White would act out your part and insist that you play it exactly as he had.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

That is what Chaplin did and he was right to. His films were his vision.

10:09 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

William Lund passes along some Smiley Burnette and Stooge memories from his childhood in Seattle:

Thanks John for posting this picture of Smiley. Growing up the Seattle area in the late 50s-early 60s I remember a new shopping center that had the "Smiley Burnette bus on display.

I don't remember much more about this (other than siting on the bus and asking the PR person "where's Smiley?" "Oh. He couldn't make it, but we send around bus to tour the country."

Three Stooges in Seattle

The Stooges were a favorite of mine (and thousands of kids in Seattle). We would come home every day and watch a local kid show called "Captain Puget. (1957-66)
see link:

While all the kids loved the Stooges parents were going through "its too violent" phase for kids to watch.
Never the less Captain Puget was going to have the "real" Three Stooges" appear on the show to the delight of his adorning fans. The build up was about a month and then they appeared live and in person (1962?). What a shock for young viewers of these 1930s-40s shorts to see Moe and Larry as old men (and that 3rd guy really didn't look like Curly at all-Joe DeRita).

These are some of my found childhood memories,
Bill Lund

4:24 PM  

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