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Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Saturday Assortment In 1959

Watching These In Company Of Hundreds

I know I'm hung up on old cartoons and comedies still playing theatres in the 50/60's (and the 70's, for that matter), but there are worse habits to embrace, and besides, the topic fascinates me ... frustrates too for having experienced too little of it during heyday. What if an enterprising showman tried this today? Would children, or grown-ups, turn up? The concept would seem foreign, I know. Too many years under the bridge. For that matter, are cartoons watched by anyone now, other than "adult collectors," as the Warner boxes say they are intended for? This April, 1959 matinee at the Grand in Steubenville, Ohio is one "the whole family will enjoy," but wouldn't racket and roaming of kids preclude fun for others? The Little Rascals and Stooges were lighting up TV nationwide by '59, both series drawing larger viewership than had followed them in theatres. Our Rascals host out of Charlotte did continuous round of Saturday appearances to sing on stage and run 35mm prints of Our Gang kept in the trunk of his car (hopefully on safety stock). The Stooges were received like gods off Olympus. Mike Cline of Then Playing (who was there) said the roar upon seeing them in credits was deafening and did not die down for length of the short. Didn't matter if it was Curly, Shemp, or Joe. The Stooges were beloved any way they came.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

THE THREE STOOGES built Columbia Pictures. Their shorts on a program guaranteed capacity crowds. Only problem was the credit went to the features not to the shorts. Harry Cohn knew that which is why he kept their shorts alive. With Cohn's death the Stooges were shown the way to the exit door.

Seeing these alone or with a handful of friends does not come close to experiencing them surrounded by thousands laughing themselves silly.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Supersoul said...

I was 13 years old in 1959 when I saw The Three Stooges in person at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ. They were there in support of their first full length movie, "Have Rocket, Will Travel". Along with local TV host Officer Joe Bolton of the daily afternoon Three Stooges Funhouse on WPIX, the Stooges performed a few slapstick skits and introduced their new movie.

I recall that the house was packed with appreciative, screaming kids and the Stooges, although pretty long in the tooth at that time, did some fairly energetic and well-received routines. After performing, I especially remember that Moe took the mike to express his gratitude to the kids for the resurgence in their popularity. One of the lines of his speech were, "We were in virtual retirement up until our old shorts were shown on TV and, thanks to all of you, we are back".

The crowd went wild at this point and Moe was beaming. So was I as I sat in my seat in the dark, watching my hero, listening to the appreciative screaming of the crowd, and, even then, feeling like I was taking part in an historical event some 58 years ago.


7:38 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

What a great memory, Supersoul. I'm so glad you brought it to us.

8:07 AM  
Blogger William Lund said...

In Seattle in the 1950-60s there were a number of local after school kid shows revolving around characters such as Brakeman Bill, JP Patches (a clown who lived at the city dump), and Captain Puget (who had his own yacht). The Captain would show us daily doses of The Three Stooges. At one point there was a local outcry to "ban the stooges" since they promoted violent behavior. This protest went nowhere because local kids loved The Stooges (and the ratings were great I suppose). Captain Puget announced that The Stooges were coming live to his show. This would have been around 1962. With great anticipation local kids waited for their role models to appear. It was quite a shock for kids use to the 1930s shorts to see their heroes in old age (and where was Curly Joe?). It was still great to see them. Fond childhood memories.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

THE THREE STOOGES were the first act to fill THE CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION stadium: .

That must have been s sight to see!

9:09 AM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

Since TCM has been showing blocks of old comedy shorts … many I had never seen before … it became quite clear to me as an adult that the Stooges shorts were the "crème de la crème" of comedy shorts. I had always loved them but nowadays I respect them.

I too have a memory of seeing an odd assortment of shorts at the Suburban Theater at Ward's Corner in Norfolk, Virginia in the mid 1960s. That was when film exchanges still existed and all sorts of stuff could be found there. The packed theater rocked with glorious laughter as a mixture of shorts unspooled. It was pure joy. The closest I came to that experience was a screening of AIRPLANE (on its initial release) at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. God I miss the laughter.

9:38 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Yeah, you really have to see the Stooges with a audience to appreciate them. I went to a midnight show of Three Stooges and Our Gang shorts at a local shopping mall theater a few years ago and I have never --- repeat, NEVER --- heard an audience laugh harder in my life. The only unfortunate part was that the audience was so into the Stooges that they booed the Our Gang shorts. That seemed a little harsh.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Phil Smoot said...

I think most of us are envious of Supersoul's experience !
As kids, my friends and I all thought that Joe DeRita (in the movies) was the original Curly but just older & slower --
There was no internet or authority to give us any chronology.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Rodney said...

The Ohio Theater in Columbus does a summer classic movie series, and mixed in with the regular programming are always two Saturday mornings of Warner and MGM cartoons. They're very well attended, too. I'd guess at least 600 people of all ages.

I'd drive up from Cincinnati myself until we started noticing that they had switched from film to DVD. I'd probably go if I lived locally, but it was no longer worth the two hour drive.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

I was 10 in 1956, which was before the Stooges' shorts hit TV. My first exposure to the three knuckleheads was at the State theater in my little PA town (nearby State College was fondly called "Dead Center" PA for several obvious reasons). My favorite Stooge was Shemp. Now before the Curly lovers take umbrage, remember Shemp was then the third Stooge. Only rarely did we get an older film that starred Curly. Shemp was our man. I even saw the 3-D Stooges film in the theater--with jillions of other screaming kids. Oh, and no one I know ever poked another kid's eye out! "Why I oughta...."
The Wolf, man.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Don't knock those dvds! When I realized I could no longer get my 16mm projectors reliably serviced I nearly threw in the towel. Luckily, I discovered digital. The door opened and opened WIDE. I went from projecting film prints that cost a fortune to replace if someone (myself included) damaged them. I watched helpless as color faded. When I switched to digital I was happy to do it. I'm much, much happier with digital than I was with film. Digital prints don't shrink, warp The sound on digital is way better than it was on 16mm.

3:31 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I don't remember the Stooges ever visiting "Sir Sedley" on KTVU-2 (Oakland, viewed all over the Bay Area), but host Bruce Sedley was one of the local hosts appearing in "The Outlaws is Coming". He brought back a "home movie" that had the Stooges welcoming him at the airport, horsing around on the set, and presiding over a buffalo BBQ where, we were told, Moe was a serious chef. I'm guessing they shot a basic PR reel for all the hosts, cutting in some shots of the Stooges interacting with each one.

By the time I was old enough to be dumped at a very rare cartoon matinee with siblings, it was post-1960 and we'd largely memorized all the Warner and Popeye toons from exposure on TV (although color was still new to us). Walter Lantz cartoons were a bit of a novelty because they only appeared on the not-always-running "Woody Woodpecker Show"; sadly we tended to get the newer ones. Also some Paramounts with such wannabes as "Sir Blur" and "Shorty and Swifty. A few MGMs, and once a bunch of "Nudnik" shorts. Never saw a Disney marathon; I assume they were too expensive and restrictive.

Aside from "Have Rocket Will Travel" and "Snow White and the Three Stooges" -- both evening shows -- never saw any Stooge feature or short in a theater. Or Little Rascals or serial, for that matter. The usual Saturday / Sunday matinee at the neighborhood house would be a double feature, usually a film kids wanted to see paired with something talky like "Yankee Buccaneer", with two or three cartoons max.

To some extent I think a lot of pre-60s entertainment was defined by scarcity: Comic strips appeared in daily bite-sized portions, while comic books appeared monthly. Favorite radio shows occupied a weekly half-hour or a weekday 15 minutes. Even early TV meant a handful of channels and limited fare, but that was enough to overwhelm old-school movie programs. The movie theater turned from a cafeteria serving a cheap but varied smorgasbord every day to a sit-down restaurant you visited a few times a month, if that, to have entrees with no side dishes.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Ed Watz said...

My first experience with the Stooges on the big screen was during Christmas 1964 when I was six years old. The Alba Theater on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn had a special children's matinee, mostly consisting of WB and Disney cartoons, all nicely received. But then -- when the Stooge title card of Shemp, Larry and Moe came up on the screen, there was a thunderous roar of cheers and approval that I've never heard before or since. My Mom turned to me and said, "This is exactly how everyone in the audience reacted when I saw them as a kid."

5:34 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Here's a link to FRED KIRBY appearances in Salisbury, NC.

6:44 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

9:29 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

We were fortunate to frequently get a Three Stooges short during our Wallace and Ladmo Saturday matinees (as well as all of their 60's features as they came out), so I was used to hearing a full-house of young folk laughing their heads off at them, but it really drove home to me how funny the Stooges were even to adults when the Benson and Hedges Film Festival (anyone else remember that?)ran SO LONG MR. CHUMPS (1941)as the opening short at one of their shows and I heard a full-house of grown-ups laughing their heads off at the Stooges antics.

If anyone would like an idea of how funny the Stooges were live, take a look at these 1959 appearances on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW:

These appearances were really their comeback where they introduced Curly Joe DeRita
to the public.


2:49 PM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

I have to agree with Reg. DVDs were much better for my old film (yeah, I know) series. The 16mm projectors in our auditorium were crap, the old chopped up 16mm prints were crap, and the image was dark. A good DVD (and later BRD) made our popular showings possible. The wolf, man.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Trivia: there is no such film as THREE STOOGES FUN-O-RAMA. Exhibitors could book however many Stooge shorts they wanted for a feature-length show, and Columbia would send stock posters and a FUN-O-RAMA main title that could be spliced onto the beginning of the show. Same thing with shows that included the non-Stooge shorts (Hugh Herbert, Andy Clyde, Vera Vague, etc.); these random assortments went out as COLUMBIA LAFF HOUR.

There was still a demand for short comedies and Columbia kept them coming, reprinting as many as 21 a year (13 "comedy favorites" and eight Stooge shorts).

After the new Stooge shorts ran out in 1959, Columbia kept the older ones in theatrical release, at the traditional rate of eight per year, through 1968. Virtually all of them featured Shemp Howard or Joe Besser; only two had Curly Howard, presumably because the films were noticeably older and familiar from television. (The non-Stooge shorts were formally reissued through June 1964 and, if the local exchanges had prints on hand, the two-reelers kept playing for awhile after that.)

5:51 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Fascinating data, Scott. Thanks for passing it along.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Somewhat related, I'll confess to a moment of disgrace. I was taken to see THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT at age six in 1962. I only got a quarter into the movie because I was terrified by the Martians (which please admit, are scary looking). I must have been in a panic since I was taken out of the theater by my annoyed mother. I now have the DVD and view it with the lights on. :)

8:14 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I went to Stoogeathon in the early 70s in sioux Falls, SD. 10 of their shorts back to back. Curlys & Shemps. The biggest laughs were for DIZZY DETECTIVES.

I went to a WB cartoon marathon in the late 60s in Sioux City, IA. 10 or 12 toons. All from the 50s.

1:47 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

The Three Stooges shorts used to be a stable in Latin American television until Sony began to pull them away from television around 15 years ago. Instead, they switched them to the Warner Channel and later TCM (in their lousy non American versions, channels I hate). But since then, things changed for the worst. Instead of all the shorts being on rotation, as it was the case, the number of them got down to the same like 90 shorts or so. This eventually drove audiences away because they deliberately repeated the same films and in the same order, occasionally edited due to their content, keeping many away from audiences. Since then, completists look for Stooges shorts have in Dailymotion.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

THREE STOOGES FUN-O-RAMA did allow the theaters to select the shorts but only from 10 of the Joe Besser catalog.

At age 16, when buying my 8mm silent projector at Willoughy Peerless my first short was The Stooges' DIZZY DOCTORS. My two friends and I supplied the voices and sound effects. nyuck,nyuck,nyuck.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

My friend Ted Okuda tells me that Columbia/Sony no longer offers the complete 190-film package of the Stooges for television. The package is reportedly only 100 titles, and even then Sony doesn't know what it has. One TV station received a broadcast version of WE WANT OUR MUMMY that ran only nine minutes. It was the home-movie abridgement prepared for the 8mm sound market! The station's Stooge expert asked for the full subject, Sony said that was the full subject; the expert insisted, and Sony finally came up with the two-reel version.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Only 100 titles being offered out of 190? Well, that makes no sense but then when did the motion picture industry ever make sense? Luckily, I bought the dvds of all their shorts.

1:43 PM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

Saturday matinees in the 1950's seemed like the 3 STOOGES were showing up (along with the cartoons), at theatres everywhere before the main feature turned for ONE show only that p.m.. It was explained to me then, that my favorites being Laurel and Hardy-- were not available for theatre bookings, and I wondered later what happened to all of the 35mm prints for 1950's theatre audiences? TV WAS OBVIOUSLY the ONLY place you could find any of these funny folks AT ALL (except in person) and the 3 STOOGES were THERE on film, so why not L & H HERE for the KIDDIES as well? ? And THIS 'KIDDIE' thought it was pretty crummy and unfair of the matinee-makers not to show L & H-- or how about the Lil Rascals?! They were on TV TOO, SO 'WHAT GIVES?'-- I kept pestering the, by-now- irate theater manager. The 'li'l whippersnapper' kept drilling him with more questions as if the brat wanted to replace him for his job! Sure the 3 STOOGES were funny-- but a different style/type of film comedy than L & H -and me as a little kid had trouble explaining THAT difference of film comedy to an THEN-ALREADY-ANNOYED theatre manager, who was more concerned with changing a poster at the moment, indeed; but HE DID EXPLAIN simply without detail that they just weren't available for bookings and placed a verbal period there as he locked the poster display and turned his attention elsewhere-- and BEFORE the 'little bugger' FINALLY asked the weekly question put to him : "you don't HAVE TO send THIS poster back, do ya?" Relieved at the change of subject thrown at him by this, this "little..*******", he finally cracked a faint smile and replied "NO, You can have it." OK. That's ok, didn't get my answers. Besides L & H were on TV that afternoon anyway; and NOW I could display on my bedroom wall ANOTHER FANTASTIC movie poster: "THE INVISIBLE BOY".

6:55 PM  

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