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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Last Feature Roundup For The Stooges

Larry, Moe, and Joe Out West for The Outlaws Is Coming! (1965)

Fellow fifth graders were surprisingly indifferent to this --- in fact, I don't think any of us caught the Liberty's three-day run. I had borne brunt of earlier Stooge features from Columbia, having been dragged to them by cousins or neighbors, but '65 was a new day, and I considered myself inoculated from further Stooging. This recent view was therefore my first, and hanged if the thing didn't play better than grim anticipation over interceding half-century. The boys had spoofed westerns before, primarily in shorts, though there was a teaming with George O'Brien at feature length. Outlaws at times has an almost hipster spin on genre clichés, future Laugh-In's Henry Gibson applying layers of irony to his Indian support part. The thing looks hardly more lavish than a late Stooge short; kids in theatres must have thought they were looking at a great big TV set for economies observed, but the trio give all, and I'm impressed as ever by their outlasting virtually all Gold Age acts that came before. Indeed, the Stooges might have performed to infinity but for Larry's stroke. To sum up, I didn't laugh at The Outlaws Is Coming!, but did respect it, and could spank myself for passing in 1965. Columbia got respectable returns for minimal outlay: $598K in domestic rentals, and $240K foreign. The Sony Channel's HD displays map of Moe's wrinkles to splendorous effect.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

A large part of the reason for the decline in box office can be laid at the door of television's banning of THE STOOGES. That meant generations of kids grew up not knowing who they were. Our generation, which grew up with THE STOOGES on TV and in theaters, by that time considered ourselves too mature for things we liked as kids hence out with comic books (for which we now pay thousands to get back), The Stooges, toys (again for which we pay thousands to get back) and much more.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Ha, ha! True life sad story: My little brother and I had just completed our very complicated plan to catch a kiddie matinee of THE OUTLAWS IS COMING (the theater several towns away, logistics involved buses and transfers, short rides from a neighbor to and from the bus stop, etc) when Pop announced the whole family was taking in a movie together instead, kind of a rare thing in itself. Something called MARY POPPINS. Which meant no Stooges. Okay, we did enjoy POPPINS. And we didn't have to spend the day chasing buses. But still.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Sorry to report that my appetite for the boys wore thin years ago. I can watch one 2-reeler these days but no more in one sitting and viewings spaced weeks apart.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

Fun Fact from IMDB: The actors who portray the gunslingers were local hosts of The Three Stooges television programs in the 1960s. One of them, Don Lamond, who was the host in Los Angeles, was Larry Fine's son-in-law. The other hosts and their respective cities were Joe Bolton (New York), Bill Camfield (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Hal Fryar (Indianapolis), Johnny Ginger (Detroit), Wayne Mack (New Orleans), Ed T. McDonnell (Boston), Bruce Sedley (San Francisco), Paul Shannon (Pittsburgh), and Sally Starr (Philadelphia).

12:43 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Like of all of the late Three Stooges features that they made for Columbia, it always appeared in the Saturday movie marathons on television. Then, after a few years of no broadcasts, all of them began to be constantly featured during weekends in the panregional WB-TV channel, which still exists but that I have not seen in years. Roku has a free Three Stooges channel now, featuring the 190 Columbia shorts.

2:30 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I remember Sir Sedley (KTVU Oakland, which covered the whole Bay Area) showing "home movies", intercutting him meeting the Stooges with what looked like a more standard behind-the-scenes piece. Didn't catch up with the movie itself for a few decades, when it cropped up on television.

There were a few odd laughs, and a lot of things I know would have struck me as way funnier as a kid (the gunslinger talking to the camera during the titles; Moe addressing the cavalry officer as "Mustache"; "Oh, that Wild Bill", etc.). Easily the slickest of their movies, although it should be noted that "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" was resourceful and even clever. "The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze" is notable mostly for its low-budget moxie (in fact, the plot has a descendant of Phineas Fogg trying to duplicate the trip without expending money or honest labor).

"Have Rocket Will Travel", the first to cash in on their television success, feels like it was aimed at younger children. They went overboard in making the boys avuncular and harmless. With the exception of the howlingly strange "Snow White and the Three Stooges", all the movies thereafter delivered more of a grade school wise guy humor.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

I felt that the addition of Joe DeRita killed the chemistry of the Stooges. He brought zilch to the party unlike Joe Besser. The best of the 1959-1965 series was STOP! LOOK! and LAUGH! with recycled Curly clips.

3:33 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer tells of Stooge encounters on television and theatrically:

Having enjoyed a somewhat sheltered childhood, I did not see the Three Stooges theatrically until I went to a midnight showing of “Reefer Madness” and “Three Little Beers” one summer when I was home from law school. The venue was the Fox Theatre in Willingboro, the site of many a kiddie matinee that I attended during those years, but now in much reduced circumstances. It had been “twinned” through the brutal expediency of putting a wall down the middle of the auditorium, with small screens installed on each side. The seating, which was curved to accommodate the former big screen, was left just as it was. The acoustic cloth on the side walls had not been replaced and was somewhat dilapidated-looking, in contrast to the covering of the new wall. I was familiar with the Stooges, however, having been a regular watcher of the Sally Starr Show growing up, which was carried on Philadelphia’s WFIL, Channel 6, an ABC outlet. “Our Gal Sal” wore a Dale Evans-style cowboy suit and hat and showed Fleischer Popeyes and Three Stooges shorts. Her filmed intro showed her holding on tightly to a gentle horse as it carefully negotiated a forested approach in Fairmont Park, on the outskirts of the city. I understood that the parents of some of my little friends would not let them watch the Three Stooges, for fear that they would perform slapstick shtick on their own little friends. My parents were apparently not put off by that prospect, or at least wanted me to have the advantage of foreknowledge, and certainly Sal had no problem with the Stooges, even having Moe on her show a couple of times. I suppose that, with the benefit of such experience as I’d gained by the night of the showing, I should have realized that “Three Little Beers” was one of the boys’ better efforts. At that, it was better than “Reefer Madness,” except for those members of the audience who were sufficiently well-primed for the encounter. All the same, I was struck by two things, the first being how many of the gags I’d seen in other films, especially the cascade of beer barrels at the end, which was a steal from Keaton’s “What, No Beer?,” which was stolen in turn from “Seven Chances,” though at least Keaton was stealing from himself then. In comedy, though, the motto is “If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” In that respect, the Stooges were well within theatrical conventionality. The second, however, was the realization of how slow they were on a theater screen, even the modestly-sized one at the Fox. Watching them on television had given me an impression of snappiness and precision. On the bigger screen, it seemed that they were running through gags that hadn’t been sufficiently rehearsed, though perhaps that was also due to the need to fill the short with such material as they had. It threw the timing off when a gag had to run on and on, just to fill the reel. All in all, I came home happy for the evening and happier that it was over.

5:03 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts recalls THE OUTLAWS IS COMING from theatre matinees:

I’ve always liked OUTLAWS ever since I saw it at a long ago Wallace and Ladmo matinee and always felt that same slight degree of hipness in it’s humor, which was felt even more a few years later when it returned for another Wallace and Ladmo matinee and we now knew straight man Adam West from BATMAN and Henry Gibson from LAUGH-IN. There was no “banning” of the Stooges on our local television, they were mainstays throughout the 60’s and even the 70’s, and their late Columbia features joined the queue very quickly as well. The Stooges were always one of the gateway drugs into the world of vintage humor for we that grew to love it, and it was great that they were members of the elder statesmen of comedy that were still creating it for us in our youth.


9:43 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

I saw this film about a year after it came out at an Army base theater. Films ran late there.
Opinions on the Stooges vary, but one cannot say the Stooges did not have a work ethic.

I think the Stooges with DeRita on live TV was very worthy, the films, not so much.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

On the subject of Stooge westerns, John, do you know whether GOLD RAIDERS made a profit? It was supposed to be the first of a series, but became a five-day shoot with corners being cut right and left. I know of two theatrical runs: in 1951, and a reissue in 1958.

10:38 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

No figures on GOLD RAIDERS, unfortunately. Haven't come across ads for it either. A really obscure one.

6:46 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok were Outlaws? having grown up with Guy Madison and Hugh O'Brian, that poster would have confused the heck out of me. "Officer" Joe Bolton was a mainstay of WPIX - 11 in NYC having started as a weatherman. I remember him promoting this movie but somehow I missed it and still have never seen it. "Officer" Joe hosted the Stooges and Little Rascals for years. He then switched to the Dick Tracy Show where he was promoted to "Chief" so he could call the cartoon Tracy on the phone to kick off each cartoon when Tracy would get a call from the chief that Mumbles or The Brow was causing trouble. When Dick Tracy ran its course and Joe Bolton went back to hosting the Stooges, he was demoted back to "Officer". He had Moe on a few times as a guest.
One funny anecdote: to start the show he used to stroll onto the set, which consisted of a desk with two big globe lights at each end, while twirling his nightstick. Yep, during one of those intros, he busted one of the globes with his nightstick.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

I remember Ed Bernds saying the negative cost of GOLD RAIDERS was $50k. GOLD RAIDERS sold as a Super 8 magnetic sound film in the mid 70's, so perhaps it made a little money there.
I find it fascinating that after 1948 Columbia lit the Stooge stills with flash instead of studio lighting. I also notice at that time the the shorts have more shadows in them as if they cut back on the lighting.

8:42 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts speaks up for Joe DeRita and Shemp:

I never had a problem with Curly Joe. I think he really worked just fine, especially for the elder Stooges, and if you have ever seen any of their live TV appearances like the Steve Allen Show in 1959, DeRita really got big laughs with Larry and Moe then. Heck, he gave the Stooges another decade of work and was the first number three Stooges I saw when I was introduced to the team. Then again, I've always thought Shemp was a better comic than Jerry Howard too. Curly's bag of tricks was frankly rather limited, great as they were.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Even as a kid I thought many of the Stooges shorts were a bit cheap and repetitious. I was much more into Abbott & Costello, given a choice.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Ed Watz said...

In reply to Scott's question above, GOLD RAIDERS was in almost constant theatrical showing as a second feature somewhere in the US and Canada from June 1951 through August 1961 - this last showing was on a "Something For The Whole Family" triple bill of John Wayne's THE ALAMO, Brigitte Bardot in LA PARISIENNE, and GOLD RAIDERS! By this time GOLD RAIDERS was regularly appearing in various TV markets but there was still the occasional big screen showing, the last I found playing Christmas week, 1965.

United Artists bought the film outright from producer Bernie Glasser for a flat $60,000. Neither The Stooges nor their director Ed Bernds received any of their anticipated profits once Glasser sold out to UA. Ed Bernds told me that Moe Howard never forgave Bernie for the sellout, but Ed knew that Bernie had mortgaged his home and literally begged UA to accept the film - Glasser tried peddling the film to Columbia, RKO, and nearly every indie studio until UA finally accepted it. I would imagine that United Artists made a tidy profit over the years on their investment, especially once The Stooges became a hot attraction due to their TV popularity in the late 1950s. If an exhibitor couldn't afford the boys' Columbia features, GOLD RAIDERS was the bargain-basement alternative.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Thanks, Ed! I'm surprised that the other studios passed on it, unless it was thought that the Stooges were strictly a short-subject act that couldn't carry a feature. Monogram should have jumped at this, and Jack Broder of Realart would have grabbed for a pen. UA's reissue of GOLD RAIDERS in 1958 was good timing, given the Stooges' TV comeback that year.

It turns out that Bernie Glasser kept his affiliation with three of the GOLD RAIDERS principals: George O'Brien, Jack Schwarz, and UA. Glasser and Schwarz formed Trans-Films, Inc. in June 1951, with plans to make six features for UA, the first two being produced in England with O'Brien starring. For whatever reason, the films were never made.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

HAVE ROCKET WILL TRAVEL & THE OUTLAWS IS COMING are the only two later Stooges I didn`t see in a theater. I never cared for OUTLAWS. I wish they had done a horror spoof or detective spoof during the 60s.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

As always, the Stooges are guaranteed to bring out the comments. And thanks to Tom Ruegger -- I grew up in New England watching the Stooges on TV, and never knew that Major Mudd's real name was Ed T. McDonell!

11:09 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Yes, I understand Ed McDonnell was once a driver for Ernie Kovacs, who encouraged him to get into children's television. The first years of "Major Mudd" were definitely inspired by Kovacs, with McDonnell alone on camera and interacting with infinitesimal beings and crazy sound effects. This was long before the station added a peanut gallery and made him more of a ringmaster than a comedian.

As Donald Benson mentioned above, each kiddie-show host was given a silent reel of off-camera footage from THE OUTLAWS IS COMING! Each reel was personalized with an insert of the local host, in a director's chair bearing the host's name. When Major Mudd ran the footage, he saw the "Ed McDonnell" insert and said something like "Why, that's me! What am I doing in that man's chair?"

4:32 PM  
Blogger Ed Watz said...

Thanks Scott for those details! I recall that when WPIX Channel 11's Officer Joe Bolton made an appearance at my school in 1968, he brought his silent OUTLAWS reel and accompanied the footage, strumming his guitar. The reel showed his arrival at LAX, being greeted by the Stooges (wearing suits but sporting kiddie cowboy hats), followed by "home movie" style footage of Moe cooking a backyard barbecue for all of OUTLAW's guest stars. Bolton also ran a reel of blooper outtakes, mostly flubbed lines but there was one precious take where poor Larry didn't pick up his cue. Moe starts to berate him just as the camera stops filming. (And the two-reeler Bolton brought that day was AN ACHE IN EVERY STAKE.)

3:18 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

We had WPIX Channel 11's Merry Mailman, Ray Heatherton, visit our grade school, probably '61 or '62. He sang some songs but I don't recall if he brought along any shorts or cartoons. Now I wish he had brought his daughter Joey.

8:18 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

The Stooges appeared in the Rat Pack (well, Frank and Dino) western "Four for Texas."

4:20 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Johnny Ginger is one of the legends of Detroit TV.... by the late 60s, he, and the Stooges, had migrated over to Kaiser Ch50,where he was Sgt Sacto on the Captain Detroit slot...

4:48 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Saw STOP LOOK AND LAUGH z couple of times at Saturday afternoon matinees and really enjoyed it tho it had a bit too much of the usually fantastic Paul Winchell between the clips...

4:53 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Agree about .....MEET HERCULES. Saw it a few times on Saturday matinees and then a couple of years ago on some obscure TV channel....the strong plot structure helped sustain the boys over feature length...

4:55 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Watching unedited versions of the shorts now has opened my eyes to pre TV audience expectations...fitting a couple of 2 reelers in a half hour spot requires major surgery, which,in some cases, really tightened up the pace, at least to TV standards....seemed to be about 50/50 success rate,with some bits nearly ruined or just inexplicable and others really moving along at a snappy pace....

5:02 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Quite right Richard....the Stooges, and Our Gang etc., were onscreen in Detroit AND San Francisco well into the 70s...
though the early 70s nostalgia boom had moved to the 50s by then....even in somewhat edited form, they were ent

5:05 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Entertaining to a fairly wide range of ages...not just kids!

5:06 AM  

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