I grew up with the Three Stooges. As a kid, I watched Three Stooges movies at 7:00 a.m. on WTEN as part of a “Popeye and the Three Stooges” show, which would lead into Commander Ralph Vartigian and the Good Ship News. In later years, I would watch Three Stooges marathons on WSBK, when the Boston-based TV station was part of my cable package.
There were 190 Three Stooges 20-minute shorts, and the quality ranged from completely awesome – Disorder in the Court, Punch Drunks, You Natzy Spy – to downright painful – Half Wits’ Holiday, anything with Joe Besser in it).
Those episodes were classics. If I was in a miserable, downtrodden mood, I could sit and watch two or three Three Stooges clips and my spirits would pick up quickly.
And for years, I thought that the 190 two-reelers the Stooges made for Columbia Pictures were the only Three Stooges films I could enjoy.
Which is why I’m sharing this batch of rare Three Stooges goodness with you now.
What I have here are either Three Stooges shorts and/or clips that were made BEFORE or AFTER (or in some cases, DURING) the classic 190 films. And you can see the evolution of the Stooges, from their stints as sidemen for comedian Ted Healy, to their own development as slapstick knockabout comics.
Long before their three-decade stint with Columbia, the Stooges were sidemen to comedian Ted Healy, and this early MGM two-reeler is a prime example of their career at that time. The Stooges were essentially Healy’s punchline and slap-line, and in this surreal short they play Healy’s children, who beg the tuxedoed comedian to tell them bedtime stories. You can tell from this clip that Healy should have been working for the Stooges, not the other way around.
SOUP TO NUTS
This vaudeville scene appeared near the end of this 1930’s ensemble film, and after you suffer through Healy’s performance of “One Pair of Pants at a Time,” you get some hilarious interactions between Healy and his Stooges. Note. Yes, that’s Shemp Howard with Moe and Larry; Shemp was the original “Third Stooge,” but he left the group because he couldn’t work with Healy. Shemp would only return to the Stooges two decades later to replace Curly, who had suffered a series of debilitating strokes.
JERKS OF ALL TRADES
In 1949, the Stooges actually made a television pilot. They would take their best trope from the movies – three hapless workers who cause more trouble than they fix – and attempted to make a live TV series with it. But what works well in the movies – pratfalls, sound effects tied to slaps, careful editing so that nobody really got hurt – didn’t work as well on live television. Interestingly, this pilot shows Larry Fine as the more energetic and creative of the Stooges.
TIME OUT FOR RHYTHM
In this sketch from the 1941 full-length feature film Time Out For Rhythm, the Stooges perform one of their classic vaudeville routines, the “Maharajah of Vulgaria” sketch. This sketch, which was used several years later in the Stooges short Three Little Pirates, features Moe as the translator for Curly, who plays a Middle Eastern potentate. Funny funny stuff.
In fact, just as a comparison, here’s the “Maharajah” sketch from Three Little Pirates, and this was performed by Curly Howard AFTER he suffered a series of strokes. That’s how good the Three Stooges truly were.
FOUR FOR TEXAS
Yes, that’s the Three Stooges in a Frank Sinatra / Dean Martin big-budget feature film. They perform their “Point to the Right” routine, and Dean even gets in a classic triple slap on the trio.
THE THREE STOOGES SCRAPBOOK
Another attempt for the Stooges to break into television, this TV pilot would have featured the Stooges (now with Larry, Moe and Curly-Joe DeRita) attempting to recreate their Columbia short subject magic, along with some Stooge-themed cartoons added for entertainment. The pilot tested poorly and a series was never created; but footage from this pilot was later used in a 1960’s Three Stooges feature film.
THE NEW 3 STOOGES
In 1965, the Stooges filmed a series of wrap-arounds for a children’s show. This series, The New 3 Stooges, was produced by Moe Howard’s son-in-law Norman Maurer, and featured the Stooges introducing customized cartoons of themselves.
One last attempt at a TV series for the Stooges, Kook’s Tour would have featured the “retired” Stooges as they travel the country in an RV and have some comic adventures. Unfortunately, as the pilot was being filmed, Larry Fine suffered a massive stroke and could not continue on; and this pilot was their last filmed project.
So I hope you enjoy watching these rare clips of one of the funniest comedy teams to ever appear on film. Fun fun stuff.