Monday, April 16, 2012

The Three Stooges

The movie version of the Three Stooges opened in theaters over the week-end and pulled in around $17 million, not anywhere near The Hunger Games but enough to keep going for a couple of weeks.

Several of my friends, my brother and I were anticipating this film for a few years after the Farrelly Brothers, who did Dumb and Dumber and Something About Mary, announced that they were going to make it.

They, like me, were dedicated fans for years.

It goes back to the late 50's for me, when I would see one of their short films before the main feature. Back then we usually saw a cartoon, a short subject and the movie. Later, when I moved to Windsor it got even better.

Because the Stooges were being played twice a day on a local Detroit TV station, hosted by a guy who called himself Johnny Ginger. It was also where I was introduced to Curly, the fat guy, as the Stooges I saw back in the 50's had Shemp.

For those who don't know much about the Stooges, here's a mini-bio. They came out of vaudeville and specialized in slapstick comedy, where someone was always hitting someone else, thus "slapstick". There were 3 brothers, Moe, Shemp and Jerome Howard and a friend, Larry Fine. Jerome used "Curly" as his nom de plume, a takeoff on his shaved head.

They made almost 200 10-12 minute short films that seemed to always be shown somewhere. While there were 4 brothers, only 3 were featured in films. Shemp took over after Curly passed away in the late 40's.

There's an old saying that women never liked the Stooges, they didn't understand why anyone would like the somewhat violent slaps and kicks and eye-gouges and hammers, saws and anything else they could find.

But we all knew it wasn't real, and I never thought that I should eye-gouge anyone. Sort of like cap guns, they weren't real guns.

But the interesting thing about the Stooges is that they're still playing on TV, on Turner and other networks. And they have the strangest audiences; old men in their 80's, my house cleaner, Yolanda from Columbia who confessed that Larry was her favorite and many others.

One thing is consistent, Curly is the most liked. There's something good in his innocence while Moe is the leader and Larry is the follower. I sought out Curly's grave in east L.A. several times where his orthodox grave marker is the only one in the cemetery with coins, pictures, words on paper and almost anything else that fans could put on the grave stone. I've read where Curly's grave is second only to Marilyn's in Westwood.

Along with my brother and a friend, we sought out the famous "stairs" in one episode where the boys have to carry an ice block (in the days before fridges) up a long stairway. The joke was by the time they reached the top, the ice block melted into an ice cube.

And every year, the faithful would go to a theater in Glendale where 5 of the best of the Stooges films were shown. Members of their family would often appear as well. And in spite of the old saying, there were women there.

But there was something about the Stooges that transcended a slap or a punch. My brother once said that all he needed to know about life he learned from the Stooges. They were always out of work in every episode, and they always turned the tables on the rich with an innocent-like behavior that us kids liked, and that as adults we still liked.

They seemed to live in hard times and somehow found a place in those times that offered us inspiration and hope.

They are often put down by the Chaplin and the Laurel & Hardy fans and maybe Keaton was a true artist. But for those of us with average lives, the Stooges were the best.

In life, they never fared as well as some of the others, Columbia, the studio kept the rights to their shorts and they never saw residuals. After the end of the short films, they managed to movie into a handful of movies.

I haven't seen the new Stooges movie yet, I'm holding back a little as are my friends. There was something real about the original Stooges, they were the guys they were portraying. The new movie has actors playing them and somehow it doesn't feel as good. Sort of like if you saw a movie about Will Ferrell with someone playing him. It just isn't as good

But I will go see it out of respect for the real Stooges, Moe often said he hoped there would be a new Stooges group to take up where they left off.

All I can say is "Soitenly".

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