Sunday, February 27, 2011

National Endowment AWAY from the Arts

Maybe I'm crazy, or maybe Pop Goes the Easel is THE BEST DAMN STOOGE SHORT EVER... at least, for 1935. It's got it all: "Look at the grouse," hopscotch, gay shopkeepers, microphone shadows (see picture), Depression Era cars ... and it all culminates in a giant clay-throwing fight. I HOPE that was clay, anyway. Well, it was the Depression and pies were definitely a luxury.
This is where we get our first lesson from Professor Moe. You know what I mean, that moment in a Stooge film when Moe has to explain something to Larry or Curly, or both in this case. Moe is their leader! He's the brains and President of that corporation, don't kid yourselves. The first lesson is on how to get a job. What they don't realize is it's all a setup for the big chase sequence, ending where the Stooges find themselves suddenly in their new occupation: in this case, art students. Those three art students that were expected, if you will.
The first life they ruin is a painter confounded by... well, I hate to ruin it, but to explain it is to ruin it. It's probably a gag they stole from Buster Keaton. A beam of light is shining onto a painting. The artist furiously tries to get rid of it, painting away at it. He steps in the light's way, the light disappears, and he is happy. Very happy. He moves, the light reappears, he is sad. Very sad. The Stooges proceed to ruin his painting in small strokes, then all at once in a great flood. The painter gets knocked unconscious, and falls into a heap into a chair. Life ruined.
There's also a part where Moe echoes an old Ted Healy line, "You don't have long to live, son!" Ted had to go, but his influence lives on. Meanwhile, the cop that was chasing the boys is still hot on the trail. The boys end up in drag, and Curly gives Moe some serious hell over his outfit. Moe pokes Curly in the eyes, Curly says "Ooooooo!", and Curly's head snaps back, knocking off his wig. The cop fortunately figures out what's going on, but the boys get the best of him anyway.
Al Thompson starts the movie by spraying Larry with mud from his car. I remember him best from his bit part in G.I. Wanna Home, for some reason. Also, this bald dude whose wig gets knocked off by clay, he plays the veritable Barabbas of the Stooges in Dutiful but Dumb, a photographer who's sentenced to be shot for taking pictures in Vulgaria, but the Stooges get taken in his place instead... probably for good reason.
Now, about that big clay fight. It has a little trouble getting off the ground, but once it gets going, look out. Curly has to kick start it by saying "Gimme that.... GIMME THAT!!!" The clay hits untold dozens in the head, neck and chest, knocks on doors, hits the wall next to an art admirer. Classic stuff. They simply didn't know how to end it, so Moe slaps about eight people around him in a row. A good lesson for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin! Of course, you'll win the battle that way but will definitely lose the war...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Next week: Uncivil Warriors!!!

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