Saturday, October 27, 2012

Throwing off this Moe-tal coil

I am reminded of the story of how Harpo Marx found his superpower, so to speak.  When the Marx Brothers first started conquering Broadway, they took to heart the criticisms of one or several reviewers who so thoroughly detested the sound of Harpo's voice that he finally stopped talking altogether.  In this next Stooge short, Gents Without Cents... I mean, Rhythm and Weep, the Stooges are presented with a similar line of criticism.  A theater manager throws them out, calls them a "menace to society," and invites them to jump from the tallest building in town... something like that.  Wow!  Even back then, huh?  A prude's work is never done.


We start much as The Tooth Will Out will start several years later.  While we see only the quiet façade of the Garden Theater, we hear violent scuffling coming from within.  An exasperated voice says "I'm going to get myself a cheap lawyer!"  Someone's civil rights are being violated... oh, wait, it's just Moe and his two idiot friends he's always hanging around with.  The three of them run out of the stage entrance, followed by a hail of their things, mostly tiny drums and musical instruments and stuff.  I got distracted by a shiny metal pail that rolls around in the alley at about 0:42.  Hope the rest of the film's this good!  And so, much like Dick Curtis in Yes, We Have No Bonanza, some guy tells the Stooges that they've got the worst act he's ever seen in his life.  Obviously, he didn't see Yes, We Have No Bonanza.  Moe sets the stage, so to speak, saying "Well, this is the 26th theater we've been thrown out of this month.  What's left for us?"  Larry and Curly take him too literally; Larry says "Four more theaters!" and Curly adds "Except for February, which has 28!"  You just won't believe what Moe does in response.  No time for too much physical abuse, however, because the manager comes back at about 1:02, saying "Are you guys still here?"  Moe tries to lather on the charm, saying "Listen, Mr. Smellington, give us another chance."  Another British expatriate pushing around hard-working American actors, apparently.  Smellington's very resolute in his indignation, however, and he tells the Stooges to go and jump off the tallest building in town.  Moe and Larry try to follow him back through the door, only to get the door slammed on their noses, which makes the sound of walnuts being rubbed together.
And so, much like Ollie in The Flying Deuces, Moe and Lawrence make the executive decision to commit group suicide.  Curly, supposedly the insane one according to David Steinberg, takes this decision not quite as lightly, saying "There's something I gotta do before I die!"  He carefully removes a pie from one of his prop containers.  Moe asks him "Hey!  If ..." I'm sorry, it's "Wait a minute!" So Moe asks Curly "Wait a minute!  If you're gonna bump yourself off, what's the idear a'eatin' pie?"  Curly says "So I can digest right!" and n'yuk-n'yuk laughs.  Moe's a cruel bastard, and mimicks Curly's laugh, and hits Curly in the face with his last meal.  Okay, arguably it's not a mimic of Curly's laugh, but close enough under the circumstances.  Moe grabs some neighboring earlobes and says "C'mon, we got some croakin' to do."  Reflect on how unoften you hear the Stooges say that.
Next scene: stock footage of a very tall building.  Reflect on that for a moment or two, as it's probably the most expensive part of this shoestring number.  Next scene after that: the Stooges emerge from a door at the top of the building.  When suddenly... we hear the dialogue of three lovely dames about to jump ahead of the Stooges.  Great plot device!  The dialogue goes like this: "All right, girls?" "Yes." "Then let's do it."  Great writing.  If these three girls knew what they were in for, returning to life with the Stooges, they might have just jumped and saved themselves a lifetime of grief.  But love conquers all, and films were more hopeful about life back then.  But apparently the domestic prosperity brought about by WWII trickled down to stage performers last.  Or maybe first world economies are always that way.  Anyway, the girls state their case: they're a little better than the Cherry Sisters, but are ne'theless having trouble getting booked.  The one in the middle reminds me of a young Judy Garland!  She gets the privilege of saying "We're gonna jump and end it all."  Moe says "Move over!  You got company!"  Now the Cherry Sisters and Brothers... I mean, all six of them are standing on the ledge.  We find out the girls' names at this point: Hilda, Wilda and Tilda.  You know, just to make it slightly different compared to the girls' names in Gents Without CentsClearly, the names in GWC were far superior, or at least more Stooge-centric.
Now, as often happens in a rare situation like this, when three girls and three guys are about to commit suicide by jumping off the same ledge together... one can't help but fall in love.  Sorry, SPOILER ALERT.  The falling-in-love happens gradually.  Moe, of course, has got a busy day ahead of him so he wants to get this whole suicide thing over with as quickly as possible.  He's got to be at the cleaners at 2 o'clock!  He goes over to ask Larry what time it is.  Larry pulls back his shirt sleeve to reveal three watches............. hoh boy.  Time for a patented Stooge Time Stretcher.  Personally, I think Curly did the three watches bit better in Dutiful but Dumb.  God, what a great Stooge short that is.  If only I could review that one every week... I know, I know, in a way I already am.  And so, Larry goes through a slightly shorter version of the "three watches" bit, and he asks for burnt toast and a rotten egg after that.  And so, the anti-suicide message of the film's made clear at this point, especially when the six of them sing "YES!!!" in three-part harmony.  But back to the love angle.  Curly and his gal fall in love at about 3:30.  Moe and his gal fall in love a few seconds later.  It's about this time when the age disparity between the aging Stooges and their constantly younger lady companions becomes sadly apparent.  Larry gets to address the Fourth Wall directly when he falls in love at about 3:47, lucky bastid.  Curly kisses his gal and ends up with a mouthful of cigarette smoke.  Then, he starts to fall over the side, but Moe grabs him at the last minute.  Lol.  Now, here's where the script gets bad.  Curly bemoans the lack of safety precautions, but has an idea.  He just happens to have a hammer and some nails on his person... must be part of his props... and so he hammers his shoes into place, driving nails into the marble.  While this goes on, Moe says to his gal something like "You know, when your eyes look at me, my Adam's apple goes....."  I hope he was working off-script at that point.  Curly finishes pounding his shoes in place and drops his hammer, hitting Bud Jamison on the head down below.  He's okay, though.  Or at least, far enough off camera so that we don't have to care.  The sextet sings a more somber melody this time, and then they go from counting to three to doing an auction bit.  Well, just Larry anyway.  I'm getting flop sweat on his behalf.  Thankfully, a piano rendition of "Turkey in the Straw" saves the day, and it's time to dance!  Curly can only bob up and down, however... remember, his shoes are nailed into place.  Lol.  Curly steps out of his shoes, and Moe starts kicking Curly and Larry in the ass.  Unintentionally, I hope, but that'd be tough to argue.  Curly calls Moe out, and they have a staredown, but the music's too powerful, and they get back into dancing mode.  Curly starts doing stomach thrusts until he finally hits Moe, shattering the dancing spell that everyone in front of him was under.  They go and look for the source of the music at this point.  Curly, meanwhile, is left all alone again, trying to get his shoes back.  He barks at them, and tugs on them, but to no avail.  He makes sure to have his back to the edge so that he'll fall off the building once he pulls his shoes loose, rather than to the safety of the building's top floor.  Curly gets his shoes and falls.  Cut to everyone else, standing near the entrance to the top floor.  They bemoan the passing of Curly, assuming he jumped without them, only to have Curly re-emerge through that door once again.  The group's grief quickly turns to anger anew, but not before Larry gets scared by "Curly's ghost."  Lol.  Same thing happened to Jeff Goldblum one time on The Colbert Report, if I recall correctly.  Curly gets hit in the stomach by Moe, and is quickly cured by the tincture of loverly piano music coming from somewhere.  They find the source this time: an eccentric played by... let me look him up here.  Why, it's Jack Norton!  You might remember him best as A. Pismo Clam, the drunk film director, from The Bank Dick.  Clearly, he's fallen on hard times, and he's a little more sober here... hence the hard times.


And so, we get to know this goof a little better.  Inquisitive Larry asks him "Why are you playing up here?"  The dude says he's a millionaire, and that this is where he goes to get away from his music-hating family to play piano in secret.  Try and suspend your disbelief and not jump to the conclusions you know are coming at the end of the Third Act, okay?  The millionaire asks "Are you musicians, by any chance?"  Go figure.  Larry continues to take charge of the situation, saying "I play in five flats, and get thrown out of all of them."  See, it's a musical joke, you see.  Flat, sharp, what have you.  Moe starts to reach over to rein in Larry, when the millionaire explodes with laughter.  Can't argue with success!  Either Moe was too startled to strangle Larry, or he respects it when someone gets a laugh from a joke.  The millionaire asks "Do you play by ear?"  I'm not even going to comment on that one.  The millionaire says that he's just written a play but can't find the right actors for it.  Normally, warning signs couldn't be more numerous, but seeing as how the Stooges and their new girlfriends were just contemplating suicide, this is a welcome opportunity for them to not kill themselves.  The millionaire offers them $1,000 a week, which I'm assuming was a lot back then.  You often hear the stories of someone being hired by MGM or one of the other studios for several hundred a week; of course, from there they go on to make millions in these same stories.  Gotta start somewhere!  As it turns out, the millionaire has standards after all, demanding for a "sample" of the sextet's music.
(On to part 2 on the YouTube.)  The boys play "Swingaroo Joe," apparently.  It seems awful similar to the song played in Disorder in the Court, but with a slightly better arrangement.  Hold on, my Internet Explorer's flashing yellow... hmm!  Never did figure out why.  Anyway, as you'd expect, it wouldn't be a Stooge musical performance if the boys didn't get hit with musical instruments during it.  Curly goes in for the kill at about 1:08, but Larry beats him to the punch.  Meanwhile, the girls engage in a dance shocking for the era.  Must be the dresses.  Take that, Joe Gideon!  Back to the physical abuse.  Moe gets the worst of it, but it's probably for the greater good, as the hits he takes wipes that stupid frozen grin off his face.  He does manage to dodge one hit at 1:57, but he's 1 for about 50.  He's finally had enough at 2:18 and gives Larry a cheekful of accordion, slamming him against the wall at 2:20.  Defending his friend's honor, Curly starts stabbing Moe in the side with his bow.  Moe quickly tires of this and grabs the bow from Curly, knocking off his hat Zorro-style and giving him the works at 2:28.  Maybe I'm crazy, or have too much time on my hands, but they seem to have repeated Curly's audio from G.I. Wanna Home 5:08.  I know, I know, a little of both, really.  Curly falls backward, knocking some black paint into a saxophone.  He seems to notice this, and uses his new-found loaded saxophone on Moe and Larry in one final fortissimo note.  God bless Wikipedia!  Fade to black.


Next scene: the rehearsal proper.  It's slightly early for an Act Break, but this Third Act is rather significant this time, and all our questions will get answered, so Third Act it is.  The millionaire dude says "We're ready now!" twice.  Why, they didn't recycle the audio again, did they?  That's Cannery Row for ya.
And now... you know how Tootsie and Some Like it Hot once came in second and first respectively in an AFI poll of comedies?  Well, the Stooges are dressed as ballerinas.  Of course, we know they're not.  But they're about to deliver what surely is one of the classiest double-entendres they've ever done.  I know, I know, it's just me and my flithy mind.  Curly walks off stage as butchly as possible at 3:33 to compensate for his previous capering.  And then, the three girls class up the joint for as long as they can in their ballerina outfits.  We get shots of the Stooges admiring them from just off-stage, getting caught up in the artfulness of it all.  Curly hits Moe and Larry twice.  Lol.  Good for him!  Alas, this is a Stooge film, and at 6:04 it's time to return to the Stooge's usual crap.  They do a sketch much like the one in Gents without Cents, except it involves a doctor rather than watching a horse ride through the battlefield.  Personally, I prefer Rodney Dangerfield's approach, but that's just me.  It's all too wonderful; I just can't do it justice with my mere comments.


We've got a minute left.  The show's a success and the sextet's salary's have been doubled by the benevolent job creator lording over all.  The rich millionaire says "The way I throw my money around, you probably think I'm crazy! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA..."  The worrisome laughter starts.  Then the Stooges see the men in white coats coming.  The millionaire gets to go home by train, in a fashion similar to the conga line formed in Gents without Cents.  Too many parallels, I tells ya!  At least the millionaire's quite generous with his insanity.  The Stooges themselves start laughing maniacally.  Larry's dangerously close to tearing his curly hair out in clumps.  Curly goes over to the wall and starts banging his bald head against it.  Then we cut to Moe and Larry who start dropping stage sandbags on their heads, pulling them up a little bit, and dropping them again.  Sadly, it's a short endless loop; they only hit themselves twice on the head.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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