Friday, November 09, 2012
January 9, 1947 (one film remains)
And so, it's time for a Stooge short called Half-Wits Holiday. Must be a play on words. Nevertheless, 69789Darius is right when he says it's a reboot of Hoi Polloi, which starts off similarly if I recall correctly, but don't have time to go back and actually check. We get two eggheads going back and forth on the old heredity v. environment debate. The Stooges are, of course, bad guinea pigs for any experiment, really. As Mumford said, most people's problems are too complicated, too deep-rooted by the time he hears about them. The Stooges' roots go deep. Several hundred shorts deep. But who knows? Maybe HWH will offer a surprise or two along the way. Christine McIntyre was wise to stay away from this one. She preferred director Edward Bernds, because he wouldn't besiege people with pastries in the visage. Jules White is a Pie Fight man through and through.
The bet is made. A mere $1,000. Amateurs. Right, Romney? Personally, I think Vernon Dent, on the side of environment, has the right theory, but the wrong amount of time. He's going to take two months to transform someone from the lowest strata of life, Middle Class America, and transform them into a high society twit.
And then... in come the candidates. Butler Emil Sitka says "The three plumbers are here." Clearly, the two learned men are of a pretty low class themselves, ending up in the same room as the Three Stooges, plumbers or otherwise. Let's see... the Stooges are in the room at 1:13. How long before they destroy something? The more priceless, the better. Well, Moe's foot gets hurt at 1:33, a cracking start. The 'heredity' guy gets hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer at 2:23. Close enough... ah-hah! No wonder my right-click wasn't working! Paint Shop Pro was waiting to capture a screenshot.
Anyway, despite the physical abuse upon distinguished Professor 'Eugenics' Sedletz, the offer is presented to the Stooges. Strangely enough, they refuse at first to becoming gentlemen. Lawrence says "There hasn't been a gentleman in our family for 50 generations!" But the economic incentive trumps all. I guess Vernon Dent's going to donate his $1,000 to charity... vis-a-vis, the Stooges themselves. And so, Moe takes charge of the situation by drooping his head in shame, and saying "Okay, for a thousand bucks, we'll even become gentlemen."
The training begins. First test: that... you know, that test where you cross your knee and a guy hits you in the tendon with a soft hammer... close enough. God bless Wikipedia! Suck it, encyclopedia salesmen! The Stooges have a delightful variation on the actual test. One guy gets hit in the knee, and another kicks. Good thing they're staring at each other's legs for that one! Curly, as always, is the special exception. His leg doesn't kick when hit in the patella. Professor Sedletz goes in for a closer look at the foot. Vernon Dent goes in for a closer inspection of Curly's bald head, much like in A Bird in the Head. Must be an homage. Dent hits Curly on the head, and Curly kicks, kicking Professor Sedletz in the jaw. The Professor's jaw is hurt a little bit, but at least he doesn't spit out a lot of loose teeth. So lowbrow and lacking of the dignity. The Professor's no worse for the wear, and cheerfully insults the Stooges right to their Lower Class faces, calling them morons. They all stand up, clearly angry, and Moe says "Yeah, but we're organized!" I dare say they're making fun of unions! For shame. You'll never guess what Local they are. Six and seven eighths, that's right. What a shock. They even have a catchy slogan.
The training begins in earnest. Better make the Act Break here, in that case. Moe's got a cigar in his mouth. So lacking in dignity. Professor Vernon Dent... oh, apparently his character's name is Quackenbush. Similar to Dr. Hackenbush of A Day at the Races, dont'cha think? Anyway, Professor Quackenbush makes the mistake of introducing these three non-gentlemen to his daughter Lulu. She's not bad. I mean, she's no Clara Bow, but she's pretty enough, if a little too tall. God, I'm a chauvinist pig. Anyway, the boys haven't heard the old adage about not eating where you... well, it's just not kosher to make a pass at your professor's daughter. Right, The Paper Chase? There! The perfect example of what I'm trying to get at! Curly goes way overboard, but Moe brings him back in line in a rather extreme way. Curly leans back and opens his mouth, and Moe taps his cigar's ashes into Curly's mouth. Curly spends the next few seconds choking. Choking on cigar ashes! I can't say as I blame him.
Their first lesson with Lulu is table manners. The Stooges haven't grown weary of high-class food yet, and they run down butler Emil Sitka on their way to the table, leaving a dirty footprint on his face. Lol. Geez! Had to watch that again. Larry steps on Emil's chest, and Moe really does put his dirty shoe on Emil's face. The beginning of a long career of abuse. Speaking of career enders, apparently Monsieur Verdoux killed off Lulu's career, or maybe it was working with Curly for the last time that made her sick of Hollywood. Sorry, bad segué.
Anyway, next scene: the dining room table, where Curly and Moe jockey for the chair next to Lulu. Moe pulls the chair out from under Curly, the opposite of Three Little Pirates where Moe tries to stick a chair to Curly's ass. Curly sits next to Moe, but doesn't have to be happy about it. Vernon demonstrates good napkin etiquette, but without the napkin. The boys are confused at first, but play along ne'theless. Curly missed half of the sentence and tries to tuck his imaginary napkin near the neck, or the chin lap. This episode goes off without a hitch. Now it's time for a real comedy setup: Vernon instructs the boys to "do as Lulu does." Which is good, because she's applying lipstick at this point. But Moe and Larry aren't trying to do as Lulu does! Will no one placate this literal audience? HURRAH CURLY! Lulu sets down her lipstick, and Curly grabs it like the metaphorical baton it is to become. Meanwhile, Larry and Moe pitch some serious woo at Lulu. Good Lord! Worse than that, she seems to be into it! Well, the Stooges were big stars at one time, I suppose. Moe promises to cover Lulu with "furs and automobiles." He eventually has to stop and rein in Curly who's taken quite a shine to the lipstick. Curly sticks out his tongue at Moe, and Moe gives Curly's tongue a lipstick stripe. Curly recoils, but at least it's not sand. Eventually, he seems to be into it! Boy, Firefox sure makes it tough to get those links. It is with this close-up that we can see Curly's missing teeth. He's as bad as Leon Spinks! Curly likes the taste of the lipstick so much, he buys the company... I mean, he goes for a second helping. Moe looks on in horror as Curly eats the rest of the lipstick... rather daintily. Not like a working man would have, anyhow. Curly looks over to see an angry Moe and does a double take, but does not receive a beating. Moe's a gentleman for once. Moe and Larry continue to pitch woo, and both go in for the proverbial kill to grab Lulu's hand. They end up grabbing each other's hands. Lulu at this point uses both of her hands to fix her hair. Moe is the first to realize what's happening, while Larry is still in the throes of his schoolgirl crush. Moe plucks a hair from Lawrence's hand. Scandalous. Simply scandalous. I'm surprised the Hays Board let this slip through the cracks.
The mime lessons continues. Emil Sitka (Sapington, the Butler), brings in trays of imaginary food. Larry crunches some imaginary celery quite loudly. Curly pops some imaginary olives quite loudly. Moe gives Curly a karate chop in the throat. Curly loudly drinks an imaginary glass of water. Curly complains that all this imaginary food is giving him real hunger pangs. Moe must be getting hungry too, as he tries to take a bite out of Curly's nose. What an uncultured savage.
Then, the soup arrives. This receives more reactions of shock than even the celery and olives. But, the boys dig in anyway. Larry burns his mouth on his imaginary soup. Moe and Curly slurp up their imaginary soup as loudly as possible. This part would be fun to watch with your rich friends as they recoil in horror at the lowbrow-ness of it all. Vernon, thankfully, intervenes, saying "Boys! BOYS!!!" Oh, I forgot the S.J. Perelman joke: Curly cries out "There's a hair in my soup!" Moe says "Well, that's neither hair nor there." I cut right to the chase on that one; sorry. Anyway, now it's time for lamb chops. Curly digs into his main course, but is able to sneak away from the table to get some actual food: he drinks from the cat's bowl of milk! Awwww.... he rudely pushes the cat aside. They got two cats! Lucky.
Cross-fade to next scene: the reading lesson. Moe begins. His book's upside down, and he reads "Tar yttridae eth say glug zap snorglotz rammatz. Ranasance keberetz.... OH!" Lmfao. That's as close as I can get, I'm afraid. Vernon turns the book the right way. On to more English-sounding words. "See the cat. Does the mouse see the cat? Yes, the doity rat!" Larry says "Don't get personal!" Curly reads a passage as well. Larry goes in for the punchline, and gets the ol' backhand fist in the forehead. Hard to miss Larry's forehead. Moe doesn't even have to look! Now it's Larry's turn. "Oh see the pretty cat. Does the pretty cat have chickens?" Vernon says "That's 'kittens.' A cat does not have chickens." Dude, Vernon's pissed now! Larry doubles down: "Well, I had a cat that got into the chicken house, and that cat had chickens!" It's the straw that breaks Vernon's spirit. He rips his hair out and says "I don't know why I ever took this onto myself." Curly tries to put Vernon's ripped-out hair onto his own head. Moe gives Curly a slap just before the fade to black ends.
Scene: the big dinner party where everything turns to sh... "No thank you, Sapington," says Lulu. And then, the Stooges emerge from behind the magic curtain with Professor Quackenbush in the lead. The Stooges seem to have been miraculously transformed into erudite high society types! It can't be! Is this the end of the Stooges as we know them? Is it nothing but fancy wordplay from here on out?
Fortunately for us, the façade begins to crack, and it's all thanks to Curly, who hasn't quite mastered the art of the thesaurus-enhanced vocabulary. Twice he screws up. The boys quickly exit Stage Right away from the two battle axes they got introduced to. The two learned men talk briefly. "I hope you've got your checkbook ready," boasts Professor Quackenbush. Missing the early warning signs, Professor 'Broken Jaw' Sedletz says "It's a miracle... but the evening's still young!"
The Stooges go over to Lulu, who introduces Mrs. Smythe-Smythe (Symona Boniface). Moe says "Very very happy happy!" Curly, meanwhile, is well on his way to slip-sliding away, going for the easy thrills and unable to hold out for the economic incentive at the end. Daniel Goleman's worst nightmare. He pockets a whole bottle of "Shap-pag-knee" all for himself. Quackenbush must've used the "austerity only" plan to turn the Stooges into gentlemen. Larry mentions the reform school at about 4:11. He held out as long as he could, but it's one of his trademark memes. It can't be helped. Moe sees what Curly's up to and says, sternly, "Oh, Curlington!" Curly comes over to Moe's side, saying "Yes-ington?" Moe introduces Smythe-Smythe to Curly. She offers Curly her hand. Curly goes to kiss Smythe-Smythe's hand, but instead opts to bite the giant stone off her ring. She totally doesn't notice. I guess it's only natural when fresh faces are introduced into the same old boring high society. The Stooges find a curtain to hide behind.
Next scene: behind the curtain, where the gentlemanly façade quickly drops, as does the load of silverware Curly's hiding under his jacket. Animal Crackers, anyone? I can't understand what's keeping that coffee pot! A few seconds later, Moe kicks Curly right in the champagne bottle, and Larry gets sprayed with it for about two seconds. He looks pissed. Moe grabs a throw rug to quickly cover up the silverware, and knocks a guy over who's trying to light a dame's cigarette. Vernon Dent finds the Stooges and takes them back to the killing floor... I mean, the party proper. Party pooper?
Curly continues his slide down the slippery slope back to his normal self when he grabs a pie from Emil Sitka's tray. He goes in for a bite, but Moe of course stops him at the last second, calling him a "petty larceny Stooge." Moe sends Curly away, and takes it upon himself to dispose of the pie. He's about to gently place it under the couch cushions, but decides against it, deciding instead to throw it up against the ceiling where no one will ever see it ever again.....
Next scene: Mrs. Smythe-Smythe tells Lulu that she wants to speak to one of these "young men" who have undergone this bold experiment. Of course, she picks Moe first, who's still sweating over the tell-tale ceiling pie. Moe tries to warn Smythe-Smythe about the impending pastry-related danger, but she doesn't pick up on Moe's very subtle hints. Did you catch that she mentioned earlier that she's allergic to pastry? It kind of dampers the comedy to come, but I'm still a sucker for the sounds a person makes when hit in the face with a pie. In this case, they don't come much better than Smythe-Smythe's hit at 6:30 which sets off a veritable pie-throwing orgy.
Not yet, though. Not enough kindling to start this fire. Moe's standing next to a different gal, and he sees Larry eating a pie in the same manner Curly tried to earlier. Moe gives Larry a swift kick in the ass, and hits his pie-holding hand. The pie flies away into the face of Stooge regular Al Thompson. Al goes over to the pastry table and tries to hit Larry with a pie. Larry ducks, and Moe gets a pie on the left side of his face. The pie fight's slowly reaching critical mass. We hear the sounds of girls screaming, as though they've just seen Godzilla.
Several more people get hit with pies, including Stooge regular Victor Travers, who doesn't wake up.
The two professors have missed all the fun until now, and once they emerge from behind the curtain and see the pastry-fueled mayhem, Sedletz gets a pie in his face. Quackenbush is quick to give back the check, conceding to the 'heredity' argument once and for all. Professor Sedletz wipes the pie off his face and says "And I've learned something too!" Professor Quackenbush asks, "What's that?"
As for the Stooges, well, the show goes on without Curly. He doesn't get to do his usual routine where he winds up to throw a pastry, only to get hit in the face. Does it only happen in the Hoi Polloi remakes? If only someone was keeping track of these things. Needles to say, this pie fight was so good, I have a feeling we'll see it a few more times down the road, especially the very last scene, where Larry gets a little payback. He hits Moe in the head with a pie. Moe goes for a pie, and Larry ducks. Moe ducks down, too, and hits Larry with the pie anyway. Moe then proceeds to wash his face using the punch bowl. Even the high society types gotta do that sometimes themselves.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan
Good double bill with: Trading Places. At least, for the philosophical shouting matches that will result afterwards