As far as slapstick is concerned, The Three Stooges stand alone as the quintessential purveyors of the comedic gag. They transformed low brow humor into an art form all its own, bringing their vaudevillian act to the screen for an impressive thirty-seven years. Their work takes on a near-archetypal significance in the history of American comedy: No one forged such wicked chemistry, no one managed to make violence so artful, no one found themselves in such awkward scenarios.
Moe Howard was the cranky boss, always barking orders and taking responsibility for situations that are inevitably bound for doom. Jerry “Curly” Howard was the naove whipping boy of the troop, though no one has ever matched Curly’s ability to perform the frustrated scapegoat so innocently and unironically. Joining from the flank was Larry Fine, who was quite willing to impart his sense of justice on the unsuspecting Curly as the sycophant to the tyrannous Moe. Together, the original three stooges crafted a formula for comedy that even today remains profoundly original and witty. Their mix of madness and mayhem has indeed stood the test of time.
The history of the troop is one of both ingenuity and luck. Traces of the Stooge style began when Moe Howard worked on the vaudeville circuit worked with childhood friend Ted Healy. As part of the performance, Moe would interrupt and rag on Healy’s performance. One day, Moe’s brother Shemp Howard saw the performance and was bullied into the shenanigans. On a fateful evening in 1925, the three met Larry Fine–a violinist from a musical act called Haney Sisters and Fine–and Ted Healy & His Stooges were born. They were a hit on the American vaudeville circuit; they even made Broadway. They were so popular, in fact, that they even made a film in the height of the Depression: 1930’s “Soup to Nuts.”
Healy soon took a better position at MGM and Shemp began working for Vitaphone in New York. Shemp was then replaced by his and Moe’s younger brother Jerry Howard. Playing the irreverent “Curly,” the bald man without a plan took the role by storm, vaulting the Three Stooges to heretofore unseen comedic heights. Soon enough, they were making shorts for Columbia Pictures. “Men in Black,” their second short directed by Ray McCarey, was even nominated for an Academy Award in 1934.
Throughout their forty years of comedic brilliance, The Three Stooges worked with many directors. They first established themselves as a force to be reckoned with working with director Del Lord. In classics like “Dutiful but Dumb” and “An Ache in Every Stake” from the early 1940’s, the directorial flair he had for quick narration added to the troupe’s slapstick style, creating sound comedic chemistry.
The Stooges worked with many other directors, Charley Chase and Edward Bernds to name a few,but often their act depended on impromprovisational talent. For instance, “Curly’s” classic “woo-woo-woo” began as a slip up when he forgot one of his lines in Men in Black.
Despite shifting directors and changes in cast–Curly was hospitalized in the forties and was again replaced by Shemp, who was then replaced by Joe DeRita in 1958–The Stooges managed to continue performing for many years. They always experimented with different forms of comedy, mixing political satire, romantic screw-ups and fraternal bashing with unmatched irreverent wit. The troupe retired in 1975 when Moe Howard died of lung cancer.
Classic Movie Quotes: Star Wars – May the Force be with you
The Line: “May the Force be with you.”
Who Said It: Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi–among others–in 1977’s Star Wars.
The Setup: George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise became a cinematic entity that made Hollywood history with with prequels, sequels and billions of dollars in licensed merchandise, ranging from miniature spaceships to vinyl wallpaper.
The Payoff: In 1978, a paper presented at the eighth annual convention of the Popular Culture Association reported 46 percent of Americans were baffled by the concept of “the Force,” a confusion widely shared by the organization’s 2,000 members. Some academics saw it as simple Manichaean dualism, others as Orthodox Christianity or Hollywood Zen. Fraser Snowden of Louisiana’s Northwestern State University argued with some passion that the Force derives from “the impersonal bipolar absolute of Chinese Taoism and the all encompassing ki energy field of the Japanese art of aikido.” He offered to teach how to experience the Force. Most conventioneers decided they had other engagements.
Classic TV Revisited: Breakfast Time and TV-am
In another of our Classic TV Revisited moments we take a look at the early days of breakfast TV in the UK with Breakfast Time and TV-am.
Channel: ITV, February 1983 and BBC1, January 17, 1983
Starring: Frank Bough, Selina Scott, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford, Robert Kee.
A long forgotten 30 odd years each.
Very, very dated morning news programmes.
The first breakfast TV shows in British history.
Why were they so good?
To be frank, they weren’t.
To say both had teething problems would be to underestimate the financial and personal wars that ensued.
They must have sounded like good ideas at the time?
Yes, they were top-class homages to American networked morning shows.
Soothing, a bit shallow and generally cheesy, then?
Who were the stars?
Selina Scott joined nice “uncle” Frank Bough on BBC1’s Breakfast Time from January 17, 1983.
And on ITV?
The Famous Five – Rippon, Parkinson, Frost, Kee and Ford.
So what happened?
The BBC kicked off with a mix of news, sport and funnies, introduced by Bough and Scott.
No, Bough. Scott was a smooth-as-silk Princess Diana clone who wore rather funny nanny-style dresses.
Wasn’t there a funny lady who looked like an enthusiastic cucumber?
I think you’re referring to Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess. She became the real star even though Nick Ross was on hand to add gravitas.
Tell me more about the Goddess.
Diana Moran was our answer to Jane Fonda.
Of course. But we still felt those burns.
She wasn’t famous, then?
Not really. BBC bosses saw her working on HTV in her green gear and snapped her up.
What about TV-am?
Its first broadcast was in February 1983. David Frost promised viewers a bowl full of news and showbizz. Fellow TV-am man Peter Jay said he had a “mission to explain”.
But it all turned sour?
And bitter. The ratings went soggy.
Peter Jay quit after only six weeks. By April, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon were sacked. Robert Kee and Michael Parkinson stuck around.
But didn’t TV-am survive?
Yes it did. A then little-known TV exec called Greg Dyke decided to introduce Roland Rat.
Don’t tell me it worked.
He was the rat’s whiskers. Anne Diamond arrived with that very pleasant chap Nick Owen.
They had Selina and Frank trapped. When Roland and his pal Kevin the gerbil appeared in the school holidays in April 1983 ratings rose by a whopping 52%. Anne and Nick owe an awful lot to those puppets.
Didn’t Frank have a spot of bother in 1987?
Indeed he did, but you’ll have to do your own research on that.
Want some coke with that rum, Frank? Mr Bough can’t talk to you now, he’s a bit tied up.
That’s the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship.
Not to be confused with:
Breakfast with Frost, Today, Farming Today, The Rat Catchers.
Movie Tens: James Dean
Even sixty years plus after his death actor James Dean continues to fascinate, here are ten facts you may not know about the iconic star.
James Dean was nominated for two posthumous Best Actor Oscars: In 1956, for East of Eden (he lost to Ernest Borgnine in Marty), and in 1957 for Giant (he lost to Yul Brynner in The King and I).
Jimmy was not speeding when he was killed on California’s Highway 466. (He was struck head-on by a Ford station wagon, driven by Donald Turnupseed, 23. ) Although Dean had received a speeding ticket an hour earlier, it has since been proven he was actually driving 60 to 65 mph when the accident occurred.
Jimmy was set to star in two films at the time of his death: The Left-Handed Gun: Billy the Kid’s Story and Somebody Up There Likes Me, about the life of boxer Rocky Graziano. Both roles were filled by Dean competitor Paul Newman.
Jimmy often referred to himself as “the little bastard,” a name he had painted on the back of his Porsche Spyder days before his death.
In November 1951, struggling actor Dean worked as an offscreen stunt tester on the N.Y.-based TV game show Beat the Clock.
Before his three starring film roles, Jimmy had bit parts in Fixed Bayonets, Sailor Beware and Has Anybody Seen My Gal?
Rumors have always run rampant that Jimmy had homosexual relationships. When asked about it, he answered enigmatically, “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”
Jimmy’s famous red jacket from Rebel was purchased from Mattson’s department store on Hollywood Boulevard. Following his death, the store hiked the price on the jackets to a then exorbitant $22.95. Warner Bros. actually bought two of them for filming. Afterward, Jimmy gave one to his friend, composer Leonard Rosenman, who wore it until it fell apart. Nobody knows what happened to the other.
A week before his death, Jimmy ran into one of his favorite actors, Alec Guinness, at Hollywood’s Villa Capri. When an excited Dean showed Guinness his new Porsche Spyder, the British star begged him to get rid of it, saying Dean wouldn’t live long if he kept the car.
When Jimmy finally met his idol, Marlon Brando, at a party, he acted so strangely Brando told Leonard Rosenman that Jimmy needed to see a psychiatrist. Jimmy was already in therapy at the time.
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