Listen: David J. Hogan on Pop Culture Tonight

David J. Hogan, author of the Wizard of Oz FAQ visits “Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips” to discuss “all that’s left to know about life, according to Oz!”

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00120812The Wizard of Oz FAQ is a fact-filled celebration of the beloved 1939 fantasy masterpiece starring Judy Garland. It’s all here – from L. Frank Baum and his Oz novels to the complete background story of the movie’s conception, development, and shoot, with special attention given to the little-known parade of uncredited directors, casting difficulties, and on-set accidents and gaffes, as well as more than 75 sidebars devoted to key cast members, directors, and other behind-the-scenes personnel.

You’ll find a wealth of fun facts: How MGM overworked Judy Garland before, during, and after Oz; why director Victor Fleming had his hands full with the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy’s other friends; what it was about Toto that really bothered Judy; the physical horrors of filming in Technicolor; the racial Oz gag that was scripted but never shot; when the Wicked Witch was going to be beautiful; why The Wizard of Oz owes a lot to silent-screen star Mary Pickford; the story of deleted scenes, and a full two weeks of shooting that had to be scrapped; why MGM star Mickey Rooney was part of the movie’s traveling publicity blitz; how the Wicked Witch was literally blown off her broomstick one day; the place where lions, tigers, and bears really do live together; singers you hear but never see; the day MGM fired Judy Garland; and much more. Just follow the yellow brick road!

Happy Birthday, Moe Howard!

Happy birthday to Moe Howard! This incredibe Stooge  remains forever a legend of the big screen and of the vaudeville scene. The extraordinary professionalism of the Three Stooges came from the boys’ long experience as song pluggers, backstage helpers, and comic performers in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in early sound cinema. The following excerpt from Three Stooges FAQ delves into the grinding nature of showbiz during the era of the Three Stooges, and the business mentalities the performers had to adapt in order to achieve their timeless successes.

00314839Vaudeville theaters (many of which doubled as movie theaters) ran live acts much of the day and into the night. Top acts would headline, with lesser acts filling out the bill. Because of the theater’s long hours of operation, the venues were hungry for talent. Opportunity existed for the able, but most vaudevillians remained relatively obscure. Some topped the bills of came near to the top. A few made the transition to Broadway and to radio. And a very few stepped up to movies, gaining vast audiences. But even for featured acts, fame was relatively brief: who today recalls “International Juggling Humorist” Billy Rayes or the “Cantonese Capers” of Larry and Trudy Leung? Vaudeville performers who remain popular and fondly recalled today – such giants as Milton Berle, Abbott and Costello, Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Buster Keaton, and the Three Stooges – are special and rare.

Doggedness was vital to survival and success on the vaudeville circuit. Depending on one’s budget, train travel could be pleasant, or cramped and uncomfortable. Just to get from here to there ate up a lot of time. Backstage, many theaters were dumps with dirty, primitive dressing rooms and awful accommodations. (A notable exception recalled by Moe in the still-gorgeous Palace Theater in Cleveland, which was a grand backstage as it was out front.)

While on the road, stars lived in hotels. Lesser lights made do with lesser hotels, or boardinghouses. It was showbiz, but it wasn’t glamorous. For all, it was a job, and for some, it was a grind.

Most vaudevillians gulped greasy, inexpensive food, and had to contend with demanding theater managers, horny showgirls, abusive patrons, and acts that waited for moments to upstage rivals. The performers who prospered were the ones who loved their art. They didn’t love many aspects of “the life,” but they loved what they did on stage.

Moe, Larry, Shemp, Curly, and Joe loved it, and developed district personas that jibed in intriguing ways with their real selves.

Moe: an inherently serious performer with a sharp interest in the numbers side of the business, the group’s de facto leader, and the one who was prudent enough to end up with a gorgeous estate above Sunset Boulevard. On stage, he seemed comically boyish with his sugar-bowl haircut, yet he was startlingly pugnacious and impatient, quick to poke and slap those he considered rivals or inferiors.

Larry: a habitué of racetracks who loved fine clothes as much as he loved the ponies. He and his wife were for many years residents of Hollywood’s highly regarded Hotel Knickerbocker. In performance, Larry was faintly absurd with his frizzed-out curls and blandly smiling face, but he was one of the most brilliantly “reactive” comics of the 20th century. He never purposely stole a scene, but he was always up to something amusing, even when physically situated in the background.

Shemp: a famously funny Hollywood raconteur. Mickey Rooney told the fine historian Ted Okuda that whenever he spotted Shemp holding court in a restaurant, Rooney and his group invariably requested a table nearby, so they could listen in, and laugh. Although Shemp dealt professionally in a fast-talking worldliness, his real-life persona was kind and approachable. He was probably the most purely brilliant of all the Stooges, with a remarkable facility to think on his feet and ad-lib.

Curly: the “baby” of the Howard brothers, an antic lover of life often described (rather too glibly) as a “man-child.” He was connected to family, and found his greatest pleasures in women, dogs, and automobiles. A fine dancer and a comic with astoundingly inventive physical skills, he influenced generations of comics that came later, from the great Lou Costello to Jim Carrey. Curly’s stage persona was apparently a reflection of his true personality, with hyper energy, boundless enthusiasm, and a lovable quality that friends, family, and his public found hugely endearing.

Joe: like Shemp, he was impressively successful for years as a solo before he became a Stooge, working as a headliner in vaudeville and on Broadway. Stout and balding, he exploited his cherub’s face and body with cheerful cleverness. His carefully developed “sissy kid” persona slayed live audiences, and made him a refreshing addition to a latter-day incarnation of the Stooges.

 

Happy Birthday, Curly Howard

Today is the birthday of another Stooge – Curly. Below is some choice dialogue featured in the Three Stooges FAQby David J. Hogan.

From Cash and Carry (1937):

CON MAN

Just a minute! It’ll cost you two hundred for the privilege of digging it up!

CURLY

Two hundred?

CON MAN
Two hundred or nothin’!

CURLY

Oh, we’ll take it for nothin’!

From Nutty but Nice (1940)

CURLY (apparently impaled by a spear)

I’m stabbed! I’m dead! I’m murdered, I’m killed! I’m annihilated! What’ll the world do without me? What’ll do without myself? I’m slaughtered, I’m annihilated, I’m destroyed! I’m barbecued, I’m done for! [Pause]

[to Moe] Can you think of anything else?

MOE

No, you’ve covered it all!

CURLY

I’m not even wounded?

MOE

That’s what you think!

From Rhythm and Weep (1946)

CURLY

Look look look look! Those two men down there! They’re my uncles!

MOE

Your uncles?

CURLY

Yeah!

MOE

They look like ants!

CURLY

They got aunts in their -

(Before he can say “pants,” a slap from Moe cuts him short)

Three Stooges FAQ

This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Detailed production and critical coverage is provided for every short, plus information about each film’s place in the Stooges’ careers, in Hollywood genre filmmaking, and in the larger fabric of American culture. From Depression-era concerns to class warfare to World War II to the cold war to rock-and-roll – the Stooges reflected them all.

Seventy-five stills, posters, and other images – many never before published in book form – bring colorful screen moments to life and help illuminate the special appeal of key shorts. Exclusive sections include a Stooges biographical and career timeline; a useful, colorful history of the structure and behind-the-camera personnel of the Columbia two-reel unit; and personality sidebars about more than 30 popular players who worked frequently with the Stooges. Also included is a filmography that covers all 190 shorts, plus a bibliography, making this the ultimate guide for all Three Stooges fans!

Happy Birthday, Larry!

Today is Larry Fine’s birthday. Below are a few facts about Larry and an excerpt from Three Stooges FAQ, by David J. Hogan. Enjoy!

 3 Facts You May Not Know about Louis Feinberg (aka Larry Fine)

1. Larry was “a habitué of racetracks who loved fine clothes as much as he loved the ponies.”

2. Larry could play the violin and dance. He also worked as a song plugger, selling sheet music to vaudeville performers and others.

3. Larry wrote an autobiography, titled Stroke of Luck.

And now, an excerpt about The Three Stooges short Goof on the Roof (1953), in which the Stooges’ encounter some problems while attempting to install a television:

“Larry is all about dogged determination after stepping on a control knob and bending the extender that connects the knob to the set’s tuner. He attempts to hammer the tube straight by holding it against a wall but only manages to create a shocking hole – and drop the knob inside the wall in the bargain. But he’s determined to retrieve this vital piece, so after a while the wall has been hammered so vigorously that it appears to have been ravaged by a crackbrained picturehanger.

Larry can’t spot the knob, so he foolishly peers into one of the holes with a lighted match. Moe scolds him for inviting a fire and then carelessly tosses Larry’s match through the hole.

The subsequent smoldering fire invites some good physical gags with a tiny fire extinguisher and a knotted garden hose that’s attached to the kitchen faucet. The bit climaxes when Moe furiously sticks the gushing hose down the front of Shemp’s pants.

Shemp, like Larry, is in never-say-die mode and makes his way with the antenna to the roof of the house, where he batters the chimney into pieces (which conk Larry after he sticks his head from a window to see what the heck is going on), and later pounds a hole into the roof with such vigor that he plummets through the ceiling below. “I faw down!” he says apologetically.

Three Stooges FAQ

This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Detailed production and critical coverage is provided for every short, plus information about each film’s place in the Stooges’ careers, in Hollywood genre filmmaking, and in the larger fabric of American culture. From Depression-era concerns to class warfare to World War II to the cold war to rock-and-roll – the Stooges reflected them all.

Seventy-five stills, posters, and other images – many never before published in book form – bring colorful screen moments to life and help illuminate the special appeal of key shorts. Exclusive sections include a Stooges biographical and career timeline; a useful, colorful history of the structure and behind-the-camera personnel of the Columbia two-reel unit; and personality sidebars about more than 30 popular players who worked frequently with the Stooges. Also included is a filmography that covers all 190 shorts, plus a bibliography, making this the ultimate guide for all Three Stooges fans!

Moe Howard and Milestones of Science

Today is Moe Howard’s birthday!

Guest Blogger: David J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ , writes a little something in honor of the ornery Stooge with the bowl haircut. Enjoy!

Study the swirls and eddies of history long enough, and you’ll uncover intriguing, often unexpected links between scientists, scientific discovery, and science’s practical applications. The history of science is very plastic, existing in a state of continual evolution, building upon its past to enliven the present and presage the future.

Across the many centuries, obvious giants stand out: Archimedes and Copernicus. Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Thomas Edison and Stephen Hawking.

Moe Howard.

Oh, I can hear the snorts of disbelief. Well, that’s fine, that’s good. Scientific minds should be skeptical. But disputes can be resolved via solid scientific inquiry, so open your scientific journals to page 1 and follow along:

  • In 240 BCE, the Greek astronomer and mathematician Eratosthenes utilized measurement and geometry to show that the Earth is curved. In 1957, Moe pilots the spaceship built by dotty Prof. Rimple, blasting into space (“We’re above the world!” Larry cries) to reveal that Earth is indeed round. (Space Ship Sappy)
  •  As part of a modernization project in 1816, Baltimore’s city council granted permission for the Gas Light Company to lay miles of gas pipe. When Moe and the boys impersonate cooks in 1941, and try to come up with dinner for a houseful of swells, Larry collapses a birthday cake after puncturing it with a fork. Thinking quickly, Moe hooks the cake to a kitchen gas line and orders Larry to “Pump in four more slices!” The cake shortly explodes all over the guests, but, really, is that Moe’s problem? (An Ache in Every Stake)
  • Michigan astronomer Robert R. McMath took the first film footage of sun spots in 1934. His achievement rested partly on his ability to utilize complex instruments—in this case, the spectroheliokinematograph. Pressed into off-the-cuff surgery in 1946, Moe makes handy use of instruments that would have astonished McMath: the trectahomlachtameter and the even more wondrous hamadanaseenafarin. Meanwhile, the unanesthetized patient (Curly) struggles to retain a shred of composure. (Monkey Businessmen)
  • In 1977, following years of effort by 70,000 scientists, engineers, and construction workers, the Trans-Alaska pipeline began pumping oil on an 800-mile journey southward, from Alaska’s North Slope, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, to the Alaskan port city of Valdez.  In 1939, the scientifically inclined Moe briefly waggles a screwdriver in the spout of a water pump and unleashes an unending gusher of black gold. (Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise)
  • A 1987 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Louisiana’s creationism education law, by which the state mandated that, if evolution were taught in public schools, creationism must be taught, as well. Evolution and creationism collide head-on in 1948, as the cavemen Stooges bathe, hunt, and rescue their cavegirl mates from marauding rivals. Moe slathers his head with lard and combs his hair with a fish’s spine. Later, he babbles like a 20th-century teenager while enthusing about his prehistoric sweetheart. (I’m a Monkey’s Uncle)

Each of the real-life scientific accomplishments noted above occurred on June 19, Moe Howard’s birthday. Vectors of science and history, coming together!

Happy 116th, Moe! The world can never repay you for your lifetime devotion to big science and, of course, big laffs.

Three Stooges FAQ

This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Detailed production and critical coverage is provided for every short, plus information about each film’s place in the Stooges’ careers, in Hollywood genre filmmaking, and in the larger fabric of American culture. From Depression-era concerns to class warfare to World War II to the cold war to rock-and-roll – the Stooges reflected them all.

Seventy-five stills, posters, and other images – many never before published in book form – bring colorful screen moments to life and help illuminate the special appeal of key shorts. Exclusive sections include a Stooges biographical and career timeline; a useful, colorful history of the structure and behind-the-camera personnel of the Columbia two-reel unit; and personality sidebars about more than 30 popular players who worked frequently with the Stooges. Also included is a filmography that covers all 190 shorts, plus a bibliography, making this the ultimate guide for all Three Stooges fans!

Gender Wars and Some Big Ideas from Howard Hughes

The following is an excerpt from Film Noir FAQ by David J. Hogan, as posted on Bookgasm. Visit Bookgasm to read this entire excerpt.

One of the most highly regarded films noir, RKO’s The Narrow Margin (1952), came perilously close to oblivion after being completed. During thirteen days in May–June 1950, studio contract director Richard Fleischer shot the suspenseful story of a Chicago police detective who risks his life to transport a hoodlum’s wife to Los Angeles, via train, so that she can be a witness in a mob trial.

Most of The Narrow Margin is restricted to the train’s passenger cars, a marvelous construction of claustrophobic sets (by Albert S. D’Agostino and Jack Okey) with breakaway sections that allowed full camera access. The narrative is tense, and although many interludes are violent, the tale isn’t contrived. After the shoot was complete, RKO owner Howard Hughes suggested, with great enthusiasm, that the male protagonist, Detective Sergeant Walt Brown (Charles McGraw) leave his charge (Marie Windsor) in order to conduct a (literally) running gun battle with murderous mobsterson top of the train, as in innumerable westerns. Though cinematic, the added sequence would have removed the story from the realm of the plausible and turned it into a comic book adventure. Richard Fleischer thought it was one of the worst ideas he’d ever heard.

Well, Hughes abandoned that notion. Then he came up with a bigger one. Because The Narrow Margin had turned out so well, Hughes wanted to scrap all footage with McGraw and Windsor. The editors would salvage as many other sequences as possible, and the leads would be recast with RKO’s two biggest assets, Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. In a commercial sense, the idea wasn’t without merit, but it would obviously have meant the destruction of an exceptionally well-done B thriller. Fleischer, still typecast around the studio as a B-picture director, would probably have been cut out of the revamped project. He knew he could do Bs and ached to step up to the A-picture level. Hughes’s idea would be a setback to Fleischer’s career, particularly because rumors would spread that the McGraw-Windsor footage was deficient. Fortunately, the ceaseless activity of Howard Hughes’s mind brought with it some positive ramifications. Project ideas, endless memos with editorial revisions, a never-ending search for new starlets—all of that and more bubbled in his head like a stew. He eventually decided against—or simply forgot—the Mitchum-Russell idea, but time had passed. The Narrow Margin had been sitting on the shelf for nearly eighteen months.

Keep reading this excerpt on Bookgasm.com! 

Film Noir FAQ celebrates and reappraises some 200 noir thrillers representing 20 years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Noir pulls us close to brutal cops and scheming dames, desperate heist men and hardboiled private eyes, and the unlucky innocent citizens that get in their way. These are exciting movies with tough guys in trench coats and hot tomatoes in form-fitting gowns. The moon is a streetlamp and the narrow streets are prowled by squad cars and long black limousines. Lives are often small but people’s plans are big – sometimes too big. Robbery, murder, gambling; the gun and the fist; the grift and the con game; the hard kiss and the brutal brush-off.

Three Stooges, an interview

Happy Birthday, Moe Howard!
Moe would have been 115 years old today.

Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, David J. Hogan talks about his book Three Stooges FAQ with FAQ series editor Robert Rodriguez.

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Daivd J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ, chats with FAQ series editor Robert Rodriguez about everybody’s favorite “boys,” the kings of slapstick, and how they are a product of their time and an insight into American history.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

Three Stooges FAQ is an entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Interview with David J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ

David J. Hogan is the author of Three Stooges FAQ.

Here’s a taste of the interview from Skewed ‘n Reviewed.

How did you get into the Stooges and become an expert on them?

Like a lot of Baby Boomers, I became a second-generation Stooges fan when the boys’ shorts (two-reelers) were sold to television by Columbia in the very late 1950s. Over the years, my interest in film grew. I’ve worked in Los Angeles as an entertainment journalist (spent many hours on film sets and locations), and have written three other film-related books besides THREE STOOGES FAQ.

(I’m at work now on another.) Published hundreds of film reviews and articles in various magazines for more than 35 years. Along with all of that, I guess my interest in the Stooges, and in the finer points of comedy, continued to grow and evolve.I struck up correspondences with Moe Howard and Larry Fine in the early ’70s, and began to watch their films very closely, from a fan’s perspective, and from that of a film & cultural historian.

What are your thoughts on the new film as well as the casting choices?

The very idea that the Farrelly Bros. would even attempt a new-version Stooges film is ballsy–and I give them credit for it. From what I can judge after seeing the trailers, the principal casting looks pretty inspired. I like the fact that none of the actors are established stars. Audiences will be better able to buy them as the Stooges than if some earlier casting notions, such as Sean Penn, had been pursued.

Since slapstick is considered a faded form of comedy, to what to you attribute the continued appeal of the Stooges?

I disagree that slapstick has faded. The term itself is a little antiquated, but there’s been no lack of outlandish physical humor in movies of the past 30 years. The Stooges’ continued appeal has to do with a lot of things: the boys’ impeccable professionalism (I never saw any of them turn in a lazy performance), their wonderfully individuated personas, the contributions of hugely experienced comedy writers and directors, the boys’ physicality and sheer enthusiasm, the slickness provided by Columbia, a large studio–and the fact that we still call these comics, who reached their peak as middle-aged men, and who continued to work into their golden years, the boys!

Keep reading on Skewed ‘n Reviewed

Three Stooges FAQ

Seventy-five stills, posters, and other images – many never before published in book form – bring colorful screen moments to life and help illuminate the special appeal of key shorts. Exclusive sections include a Stooges biographical and career timeline; a useful, colorful history of the structure and behind-the-camera personnel of the Columbia two-reel unit; and personality sidebars about more than 30 popular players who worked frequently with the Stooges. Also included is a filmography that covers all 190 shorts, plus a bibliography, making this the ultimate guide for all Three Stooges fans!

The State of the Stooges, 2012

Guest Blogger: David J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ (Applause Books)

Producer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly formally began their quest to make a Three Stooges feature film more than 15 years ago. The idea had commercial merit, but as often happens in Hollywood, years passed as the project was considered by numerous studios and went through many script drafts. Rumors swirled that such luminaries as Sean Penn and Jim Carrey were attached to the project, but windows of opportunity closed and those actors removed themselves from consideration. For a long while the odds were that the film would never be made at all.

Things finally came together when 20th Century-Fox involved itself and greenlighted the project. In a smart stroke, the Farrellys (best known for There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin, and Dumb and Dumber) selected relative unknowns to play the boys in the all-new Stooges comedy: Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly, and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe.

The actors don’t do interpretations of the Stooges—they become the Stooges. This is beyond homage, this is duplication, and your willingness to accept it will play a large part in your reaction to the movie.

There certainly was no crying need for new actors to become the Stooges, but they did, and they deliver energetic, astonishingly faithful performances. Hayes has mastered Larry’s Philly accent, Sasso nails Curly’s piping voice and physical antics, and Diamantopoulos channels not just Moe’s bark but the great comic’s pugnacious body language. The violently slapstick gags draw directly from the originals, and audio of those fabulous Columbia Pictures eye pokes and other sound effects are retained.

I saw the film with a mix of longtime Stooges fans, teenagers, and younger kids. My observation was that the younger the viewer, the more enthusiastic the response. (On the way out, a boy of about 12 happily declared, “That was the funniest movie I ever saw!”)

For my part, I laughed heartily at plenty of the gags, and the quick pace with which they’re delivered. A visual joke involving a pogo stick put me on the floor, and a sequence at the boys’ salmon farm is outlandishly funny. For much of the rest of the picture, I chuckled. Sometimes I merely smiled.

The Three Stooges is undone by a few hugely noticeable creative miscalculations. First, too much time is devoted to the Stooges as little boys, as they grow up in an orphanage. The three young actors go through their paces effectively enough, but I wasn’t interested in seeing the boys as real boys.

Another narrative speed bump is the serious financial plight of the orphanage after the Stooges are all grown up. The place is $830,000 in debt (mainly, it turns out, because of damage caused by the Stooges over the course of 35 years). Precious minutes are squandered on adorably cute, waif-like orphans who long to be adopted by nice families. It’s pretty sticky stuff, and at odds with the original Stooges, who seldom trafficked in sentimentality. (For that matter, they seldom worked with kids.) When they did go all gooey, as in Three Loan Wolves (1946) and the particularly dire Nutty But Nice (1940), the results were some of the weakest two-reelers the team ever made. So the Farrellys’ decision to go maudlin—there’s even a little girl who’s dying—openly defies one of the boys’ strengths.

Although the slapstick bits are ferociously fast and beautifully executed, the interludes between feel slack, as if the picture has too much plot and can’t support its slim 92-minute running time. The Farrellys’ idea to divide the film into three, clearly identified episodes is a good one, but even with that innovation the pace flags when the boys aren’t on the attack. The overall rhythm picks up during the film’s final third, but the energy just arrives a little late.

Finally, the film can’t avoid the evolution of film grammar. The Farrellys shoot their picture in the modern mode, with a highly mobile camera, frequent tight closeups, brisk cutting, heavy camera coverage from many angles, subjective-camera images, and complex (and expensive) physical effects, such as the incredible arc and distance achieved by a poor sap who’s hit by a bus.

These and other devices are part of every modern filmmaker’s storytelling repertoire, but when the original Stooges shot their two-reelers during 1934-57, film grammar was different, and budgets were low. In the vintage shorts, most camera setups are static three- and two-shots, with occasional cuts to medium closeups. The shorts’ directors hadn’t the time, money, or inclination to attempt a lot of camera movement or design sequences for slick edits. Instead of having the gloss of the Farrellys’ movie, most of the shorts display a pleasingly gritty, off-the-rack look. And they were in black and white, which firmly locks them—and the Stooges—into a particular era.

Naturally, no accountant (or whatever it is that passes for a studio executive these days) was going to allow the new Three Stooges to be shot in black and white (and that’s a shame), and the old film grammar is gone forever. We can still enjoy that style of filmmaking, but it won’t be duplicated on a studio film today. So although the new Stooges look and sound very much like the originals, the tech and stylistic aspects of the filmic world they inhabit have no relation to the world of the shorts. Up there on the big screen in 2012, the boys seem overwhelmed.

Lastly, I wish I hadn’t seen the trailers because a lot of the best gags are revealed in them. Males in the audience will be particularly disappointed to discover that the funniest and most audacious moment from the first trailer, curvy model Kate Upton’s Venus-like climb from a swimming pool, didn’t make the final cut. Instead, we get only a quick glimpse—in long shot, no less—of Upton seated in a lifeguard’s chair waay on the other side of the pool.

Fox apparently coveted the PG rating, but PG-13 would probably have worked out better.

Ask me later if I’ll buy the DVD. I’m still thinking about it.

——————————————————————————-

Further reading: Three Stooges FAQ in the New York Times

Three Stooges FAQ by David J. Hogan is available from ApplauseBooks.com, Amazon, B&N, and your local bookstores.

This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood. Seventy-five stills, posters, and other images – many never before published in book form – bring colorful screen moments to life and help illuminate the special appeal of key shorts. Exclusive sections include a Stooges biographical and career timeline; a useful, colorful history of the structure and behind-the-camera personnel of the Columbia two-reel unit; and personality sidebars about more than 30 popular players who worked frequently with the Stooges. Also included is a filmography that covers all 190 shorts, plus a bibliography, making this the ultimate guide for all Three Stooges fans!

War Bride Makes Movies

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Guest Blogger:
 David J. Hogan, author of Three Stooges FAQ (Applause Books)

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Feline brunette Barbara Bartay was a Columbia contract player from 1953 to 1957. She worked with the boys in six shorts spanning 1953 to 1956: Pardon My Backfire, Stone Age Romeos, Hot Ice, Blunder Boys, Flagpole Jitters, and For Crimin’ Out Loud. Besides appearing with the Stooges, Barbara did two-reelers with Andy Clyde, Vernon and Quillan, and (in one of his solo shorts) Joe Besser. She also shows up in a 1956 Universal feature called Never Say Goodbye.

Details of Barbara’s work with the Stooges can be found in Three Stooges FAQ, but it’s worth noting here that she was a natural charmer who’s particularly funny in Pardon My Backfire, as a gun moll who seduces the boys in their commercial garage, only to end up with one of their greasy work gloves stuck to the seat of her dress. She’s also amusing, for a variety of reasons, as a Cockney “newsboy” in Hot Ice.

Barbara had a pleasing but heavy Eastern European accent that helped to make her film career a brief one. Thanks to ace film historian Frank Reighter, we know details of this immigrant actress who scored with the Stooges. Her birth name was Vari Komp. She was born in Bohemia, Crochwise, Czechoslovakia, on March 19, 1921. By the time she came to the United States in 1948 as an officially “stateless” war bride (destination: National City, California), she had changed her name to Barbara Bartay. She became a U.S. citizen in September 1951 but didn’t apply for a Social Security number until February 1953; Frank Reighter speculates that it may have been Columbia that told Barbara that she need a Social Security card in order to work.

Following her film career, Barbara married, in succession, two men connected with L.A.’s prosperous Utter-McKinley Mortuaries, Maytor H. McKinley (the business’s founder, who took Barbara as his fifth wife) and, after being widowed, Samuel McCormac, an attorney who handled the mortuary’s business.

Barabara was active in the Opera Guild, International Orphans Inc., National Art Association, and the Los Angeles Orphanage Guild. A laudable turnaround for somebody who arrived in this country “stateless.”

Vari Komp Bartay McKinly McCormac passed away in Los Angeles on August 20, 1986.

Three Stooges FAQ by David J. Hogan
This entertaining and informative study of the Three Stooges focuses on the nearly 190 two-reel short comedies the boys made at Columbia Pictures during the years 1934-59. Violent slapstick? Of course, but these comic gems are also peerlessly crafted and enthusiastically played by vaudeville veterans Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe – arguably the most popular and long-lived screen comics ever produced by Hollywood.

Available from Applause Books and booksellers nationwide.