Volume 1 1934-1936
#1 – Woman Haters
Volume 1 Short 1
Released: May 5, 1934
Writer: Jerome S. Gottler
Foils: Marjorie White, Bud Jamison
Synopsis: Moe, Larry, and Curly join the Woman Haters Club, but Larry breaks his oath and gets married.
Impressions: This could be the worst film of Volume One, and one if not the worst of the “Curly Years.” In its defense, it isn’t so much of a Stooges short as it is a short starring The Stooges. This was the sixth film in Columbia’s “musical Novelty” series. I will say it’s creative in that the dialogue rhymes and delivered in the same rhythm as the background music. Though I think it’s a mistake to debut a new act in this manner. While The Stooges had been in vaudeville and made a few shorts as a slightly different act with Ted Healy, this was their first short. They lay the groundwork for the slapstick they would become famous for doing. There’s also a brief appearance by a young Walter Brennan of The Real McCoys fame.
#2 – Punch Drunks
Volume 1 Short 2
Released: July 13, 1934
Writer: Screenplay by Jack Cluett. Story by Jerry Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard.
Foil: Dorothy Granger
Synopsis: Boxing promoter Moe learns timid waiter Curly becomes an unstoppable fighting force when he hears “Pop Goes the Weasel.” His career becomes threatened when Larry’s violin gets broken on the day of the big fight.
Impressions: This is the first “true” Stooge short. There’s plenty of slapstick, they go by their own names, and Moe is the leader of the trio. In 2002 the Library of Congress selected this for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” This is the lone Stooge short to receive such an honor. I find it odd that out of all 190 Stooge shorts, this is selected. Not that this is a bad short. In fact, it’s very enjoyable. The thing is, as we’ll see, there are so many shorts worthy of the honor. Many of them in this volume.
#3 – Men in Black
Volume 1 Short 3
Released: September 28, 1934
Writer: Felix Adler
Foil: Dell Henderson
Synopsis: Medical mayhem ensues when The Stooges become new doctors at the Los Arms Hospital.
Impressions: “Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard.” While it’s difficult for me to choose a favorite Stooge short, this one is high on the list. A spoof of Clark Gable’s Men in White, this is the lone Stooge short to earn an Academy Award nomination for “Best Short Subject – Comedy.” So many gags and bits that become Stooge staples are on display for the first time. The term “classic” gets tossed around a lot, but this is short is deserving. We’ll see it again on the “Best of” list for Volume One. Notable Stooge foil Bud Jamison appears in a scene getting the usual treatment.
#4 – Three Little Pigskins
Volume 1 Short 4
Released: December 8, 1934
Writers: Felix Adler & Griffin Jay
Foils: Lucille Ball, Gertie Green, Phyllis Crane, Walter Long
Synopsis: The Stooges get mistaken for “The Three Horsemen,” star running backs of Boulder Dam College by a group of mobsters’ girlfriends. The mobsters convince them to play in a football game, but their lack of athletic prowess has them running for more than touchdowns.
Impressions: Another short worthy of being a “classic.” Back to back gems. Again, I’m not sure about a favorite episode, but this one is on the list. I love football. I love The Stooges. It’s a perfect fit. Lucille Ball makes one of her first credited appearances in Hollywood, and she’s blonde. She’d also appear in the Marx Brothers Room Service. I don’t think many people can say they acted alongside both legendary comedic teams. This marks the first short The Stooges refused a stunt and used stand-ins. Earlier in the filming Curly broke his leg and Larry lost a tooth. Moe stated they wouldn’t perform a certain scene. The stunt doubles promptly suffered serious injuries. Save the one used for Curly, protected with all the padding to match the physical look. The scene in question has to do with a photograph. That’s all I’ll say. The reason for the refusal was the football players weren’t actors, but the actual Loyola Marymount University squad.
#5 – Horses’ Collars
Volume 1 Short 5
Released: January 10, 1935
Writer: Felix Adler
Foils: Dorthea Kent, Fred Kohler
Synopsis: The Stooges are detectives in this Western setting. They need to retrieve an attractive lady’s IOU on her ranch back from a gun-toting outlaw.
Impressions: “Moe! Larry! The cheese!” Curly’s catchphrase is about all this short has going for it. I’d say it’s a notch above Woman Haters, but that isn’t saying much. Then again, there isn’t much to say. Not a lot going on here.
#6 – Restless Knights
Volume 1 Short 6
Year: February 20, 1935
Writer: Felix Adler
Foil: Geneva Mitchell
Synopsis: The Stooges learn they are of noble birth and must stop a plot against the queen. They become her royal bodyguards and must protect her at all costs.
Impressions: Another so-so Stooge short. That said, a below average short is still a lot better than a lot of things I could be watching. Walter Brennan of The Real McCoys returns, along with sometime foil Stanley Blystone in his first Stooge appearance.
#7 – Pop Goes the Easel
Volume 1 Short 7
Released: March 29, 1935
Writer: Felix Adler
Synopsis: Attempting to get jobs, The Stooges start to clean a shop front. The shop owner mistakes their good intentions for theft of his brooms, and calls for help. To evade the detective on their trail, the trio hide out in an art school.
Impressions: As good as the final scene is, it can’t make up for the rest of the short. This is the weakest one so far. The story isn’t the most inspired. This is also the first short to lack a legitimate foil. The detective chasing them doesn’t add to the story or the comedy.
#8 – Uncivil Warriors
Volume 1 Short 8
Released: April 26, 1935
Writer: Felix Adler
Foils: Bud Jamison, Ted Lorch
Synopsis: The Stooges are the best spies in the Union Secret Service. Their mission is to sneak behind enemy lines and find out what the Confederate army is planning. All goes well until Major “Bloodhound” Filbert arrives. He can smell a spy a mile away.
Impressions: Now we’re getting back on track. I love Civil War stuff, and this is no exception. In this short The Stooges mention “Good Time Charlie” and his crazy walk for the first time. Then there’s the highlight of the short. It’s a sight gag involving a baby with Moe delivering a hilarious line leading to the conclusion. By today’s PC standards some might consider it offensive and is sometimes edited out, but the line makes the gag. It’s the funniest of the short.
#9 – Pardon My Scotch
Volume 1 Short 9
Released: August 1, 1935
Writer: Andrew Bennison
Foils: Nat Carr, James C. Morton
Synopsis: The Stooges are carpenters working on a drug store and charged with minding it when an emergency occurs. As Prohibition is about to end, a liquor supplier has nothing to deliver until he gets The Stooges to mix him “a picker” in the backroom.
Impressions: Another good Stooge short. I like this one a lot. Like the previous short and I’m sure many more to follow I’m not exactly sure how to rate it. I don’t know if it’s a top rated short, but I’d put it near the top. I think this one will make the “Best of” list, but it’s too soon to tell. Near the start of this Moe takes a painful looking bump, or fall. It looks painful because it was. He broke three ribs. On another note the release came four months after Prohibition ended.
#10 – Hoi Polloi
Volume 1 Short 10
Released: August 29, 1935
Writer: Felix Adler
Foil: Harry Holman
Synopsis: Two professors make a bet to see what creates a gentleman of society, nature or nurture. The professor who says nurture says he can turn the lowest of the low into gentlemen in three months and puts up $30,000. Unfortunately, the trail subjects for his experiment are The Three Stooges.
Impressions: Three in a row of quality, enjoyable shorts, and another one I’m not sure what to rate it. I always enjoy the boys trying to fit into high society. Unlike the previous short, they attempt to blend in and curb their antics. This only creates more chaos. The idea for the story is credited to Moe’s wife, Helen. We’ll see this premise reworked into two other shorts, though I doubt they could compare with the original. Then again, that’s part of the fun in doing this. Often reoccurring foil Bud Jamison makes an appearance, giving the trio a taste of their own medicine in the end.
#11 – Three Little Beers
Volume 1 Short 11
Released: November 28, 1935
Writer: Clyde Bruckman
Foil: Bud Jamison
Synopsis: The Stooges are the new deliverymen for the Panther Brewing Company, which is about to host an employee golf tournament. When their first delivery takes them to the golf club hosting the event, Moe has the idea to get in some quick practice to help win the $100 first prize.
Impressions: I know I said it’s hard for me to pick a favorite Stooge short. Well, this one is pretty high on the list. Very near the top of the heap. This could even turn out to be my favorite of Volume One, depending upon what the next disc has in store. It will take something special to knock it from the top spot. There’s been several so far I could say that about, but this one has jumped out in the lead. If a slight one.
One disc down, 19 more to go. What did we get? A great disc to start The Three Stooges blog project. While the first short was on the weak side, it was different and entertaining in its own way. As I said, it’s not so much of a Stooge short as a short starring them. The remainder of 1934 produced three classics fighting for top spots on the “Best of” list. The start of 1935 took a wrong turn with three weak, uninspired offerings in a row. This disc finished strong with four excellent shorts, all better than average. It ends with one of my favorites. I’d call this disc a winner, and one to watch. Seven of these come highly rated, and their viewing power overshadows the four less favorable ones. The slew of classics on this disc make it a toughie to top. Of these 11 shorts, which one is your favorite?
Copyright © Drew Martin 2016