Wiseguys On the Loose in Glendale: The Three Stooges Big Screen Event 2014
In these modern times, people sometimes need a release from the stresses and strains of everyday life. A chance to relive happy memories and laugh. Preferably with a trio who were too busy slapping each other silly to notice their brains are low-wattage. Yes, the Three Stooges have the ability to make it all better even now, decades after their passing. The Alex Theatre in Glendale, California offers an annual festival of the Three Stooges in full bloom. The mini-festival, always consisting of a half-dozen of their shorts, runs for two shows on the Saturday after Thanksgiving only.
Each year the selections are grouped by theme. This year’s selection was Three Slaps and Yer Out, a collection of shorts in which the trio runs amuck in the sporting world. As you may suspect, the connections to athletic events can be a bit tenuous in some of these stories. In Ants in the Pantry (1936), the boys drum up business by planting vermin in a mansion as a high-society party goes on. If you can understand how this story evolves into a fox hunt that turns into a free-for-all you get the logic behind Stooge anarchy.
Others are more clear in their connection to the sports world, but no more orderly in their storytelling. For Playing the Ponies from 1937, the Stooges are tricked into trading their diner for a broken-down race horse named (what else?) Thunderbolt. Discovering too late their mistake, the guys discover a brand of hot peanuts from their restaurant may provide the way to make the nag finish in the money. Other films in the series find the Stooges at large in the worlds of duck hunting, wrestling and basketball.
Each year the festival manages to turn up a rarity. One year, that was a grainy clip of Larry Fine reminiscing about his Stooge days at the end of his life. This time the special had a name: Mr. Noisy, a 1946 single starring Shemp without any of his partners in silliness. A polished heckler, Shemp’s catcalls consistently unnerve a star hitter for the Green Sox baseball team. He enjoys his singular skill until a pair of racketeers hire him to make sure the Sox lose a big series. All that is lost is Shemp’s voice but he goes to hilarious lengths to get it back.
The Three Stooges are pointed out as an example of the differences between the sexes. Men, it is said, find the trio endlessly funny while women roll their eyes at such foolish, obvious sight gags. The constant slaps, punches and broad humor does not subtly win over converts. Someone forgot to tell this to the audiences for the Glendale festival: from the start, when an emcee gets first the ladies to yell out signature line “Soitenly” – to be followed by the men – one can see the enduring appeal of their humor. This reflects something broader and much more pleasant: the desire to lose one’s cares in an avalanche of humor. While no one will mistake these jokes for witty repartee, there is something bracing for all ages in the Stooges’ ability to create chaos in a stuffy, too-orderly world. In Moe, Larry, Shemp and especially Curly we can find a way to laugh at all that is crazy in our own times. That makes the lunkheaded bunch a national treasure and a release valve. The chance to enjoy this inspired insanity with a packed theater of like-minded people makes this festival a holiday highlight in the Los Angeles area.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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