The Three Stooges Part Seven
My favorite comedy group is here again with this blog, called The Three Stooges Part Seven, and after The Three Stooges Part Seven, please watch three of The Three Stooges shorts, their very funny.
Joe Besser replaces Shemp (1956–58)
Joe Besser replaced Shemp Howard in 1956. He stayed with the Stooges for only two years.
After Shemp’s death, Moe and Larry were again in need of a third Stooge. Several comedians were considered (including Mantan Moreland), but Columbia insisted on a comedian already under contract. They decided on Joe Besser, who appeared in the final 16 Stooge shorts at Columbia. Besser had been starring in his own short-subject comedies for the studio since 1949 and appeared in supporting roles in a variety of movies, making his persona sufficiently well known.
Besser had noted how one side of Larry Fine’s face appeared “calloused”, so he had a clause in his contract specifically prohibiting him from being hit beyond an infrequent tap (though this restriction was later lifted). Besser was the only Stooge, besides Curly, who dared to hit Moe back in retaliation. “I usually played the kind of character who would hit others back”, Besser recalled.
Despite Besser’s prolific film and stage career, Stooge entries featuring him have often been tagged as the team’s weakest. During his tenure, the films were being assailed for being questionable models for youth, and in response began to resemble television sitcoms. Sitcoms, however, were available for free on television, making the short film a throwback to a bygone era. Besser was a talented comic, and was quite popular as “Stinky” on The Abbott and Costello Show. But his whining mannerisms did not quite blend with the Stooges’ brand of humor, though it did create the verbal friction between Moe and Larry which succeeded in making put-down banter. Times had changed, and Besser was not solely to blame for the quality of these final entries; the scripts were rehashes of earlier efforts, the budgets were lower, and Moe’s and Larry’s advanced ages prohibited them from performing the physical comedy that they once had. Besser had suggested that Moe and Larry comb their hair back to give them a more gentlemanly appearance. Both Moe and Jules White approved of the idea, but used it sparingly in order to match the old footage in films that were remakes.
Despite their poor reputation, the Besser shorts did have their comedic moments. In general, the remakes had the traditional Stooges knockabout look and feel, such as Pies and Guys (1958), a scene-for-scene remake of Half-Wits Holiday, which itself was a reworking of the earlier Hoi Polloi, Guns a Poppin (1957), Rusty Romeos (1957), and Triple Crossed (1959). In contrast, Hoofs and Goofs, Horsing Around, and Muscle Up a Little Closer (all 1957) mostly resembled the sitcoms of the era. A Merry Mix Up (also 1957) and Oil’s Well That Ends Well (1958) are also amusing, while the musical Sweet and Hot (1958) deserves some credit for straying from the norm. The space craze also took hold of the American public at the time, resulting in three entries focusing on space travel: Space Ship Sappy, Outer Space Jitters (both 1957), and Flying Saucer Daffy (1958).
Columbia was the last studio still producing live-action and two-reel short films (other studios were still making animated one-reelers well into the 1960s), and the market for such films had all but dried up. As a result, the studio opted not to renew the Stooges’ contract when it expired in December 1957. The final comedy produced was Flying Saucer Daffy, filmed on December 19–20, 1957. Several days later, the Stooges were unceremoniously fired from Columbia Pictures after 24 years of making low-budget shorts.
No formal “goodbyes” or congratulatory celebrations occurred in recognition of their many years of dedication, service, and the dollars that their comedies had earned for the studio. Moe visited Columbia several weeks after their dismissal to say goodbye to several executives. He was stopped by a guard at the gate, as he did not have the current year’s studio pass. Moe was refused entry, later stating that it was a momentary crushing blow to his pride.
The studio had enough completed Stooge films to be released over the next 18 months, though not in the order in which they were produced. The final Stooge release, Sappy Bull Fighters, did not reach theaters until June 4, 1959. With no active contract in place, Moe and Larry discussed plans for a personal appearance tour. In the meantime, Besser’s wife suffered a minor heart attack and he preferred to stay local, leading him to withdraw from the act.
After Besser’s departure, Moe and Larry began looking for potential replacements. Larry suggested former Ted Healy stooge Paul “Mousie” Garner, but based on his tryout performance, Moe later remarked that he was “completely unacceptable”. Weeks later, Larry came across burlesque performer Joe DeRita, and thought he would be a good fit.