10/26/07

THREE LITTLE BEERS--A DEL LORD PUTT

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Below are parts one and two of the Three Stooges 1935 film "Three Little Beers"--one of their best early efforts (this was the tenth Columbia short they made) as well as a wonderful look at some old Los Angeles streetscapes.


Briefly--the plot. They work as delivery guys for a beer company. They decide to enter a golf tournament. They bust into a private club to practice their golf and screw everything up. Then they escape in their truck and send barrels of beer tumbling all over the place. See, that didn't take long.


What I like about this early Stooge effort is the director, Del Lord's (a former Mack Sennett director and stunt driver) leisurely pace with the golfing material. Lord could also make his Stooge movies move like wildfire, but the outdoor setting and the improvisitory nature of the golf sequence lends itself to a pacing slightly more akin to Laurel and Hardy than the Stooges. And where do we suppose this golf course actually was? I have to assume we're looking at the vast, undeveloped expanse of the San Fernando Valley. I'm guessing this largely based on the emptiness and the fact that the Columbia "Ranch" was in North Hollywood. (Most of the studios had "ranches"--additional exterior locations they owned that they would use for shooting outdoor/pastoral material, westerns etc. Twentieth Century Fox's ranch was, of course, on the site of what is now Century City). I also dig the beer barrel finish and my guess is that those hilly streets on which the climax takes place are near downtown LA. Or perhaps they're that section of Silverlake (Baxter St. etc.) which was always popular as a slapstick comedy filming location (Laurel and Hardy's "Music Box" etc.)


Leonard Maltin, in his Stooge writings, feels that Lord was the best director the Stooges had, followed by Ed Bernds (who we'll get to next). A hallmark of Lord's work is his clear love of location work--the verite nature of the exteriors and the daredevil work with the truck and the outdoor action roots this firmly in the 1920's "gee it's a nice day, lets go out and make a comedy short" school of slapstick filmmaking. Laurel and Hardy's 1929 "Men O'War" is another very good example of this (it was shot in McArthur Park). With these old comedies, one enjoys not only watching the movie itself but the meta-movie-- the event of the movie being made. One of the pleasures of this, for me, is that I can feel the actual day (or series of days) of the filming while watching the movie. The weather, the cameras, the crew standing around nearby--grateful to be out of doors--the comics and the supporting players (in "Three Little Beers" a group of pretty girls stand around in one scene, out of place and stupidly smiling. They are clearly girlfriends of various executives at Columbia Pictures who were told to "show up and you can be in the picture!"). It all feels alive and there--part of what was captured on film seventy-two years ago...





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