A pleasant holiday weekend to any and all of you reading this (though do you have a Thanksgiving-style holiday this weekend in Greece, Marianna?) What better way to commemorate the ignoble founding of our noble country than by invoking the Three Stooges on this sacrosanct holiday. To my great pleasure, an enterprising youtuber who posts as "The Curtis Files" has taken the bold step of posting, in two parts, the very best--in my opinion--Stooge short featuring Curley, 1941's "An Ache In Every Stake".
What has this film to do with Thanksgiving? Nothing in particular. Except in one hilarious scene (think it's at the beginning of part two as posted below) Curley is told to stuff a turkey...and after "shaving some ice" he performs the task with great panache and a literalness that will utterly revulse you.
Indeed, revulsion is a feeling that one must embrace in order to enjoy the Stooges. Why, as a kid, was I allowed to freely watch these orgies of violence--with eyes being poked out, ears being punctured, hot irons being applied to faces, open palm slaps to the face being routinely administered? Occcasionally a bit of violence occurred that was so ghastly that even my hardened nine-year-old soul could bear it no longer and I would hide my eyes. (I'll post one of those in the coming days--it has to do with Curley climbing a telephone pole with spiked shoes, which drive their way into Moe's...skip it, I'm cringing just writing it). I think the answer has to do with the fact that the violence-- to me as a child--had no reality; it never occurred to me that people would truly do such things. Which is why subsequently, in early adulthood, I fell out of love with watching the Stooges--by the time I'd come to know something of the world, I realized that barbarity along these lines was being committed in every corner of it...only to people who weren't as resilient as, say, Curley Howard. (Though how resilient was Curley? He died young, brain-damaged and addled by strokes. You can see his deterioration in his last handful of shorts from the mid-forties. Could being conked on the head non-stop for twenty years have had something to do with it? Or perhaps the question is: how could it not have?)
It was only in early middle-age that I found my way back to the Stooges--and it was precisely because I realized that the dreadfully violent nature of life as we know it needs to be...contextualized, I suppose would be the new-fangled, lit-crit word. It's just that thinking of violence in all its horror is a pretty bleak way to face something that can't be stopped. The Stooges provide a way to look at violence as something so horrific that it's comic. And SURVIVABLE. Thus the Stooge message is redemptive, forward looking and essentially American--everything bad happens for a reason and all you can do is march blindly and mind-numbingly ahead. Perhaps that's why so many of their films end with them running away from their current disaster and heading for the next, fresh catastrophe. Sounds like the history of our country.
"An Ache In Every Stake" was directed by Del Lord, a Mack Sennett veteran (and supposedly a former Keystone Cop) with as sure a slapstick hand as can be viewed. The film is tightly paced and very well executed--gags are set up and paid off handsomely and more happens in sixteen mintues than happened in many features made at the same time. Note the flight of steps that the Stooges have to climb with their blocks of ice--they're the same stairs used by Laurel and Hardy in "The Music Box" to deliver a piano (shot ten years earlier). The stairs are still there, by the way, located in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles (now, however, houses surround them, though they are still visible and open to the public). Aside from the stuffing the turkey scene, Curley also has a remarkable dance moment--a couch spring somehow gets hooked on his rear end and attached to Bud Jamison (the foil) causing Curley to skid backwards on the dance floor...
Thanks again, Curtisfiles, for posting this, even though it's abysmally colorized (by whom? for what reason?); I truly can't think of a better film than "An Ache In Every Stake" to watch on the same weekend in which Sarah Palin visited a turkey slaughterhouse and appeared on TV with an about to be executed bird in order to cheerfully support a local business and celebrate this bracingly strange holiday institution.