MY MAN CURLY: "HEALTHY, WEALTHY AND DUMB"
Here's a Stooge short from their Art Deco period--"Healthy Wealthy and Dumb". The film feels very "My Man Godfrey"/"Nothing
Sacred"-esque both in its subject matter (sudden wealth bestowed upon the hoodlum depression-era trio) and in the symbolic trappings of wealth that suddenly surround them (a hotel suite in the "Costa Plenta"). I love the idea that the screenwriters--Elwood Ullman and Serle Kramer (and with those names shouldn't they really have been Pulitzer Prize winning playwright's?)--had probably just seen and soaked up the aforementioned big studio productions and decided to plug the Stooges into the zeitgest of depression era wish-fulfillment cinema. The boys enter their absurd suite wearing top hats and smoking cigars. When Larry takes a bath, balloons are incongruously floating in the water next to him. Buckets of champagne are consumed and the three golddigers next door (natch) have a pet monkey named Darwin (evolution theory anyone?) bizarrely clad in a silk pajama outfit (a reference to the leopard in "Bringing Up Baby"? Or am I off by a year?)
It's meaningless to parse these films in any real detail--the randomness of the plotting (Curly wins a radio contest providing the boys with their sudden windfall--but he also appears to be illiterate) and the sudden, inexplicable ending of the film (which feels as if they simply ran out of time while shooting) make anything remotely resembling dramatic criticism null and void. Nonetheless there are formal pleasures to be had: the careful setting up of the Ming Vase which Moe winds up destorying is expected; but it's Moe's mortification at it being his fault and his sullen blaming of Curly for not handing him a "softer board" that gives the joke its humanity. And Curly getting the DT's has an uncomfortable personal air to it for those who prefer their criticism to be of the biographical variety. Del Lord directed with his usual grace given the circumstances. And when the gold-diggers hatch their plan to steal the boys money, they deliver a 1937 bit of slang meaning desertion that I don't think I've heard before. You've heard of leaving them "high and dry", or of "giving them the grand go-bye." But have you ever heard of "giving them the Ozone?" Proof that the most fragrant of flowers can grow in arid soil...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 7:05 AM