The comedy world lost one of the funniest men to ever grace the screen. He didn’t have to say a single word…once he walked into the shot, you felt like laughing, even if he didn’t do anything.
He was also one of the first “sploitation” actors–if you’ve heard the term “Fake Shemp,” this is what they mean. There were four films created with the Fake Shemp (Joe Palma), and since Jules White could direct and produce a film in a matter of HOURS with footage of Shemp from an old short, throw in some new footage of Moe and Larry, and voila! You’ve got a new film to fool theatre managers made for the fraction of the price of a new one! It’s win-win…until Moe and Larry (and even Harry Cohn) realized they couldn’t run the Shempsploitation Express forever…so along came EVERYONE’S favorite Stooge replacement, Joe Besser!
(I actually liked Besser–he was such a totally different comedian that you just went “WHAT?!” when you saw him with the rough and tumble Moe and Larry. No, I’m not giving up my Stooge card–I’ve had it since 1975!)
In this entry of “If It’s the Last Thing I Do!” we have a triple header of goodness: the last Three Stooges short starring Curly Howard; and the last filmed appearance of Curly Howard, and the last pictorial evidence of a filmed appearance by Curly Howard. (I dare you to diagram that sentence!)
Everyone seems to know about the “Hold That Lion!” cameo, but interestingly enough, Curly had a cameo in a later short, “Malice in the Palace” in which he played a very crabby chef! You don’t really notice it’s Curly until you look at the ears (the Horwitz boys had very similar ears!) He was also taller than Moe and Larry, but about the same height as Shemp.
Unfortunately, aside from the one-sheet and anecdotes from the director and Norman Maurer (Moe’s son-in-law, so Curly’s nephew-in-law?) there’s no other “proof.” (I’ve also heard that this isn’t Curly, and that it’s some other Columbia day player and/or George Lewis. This doesn’t make sense because Lewis was noticeably taller than all of the Stooges, and he had a very distinctive look.) None of the footage has ever shown up, which makes me wonder what they did with the deleted scenes in shorts and B-movies–did they just throw it away? Did some enterprising studio employee take it for their own collection? Who knows?
If there’s anyone out there sitting on old Stooge footage, send me an e-mail! I won’t buy it, but I would enjoy hearing the story of how you got it!