It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to what was supposed to be a movie review blog about films that had a connection to the Three Stooges (and I couldn’t help but notice that my Flesh Feast review was supposed to go live FIVE YEARS AGO!!!! Hey, I guess if patience is a virtue, I’ve got it in spades!)
Anyhoo–this entry is about one of the oddest degrees of Stoogeration I’ve ever run across. I first noticed it when I was reading the excellent One Fine Stooge many moons ago. It seems that one of Larry’s grandkids were waiting to visit him at the Motion Picture Home and the nurses told them that they couldn’t enter just yet because Larry already had a visitor. One of the granddaughters finally got it out of the nurse just who this secret visitor was…one Edward G. Robinson! It turns out Robinson never went through the regular entrance–he just showed up at the patio door, knocked, and Larry let him in. The granddaughter was obviously fascinated that the G man himself didn’t have to go through regular channels (I must admit, this fascinated me too–in fact, I need to search to see if there’s any photos of them together.)
Note: after a cursory search, I could find no pictures of them together. Plenty of photos of him with the likes of Ted Knight, Clint Eastwood, Phyllis Diller, Frankie Avalon, Joan Crawford, Harry Cohn, and police officers from the many, many, many police functions they performed at during the mid-to-late 1960s.) How and where did they meet? Did they strike up a friendship when Robinson was at Columbia?
I know, I know–you’re asking what the f*** does this have to do with “Six Degrees of Stoogeration?” Welp, Impatient Reader, I’m going to tell you right now: Burnett Guffey.
Now, whom is Burnett Guffey, you may ask? Well, let’s get to the reason why he’s a degree of Stoogeration.
So, this is how Six Degrees of Stoogeration is played. You can link Edward G. Robinson to Warren Beatty to Faye Dunaway to James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), to Frank Sinatra (both for From Here to Eternity and The Frank Sinatra Show (1950).
And lest you think I’d forgotten my opening paragraph, here’s a link between Larry Fine, Edward G. Robinson, and Burnett Guffey:
I also like these–I could still do without the obvious headshot of EGR…poster artists could be sooooo creative (just take a look at some of these examples–yet they loved to go back to that floating headshot well…)
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!)
I first heard about DeRita’s death as I was going to the kitchen to top off my diet Coke–just by pure coincidence, the CBS News was announcing it right as the Stooges were between shorts (Idiot’s DeLuxe, if I’m not mistaken.) The only Stooge left was The Man Who Would Be Stooge, Emil Sitka…and I count him as a Stooge (don’t @ me, folks!)
Of course, I’m a bit late with this, but better late than never (oh, and those that think he was the worst Stooge? Why was Larry able to convince Moe to hire him AND hire him at an equal salary?)
Hagsploitation: a term that I possibly just thought up or I stole it from someone else (but can’t remember who it was). Either way, it’s a term that usually brings to mind actresses “of a certain age,” like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Shelley Winters or even Debbie Reynolds (when she and Winters starred in What’s the Matter With Helen, she was all of 38 years old!)
However, hagsploitation wasn’t just for women—any time you saw an old vaudevillian like George Jessel in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, it was hagsploitation. Sure, it was said to be a cameo, but come on, we know what it was, and it was hagsploitation, pure and simple.
Now this may sound like I’m knocking older actors for appearing in films long past their “prime.” Come on—I’m a Stooge fan that wanted to see Howard, Sitka and DeRita in Blazing Stewardesses—I can hardly be called anti-hag! Interestingly, it was director Al Adamson’s leitmotif—giving older actors a chance to get in front of new audiences. Whether or not the vehicles used for that chance were any good or not…well, work is work!
Enjoy these sites and their reviews of hagsploitation films!
What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) from Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For… it’s got repressed lesbianism, murderous sons, and religious fundamentalism.
Blazing Stewardesses (1975) from DVD Drive-In…
Last but not least, Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), from The Aisle Seat…