Should Moe, Larry and Curly have made the switch to full length features?
Most of us know that Columbia Pictures had a tight-fisted grip on anything Moe, Larry or Curly-like while our boys worked there. They did allow them to make public appearances during their off-season, so it was a good deal for them. It’s hard to imagine wanting to break away from a steady job with good benefits. However, in support of Moe, Larry and Curly making feature-length films on their own, they had a lot going for them to do so. Even though Moe, Larry and Curly had only bit parts in films past doesn’t mean they couldn’t hold their own in a starring role. Curly, especially, would have shined and most likely have stolen the show, perhaps even prompting a debate about starting his own solo career.
First of all, they were well known in the cinematic world, since many patrons of movie houses watched their short subjects. Prior to this, though, they had been supporting cast members of a few movies such as “Nertsery Rhymes”, “Plane Nuts”, and even a semi-dramatic role in “Fugitive Lovers”. “Plane Nuts”, in particular, was a grouping of their stage performances in which Ted Healy took a semi-straight man role and let our boys pull out all the stops with their comic mayhem. This ground work made our boys ripe for a movie career of their own. In as much as Columbia cast them as short-subject makers only made their movie appeal better. They had the opportunity to hone their act into perfection. Whether Moe, Larry and Curly should’ve made the switch is a resounding Yes! (Never mind that Columbia saw fit to leave them in short-subjects).
It may be argued a Stooge feature film would be the equivalent of four or five short-subjects, and that kind of non-stop slapstick experience might be too much for an audience to tolerate in 80 or 90 minute doses. This may be true, if you sat through that many short-subjects, being the average movie-goer. But all that is needed is a dramatic storyline to frame the comedy in. MGM recognized this when they cast The Marx Brothers in “A Night at the Opera”. A Stooge plot could establish a “bad” guy, (like the nasty opera singer who beat Harpo), and that immediately would set the Stooges up as the heroes. They could then expend their mayhem at will with the audience witnessing their comic assaults as what actually saves the day. The slapstick need only be separated into segments for storyline development.
Emil Sitka said it best in his '80's interview - (paraphrased) "I've worked on other fine projects, and most of the time it was, come in to work, do your job, try to make it look real, cut, wrap, print, how was your weekend, let's have a smoke, etc. But in those 15 or 16 minutes I filmed with the Stooges, there was electricity in the air, excitement. The laughs were non-stop, and I've had my best acting experiences in those few minutes."
No need for slapstick to soften in a movie-going environment like that. Capturing a Moe, Larry and Curly short-subject experience in a feature-length film is not only attainable, but would have been a pearl that our boys could have been very, very proud of.