View complete short in the link above
Ah, nothing like talking about a short with a couple of 800 lb. gorillas in the room. Let's get the basics out of the way first. Yes, this is a later Curly short, but I think Curly is better here than he is in any other later Jules White directed short. His performance, while of course not prime Curly, is more than passable and he even shows some good physicality in his fake death scene.
The short itself is good but not great. I feel the same way about the Buster Keaton Columbia short, MOOCHING THROUGH GEORGIA (1940), which had the same Clyde Bruckman Civil War based story as this one. Reading the link above from the threestooges.net page on this short, there's mention of an Abbott and Costello show episode using this same story as well. Makes perfect sense since Clyde Bruckman worked on that series and I vaguely remember seeing that episode. It's been years, I'll have to pull out my copy and give it another look and see how it compares to the Stooge and Keaton version. Either way, the reason why I can't call this short or the Keaton version a classic is because the script has some heartbreak in it that doesn't quite work in a comedy. Pathos and comedy do go together when done right, but brothers having to prevent themselves from killing each other in a war? Very heartbreaking, as brothers really did have to kill each other. Look, the 800 lb. Gorillas will be mentioned soon, but I want to point out brother killing brother destroys the gorillas on the offense o meter.
Still, there are a few funny parts. Cy Schindell's delivery and reaction when he wants the corpse of Curly to speak to him is well done. I always wish Cy was given bigger roles, he is always funny with what is given. Curly's previously mentioned fake death scene is great and Moe poking Curly in the eye when he realizes there's no glass in the window is hysterical. It's like he decides to poke Curly in the eye simply because he can, as if it's just a normal part of their relationship. In a Stooge world, that's a funny thing.
OK, now to the juicy stuff. If I don't mention it, someone else will, so I may as well play the bad guy. If you don't like R rated stuff, don't read this paragraph. Can anybody tell me a more bizarre image in Stooge history than Moe Howard, sporting a blackface appearance and speaking in a southern accent, saying the line, "Y'all just ejaculated a mouthful?" I have no clue how 1946 audiences took that line, and frankly I don't care. My depraved generation X mind states Moe just said something nasty, and there's no way I am going to be convinced otherwise. Yes, I know the line can be interpreted as "said a lot," but seriously, who uses that terminology to make such a point? What Moe said means one thing and one thing only to me. They had to be laughing or guffawing in between takes.
Now for the blackface stuff. Look, I've seen way more old movies than 99.9% of people my age and have seen my share of blackface, so perhaps I'm desensitized to it more than most people my age. Plot wise, it makes sense. The Stooges were trying not to look like soldiers and trying to disguise themselves. They're in the old South, slavery exists, so they dress up as slaves since it's believable slaves would be in the area. There was also a minstrel tradition the country was used to that for better or worse, was considered mainstream entertainment at the time. The main point is, I don't think The Three Stooges were racists, I don't think they meant any harm, and I just view this as a sign of a bygone era. Gorillas discussed, come whatever may.