Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Greenbriar Picture Shows

I had just read about this terrific new classic movie blog from cartoonbrew.com when John McElwee wrote to me and suggested I "might be interested" in it. Am I that transparent? Apparently. As some corsage-and-spats-wearing dandy might have said in 1908, John's blog is a real crackerjack. Greenbriar Picture Shows is overflowing with fascinating commentary, rare stills and vintage press materials from John's collection. What really sets GPS apart from the herd is its range and thoroughness; any post by John is worth a dozen Robert Osborne TCM intros.. probably more. I'm not sure what the current exchange rate is.

Incidentally, John sent over this trade ad (click on the thumbnail) for Shemp Howard's Vitaphone shorts. YOW!! If this isn't enough to lure you over to John's blog, I don't know what to do. Shemp is one of the ultimate Third Bananas, a true unsung talent. Why, oh why, must he be forever remembered as "Curly's Replacement" after having spent so many years as a successful solo? Oh.. DUH! I forgot! Because the only public exposure Shemp has received within the last thirty years are his mediocre Three Stooges shorts. And I suppose people wouldn't be too keen on the Marx Brothers if all they ever saw were Go West and Love Happy! For much of the life of Ted Healy's vaudeville act, Shemp was Ted's most valued stooge, but Shemp struck out on his own following Soup to Nuts in 1930. It has been suggested that Shemp quit the act because he was terrified of Ted, but I find it more likely that, being far more proactive and independent than his siblings (who were poorly paid and worked into the ground by Columbia and never complained), Shemp recognized his own potential and was eager to earn the kind of money that Ted couldn't/wouldn't pay. For many years, he was the most popular and widely known of the Howard brothers, appearing in his own 1934-36 series of shorts for Vitaphone and as support in features or such comedians as W. C. Fields (The Bank Dick), Olsen and Johnson (Hellzapoppin'), and Abbott and Costello (Buck Privates, In the Navy, etc.). A freakish detour in Shemp's solo career is Knife Of the Party, a 1934 two-reeler for Van Beuren/RKO that features Shemp as the cigar-chewing boss of his own set of stooges! Billed as "Shemp Howard and his Stooges", Shemp bald-facedly apes the Healy act (complete with Ted's "I'm the boss here, ain't I?" catchphrase), and poorly at that. I have to wonder whether or not Ted ever saw Knife Of the Party and, as notoriously protective of his act as he was, what his reaction might have been. It raises many questions for me. How did "Shemp Howard and His Stooges" come about? Why did Shemp, who was rapidly developing his own unique style, decide to indulge in a cheap imitation of his former boss, the man he was supposedly terrified of? And who the heck are Shemp's stooges, anyway?? There are six of them (and not one with a personality)! They aren't individually billed. Does anyone out there know?

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaron Neathery,
Please read up on your homework on the works of Shemp Howard. You've got it way wrong, making Shemp what you called a "third banana"
Shemp with Ted and then Moe in the 1920's. -- (Three Southern Gentlemen) Then Shemp, Moe and Larry.-- ( The Three Stooges is born)
Shemp leaves the group on his own will to do film without the Stooges.
Shemp comes back because of love of his baby brother Curley.
Shemp continues until his untimely death in Nov. 1955.
See: www.shempcompany.com

12:39 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

What?

6:42 PM  
Blogger East Side said...

Is "Knife of the Party" the one that closes with the "hilarious" sight gag of someone getting literally stabbed in the back? I saw it once, about 20 years ago, and I still haven't shaken that "WTF?!" feeling.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

In the print I have, it's hard to tell where she gets stabbed but, butt or between the shoulder blades, it's the most unlikely and uncomfortable "laff finish" of all time.

12:16 PM  

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