The Three Stooges

by Michael D Walker on May 16, 2012

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges are enjoying renewed interest in their work thanks to the Farrelly Brothers’ new Three Stooges movie currently in theaters. I haven’t seen the Three Stooges movie yet but I’ve been seeing very good reviews about the great job done by the actors portraying the Three Stooges: Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly.

While a lot of younger movie fans are being exposed to the Three Stooges for the first time, I also learned something new this week about one of the first film appearances by them back in 1933.

As readers of this blog might recall, in 1933 Thorne Smith was working in Hollywood at MGM Films. While I’m not certain what his exact job title or instructions were from MGM, we do know he wrote the script for the 1933 film short “Menu”, which was nominated for an Oscar Award in 1934 in the category of Best Short Subject, Novelty.

We also know that I gave praise to author Anthony Slide for the research he did on Thorne Smith related films in his book “A Man Named Smith: The Novels and Screen Legacy of Thorne Smith.”

While re-reading that book this week, I made a connection that somehow was overlooked by Mr. Slide and by myself the first time I read his book.

One of the story treatments Thorne Smith created while at MGM was called “What a Liar” and was to feature Jack Pearl, Jimmy Durante, Polly Moran, and W.C. Fields. As is typical of Hollywood scripts, many changes were made, among which was dropping W.C. Fields from the project and bringing in screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (who would later write the screenplay for “Citizen Kane”).  Polly Moran was replaced by Zasu Pitts, and in addition to Edna May Oliver, another group of new stars was added to the film. Those stars were billed at the time as “Ted Healy and His Stooges.”  Eventually the project was renamed “Meet the Baron” and released in October 1933.

So, call it coincidence or luck but it’s somehow fitting that as the new The Three Stooges movie is playing in theaters, I discover that Thorne Smith helped create one of the first movies The Three Stooges ever appeared in. Granted, Thorne did not get on screen credit for his part in the project but it’s still a fun tidbit of information that has not been widely known all these years.

Below is a photo of Ted Healy and His Stooges from the movie “Meet the Baron”

And here is the “Meet the Baron” movie trailer:
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Fortunately, “Meet the Baron” is available on DVD so you can easily order it!

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Pete Smith

by Michael D Walker on May 9, 2012

Pete Smith

Pete Smith, no relation to Thorne Smith, produced and narrated short subject MGM films. He and Thorne Smith wound up collaborating on a few of these short MGM films during Thorne’s brief time working in Hollywood.

Pete Smith originally started out as a publicist for MGM films but got his big break providing the voice-overs for the Dogville comedies.  These were short films featuring trained dogs performing an array of tricks and stunts, while dressed up to mimic or parody the stars of popular films of that era.  Many people loved these films, which I admit can seem quite odd, bizarre, and funny depending on your frame of mind while watching them.

The Dogville comedies drew controversy due to concerns of animal cruelty regarding the techniques the filmmakers were accused of using to make the dogs do their tricks, such as moving their mouths as if they were talking, playing musical instruments, dancing, and an assortment of unusual poses dogs wouldn’t normally assume.

According to Warner Brothers, “A nationwide theatre owners poll in 1930 rated the Dogvilles as the best short subjects over more legendary comedy and musical series.” Audiences today remain divided over whether these are cute and funny films or exhibitions of animal cruelty for moviegoers’ amusement.

Based on the success of the Dogville comedies, Pete Smith was given his own series of films to create. Thus Pete Smith Specialties was born. In the years from 1931 to 1955, Pete Smith made 150 short subject MGM films.

Thorne Smith began working for MGM in late 1932. While I have yet to track down exactly how many MGM films Thorne Smith may have worked on, I have seen correspondence indicating there may have been four short films completed.

The one Thorne Smith film short we do have access to is 1933’s “Menu.”  Produced by Pete Smith, “Menu” was directed by Nick Grinde.  Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni and Una Merkel starred in the film, which was nominated for an Oscar Award in 1934 in the category of Best Short Subject, Novelty.

“Menu” is available on DVD as part of the Katherine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection DVD set.  You can watch a less than pristine version of “Menu” at http://www.thornesmith.net/Pete-Smith-Films-Menu.html

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Topper Movies

May 1, 2012

Topper Movies All told there were three Topper movies made in Hollywood. All three were produced by Hal Roach Studios, the same company that brought us The Little Rascals, Laurel & Hardy, and Turnabout (based on the Thorne Smith novel). The first Topper movie was released July 16, 1937.  It was based on Thorne Smith’s [...]

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Night Life of the Gods Movie

April 26, 2012

Night Life of the Gods Movie Did you know the very first movie made from a Thorne Smith book was not TOPPER? That’s right.  Most people are surprised to learn there was a Night Life of the Gods movie first! Universal released the movie in 1935, just about a year after Thorne Smith had passed [...]

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Blotto

April 21, 2012

Blotto Yes, you read that correctly. Today I am going to reveal to you the mysterious fun of Blotto.  No, I am not referring to the unofficial non-Olympic sport of inebriation. I am referring to the Blotto band from Albany, New York who got their name from the 1931 Thorne Smith novel  “Night Life of [...]

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Topper Remake

April 19, 2012

Topper Remake For years rumors have swirled throughout Hollywood about a Topper remake. In the late 90′s and early 2000, WKRP In Cincinatti creator Hugh Wilson was reportedly in discussions with Universal Pictures to write and direct the project with no other than Tom Cruise allegedly on board. I’m not sure what happened with that [...]

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Thorne Smith Ebooks

April 16, 2012

Thorne Smith Ebooks One of our friends/readers Sonya Lenzo recently asked about the availability of Thorne Smith ebooks while another, Lyle Johnson inquired as to whether Thorne Smith’s novels were still under copyright. Both are great questions which I will answer, starting with the copyright one because it will lead perfectly into the topic of [...]

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Thorne Smith Books

April 14, 2012

Thorne Smith Books   He was a friend and contemporary of such writers as James Thurber and Sinclair Lewis.  None of Thorne Smith’s books ever topped the best-sellers list, but his work has remained so popular with the public over the past 94 years that he has outsold nearly all of his more critically acclaimed [...]

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Thorne Smith TOPPER

April 13, 2012

Thorne Smith – TOPPER   Today’s audiences think nothing out of the ordinary about BEETLEJUICE (1988) or CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST (1995), or the romantic supernatural possibilities of GHOST (1990) or WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998), but prior to Topper most ghost stories were unsettling tales in  the Wilkie Collins or M. R. James tradition. [...]

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Becoming The Thorne Smith Expert

April 12, 2012

Becoming The Thorne Smith Expert Note: This article was written in a slightly different version for the website http://www.ThorneSmith.net and can be accessed at: http://www.thornesmith.net/Thorne-Smith-About-Me.html   I’d like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about me and Thorne Smith because I’m sure you’re wondering; “Who is this guy and why does he [...]

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