austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

My mind's gone I know not where

So a little while ago Turner Classic Movies aired Stop, Look, and Laugh, which I had the Tivo substitute grab in order that I might watch it when I had the chance. This is one of those odd little projects that feels like it was really irresistible in the early 60s: it tries to stitch together a bunch of Three Stooges shorts into something that's properly movie length and distributable in a movie chain world that didn't support short subjects anymore. I remember Harold Lloyd had a couple of stitched-together-clips released about the same time.

The format for this was to set up a framing device with ventriloquist Paul Winchell, playing the ambiguous father to Jerry Mahoney and pulling in a couple appearances by Knucklehead Smiff, and as they go about the day find excuses to refer to, say, Winchell's car being at the garage where we go to a clip from a short of the Stooges working as mechanics. The non-appearance of Winchell and any Stooge on screen together, or even on film stock that looks similar, is noticeable only to people who watch the movie. It's not quite a perfectly logical blending of clips to framing device --- should the Stooges be mechanics the same day they're also veterinarians and also on a TV clip clowning around in Westerns? And should they really matte so much of the Western clip in a TV set's icon, given the warm feelings the movie industry had for television at the time? --- but, eh, it's a framing device, it doesn't have to make sense.

It left me a little dissatisfied in that enough story was trimmed out of the Stooges shorts to leave their melodies damaged, while there wasn't quite enough Winchell/Mahoney for their story to overcome its flimsiness. It also made really how apparent the Winchell/Mahoney/Smiff set parallels Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy/Mortimer Snerd. And that's a dangerous thing to highlight, since it might be the case that Winchell was better at the mechanics of ventriloquy than Bergen was, but it's hard to make that case just from this film's segments, at least compared to the shorts Bergen filmed. And Bergen just performed better, particularly in the timing.

Still, it's tough doing much of anything with the connective tissue that makes up a project like this. I hope Turner Classic Movies has some Winchell material that's actual shorts of his own. I can't suppose he was at his best when the job called on him to intro an all-monkey short version of 'Cinderella', which I don't believe has any Stooge connection but apparently they had rights to that short lying around too.

Trivia: While the Soviet Union did not participate in the 1948 Winter Olympics, it did send ten observers to Saint Mortiz to determine where it would have finished in the medal standings had it competed. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.

Currently Reading: Distress, Greg Egan.


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