The “Unseen” Three Stooges
Written by Kami at Classic Couple
Generations of Americans know the comedy of The Three Stooges from the regular airing of their escapades on television since 1958. A slapstick team, they were beloved for their physicality and the distinct characters of the three active stooges appearing in the skit. A working comedy team from 1922 until 1970, six stooges performed over the act’s fifty-year run: Moe Howard and Larry Fine as mainstays joined by a third Stooge played by, in order of appearance, Shemp Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard again, Joe Besser, and Curly Joe DeRita.
In 1934, The Three Stooges act signed a contract with Columbia Pictures to appear in two-reel comedy short subjects that required them to release up to eight short films each year within a 40-week period. Over 23 years working for Columbia, the Stooges appeared in 190 film shorts and five features. It’s this content—mostly The Three Stooges shorts—that is well known by television viewers.
The Three Stooges were at the height of their popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, and it is no surprise that they attempted to enter the television market. Try they did in 1949 when they filmed a live television pilot for an ABC TV series. Jerks of All Trades (1949) was designed as a skit comedy in which the Stooges would appear in a different profession each week, echoing many of the troupe’s shorts where they would try their hand at different jobs or trades only to result in a complete fiasco.
The Jerks of All Trades pilot, billed on the title card as “The Three Stooges,” featured Moe, Larry and Shemp as interior decorators. They are hired by Mrs. Pennyfeather to redecorate her home. What ensures in the 21 minutes of the pilot is classic Stooges as they attempt to paint furniture and hang wallpaper, resulting in disaster.
At the end of the show, Moe, Larry and Shemp return to their office where they paint over “interior decorators” on the list of services displayed on the door. A sneak peek at potential future episodes is offered by the rest of the list which includes among others: physicians, surgeons, lawyers, psychiatrists, optometrists, bank examiners, income tax preparers, and babysitters (18 and over only).
Jerks of All Trades gets the audience laughs as The Three Stooges play familiar roles as painters and wallpaper hangers, an excellent vehicle for their slapstick style. Moe, Larry and Shemp are definitely comfortable in their comedy, and the pilot delivers the promise of a successful series to come...
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