Larry – The Stooge In The Middle
WHILE YOU ARE READING THIS on Tuesday the 27th of January, I am typing it on the previous Saturday, the 24th. I mention this just to avoid confusion.
I was looking at Facebook earlier this morning and I saw that today, January 24th, is the anniversary of the death of Larry Fine of The Three Stooges. Larry was the Stooge in the middle – the man with the impossibly frizzy hair who was a trained violinist, but made his living being slapped, poked, and cream-pied. He was the outsider in what was a family act that ran for decades, from burlesque, to vaudeville, the movies and into a renaissance on television.
I remember watching The Three Stooges at the Saturday matinee movies when I was just a kid. It upset my mother when I would come home filled with poking and slapping and “nyuck, nyuck, nyuck-ing.” The nuns really hated it when I would answer a simple question with, “Soitenly, Sister!”
It didn’t take me very long to understand that The Stooges were a “guy thing,” that most girls and virtually all parents did not appreciate them. All they saw was that Moe was the “mean one” and that Curly or Shemp was the “stupid one,” but they could never quite put a label on Larry other than he was “the one in the middle.”
It was in the mid 1950s that television discovered The Stooges. What they probably discovered was that they could get the Stooge’s film shorts on the cheap. I grew up in an area that had only three channels on our TV, but The Stooges were everywhere, morning, noon, and night. I was in heaven. I have to admit that I went so far as scanning the TV Guide so I could plan my day around The Stooges.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched, “Malice in the Palace,” “Sing A Song Of Six Pants,” or “Disorder in the Court.” They still make me laugh.
Over the years (1934 to 1959) they filmed 190 shorts. If you figure that each film was only about fifteen minutes long that still comes out to forty-seven and a half hours of mayhem. And then, in the years after television resurrected them, they made several full length feature films. These employed Joe Besser or Curly Joe DeRita as the third Stooge.
In the 1950s and 60s they began to make personal appearances on local television around the country. Their renewed popularity helped to make their later years much more comfortable because I seriously doubt that they got any residuals when their movie shorts played on TV.
This morning when I saw the mention of Larry Fine it brought it all back to me – all the belly laughs, the chaotic, implausible story lines and the levels of pseudo-violence that made mothers cringe.
The Three Stooges may have been a “guy thing,” but they had an act unlike anyone else, and made millions of us laugh. Through the Great Depression, World War Two, the Cold War and into the Viet Nam Era, The Stooges were there, giving us all a break from worrying about whatever black dogs were growling in the dark corners of our lives.
I’ll never forget Moe, Curly or Larry. They will still make me laugh when everything else fades because all I’ll have to do is hum “Pop Goes The Weasel” to watch Curly fly into a Prize-Fighting Rage.