Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
      ( 2/08/2005 09:22:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"THIS IS THE HOTTEST JUNE SINCE JULY!" – Soup to Nuts (1930) is one of those flicks better known as a comedy artifact than as an actual movie. The first onscreen appearance of the Three Stooges, it features Moe (credited as "Harry Howard"), Shemp and Curly when they were still part of a larger vaudeville act headed by "nut comic" Ted Healy. The comedy stars Healy as a smart-allecky salesman working for Schmidt's Costume Company, a struggling (this is the Depression, after all) shop in the middle of the big city. Instead of actively selling in the shop, Ted spends most of his days playing checkers at the local firehouse, which is where we meet the boys along with a fourth member of the act, Fred Sanborn, who plays a mincing little guy named Whispering Louie. Sanborn doesn't much interact with anyone but Healy – when the crew dashes off on a fire call, we always see him left behind and then racing after the firetruck – but when it's time for the gang to put on a show for the Firemen's Ball, he's also a part of the proceedings, playing xylophone.

Nuts was written by cartoonist Rube Goldberg (who even gives himself a brief cameo in the flick), but he can't have spent a heck of a lotta time working on the plot, which is similar to any number of early movie comedies, including Rain or Shine: there's a business on the verge of bankruptcy, a budding romance 'tween a sweet young thing and a strapping lad with money, beaucoup banter, and a sequence near the finale that gives the vaudevillians in the cast time to show off part of their act, as well as a big concluding crisis. As in Rain, the last act crisis is a big fire, though here it's handled more for comedy than for any real sense of personal peril.

Because it's Goldberg, we're also presented with some comically pointless inventions. Turns out that Otto Schmidt (Charles Schmidt), the costume shop owner, is a would-be inventor, so there's a sequence in the film where he shows off several of his creations to the wise-cracking Healy. The most elaborate turns out to be a burglar alarm that utilizes a large boot to kick intruders out the second story window and down a chute like some human-sized version of the game of Mousetrap: this device improbably reappears during the fire sequence where a steady stream of firemen is shown sliding down that chute after climbing into the building through a first floor window. Not sure how that was supposed to really work, but it still made me chuckle.

As the movie's lead, Healy isn't as appealing in his second movie role as Joe Cook was in his movie debut. Both leading men could play wise-cracking and devil-may-care, but there's a crueler urban edge to Healy than with Cook. In his original act with the Stooges, it was he who initiated all the slapping, usually after one of the trio delivered a punchline (we see a little of this when the quartet do a part of their act at the Firemen's Ball), and we also see some of this nastiness in his relationship with the perennially gum-chewing blond Queenie (Frances McCoy), who admittedly dishes it back just as roughly to Healy. The two threaten to clobber each other much like the more amiable Stooges would later do in their shorts, though it's a lot more disconcerting for a modern audience to see this interplay between a man-&-woman than it is between three more cartoonly males.

As for the Stooges themselves, they're a more amorphous group – without the distinct personalities that they’d develop on their own – who, by and large, look like any other group of movie character actors: their hair, for one, isn't as distinctive as it later would get (kind of strange to see Larry’s fly-away hair look much more manageably combed and curly), while their banter with Healy, often staged on a racing firetruck, is fairly standard jokery. At two points in the movie, the threesome perform some three-part harmony, which you can also imagine 'em doing up on stage. The germ of their act as the Three Stooges can be glimpsed in Nuts, but it's nearly buried within a morass of pointless subplots about Otto Schmidt losing his business and getting a job as a waiter in a German restaurant, the boy/girl romance and its subsequent misunderstandings, as well as a series of comic bits set in the dress shop.

The last provides what has to be the movie's most surreally memorable moment: as Healy is attempting to nail an order of military uniforms to a would-be army of revolutionaries (you know, the kind that always just walks into the store off the streets of New York!), a baby in a bonnet played by a young Billy Barty(!) is showing doing back flips in the store onto a balloon. (His mother has come into the shop to buy the little tyke something to wear.) We see the "baby" repeatedly land onto the balloon, and we wait for it to pop at an auspicious moment (which, of course, it finally does), but each time he does his little flip, it looks stranger and stranger. Hours after I finished watching this movie, I still kept visualizing Barty in his baby costume: an oddball image that surpasses anything else in this slight little feature. . .

Note: Thanx once again to Aaron Neathery, who now has a blog, for sending me a copy of this and several other hard-to-find 30's comedies. Next up: an Ed Wynn feature entitled Follow the Leader.
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter