Shemp-haters of the world, prepare to be schooled. Sure, Shemp Howard was no Curly, but was still an accomplished physical comedian, as fully evidenced in The Three Stooges Collection, Volume 6: 1949-1951. The noteworthy shorts among the 24 chronological two-reelers include:
• “Malice In The Palace” (1949) ::: One of the four Stooges shorts in the public domain, and loaded with Arab stereotypes. The bit with everyone thinking that Larry is cooking dogs and cats in the kitchen is a riot.
• “Self-Made Maids” (1950) ::: A big curiosity, in which the Stooges play every part, thanks to drag, heavy make-up and primitive split-screen technology. The boys court their XX selves, “Moetta,” “Larraine” and “Shempetta” (and believe it or not, Moe is the best looking of the gals). Very well-played.
• “Scrambled Brains” (1951) ::: Shemp at the top of his game, playing mentally ill…for laughs, of course.
There should be another at least another entire Shemp volume following, with the eighth volume marking the end of the Shemp era, as the junior Howard died of a heart attack in 1955 (the Stooges completed four shorts post-Shemp, using a body double, creative blocking and recycled footage from their younger days).
The term “Fake Shemp” or simply, “Shemp,” is used to describe someone who appears in a film under heavy make-up, filmed from the back, or perhaps only showing an arm or a foot. Although use of the term is limited, it is frequently used in connection with Sam Raimi movies. The credits for Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” (1981) feature 18 credited Shemps.
Robert Newton is a veteran film critic and the editor of NorthShoreMovies.net. He runs the Cape Ann Community Cinema in Gloucester, and makes novelty records (as “Fig”). He believes popcorn should be its own food group.