The Early Days Of Television And The Three Stooges

- jim Young,

“In my country, they have earned the utmost respect from their compatriots.” - Major Charles Winchester explaining to 3 Korean doctors why he sarcastically refers to them as “Larry, Curly and Moe”. From the tv show M*A*S*H

I remember listening to the radio before we had television. I can’t remember the names of the children’s shows I listened to on the radio with my three sisters, but I remember fondly listening to “Hockey Night In Canada” with Foster Hewitt. It was a Saturday night tradition as my sisters and I gathered ‘round the stove watching Dad make popcorn just before the game was about to begin. We would all watch the kernels frying in butter trying to guess which one would pop first.

I knew I had a winner picked every time but just before it popped, Dad would gently shake the pot over the stove element to prevent the kernels from burning and I would lose sight of it. Of course once the first kernel popped, the lid went on the pot to keep the popping corn from flying all over the kitchen.

Then came TV. The "Hockey Night In Canada” tradition carried on for many years on TV instead of the radio, but new traditions were born as well. In the mid 1950s we were among the first of the families in the small village of Stroud to own a TV and all the neighbourhood children would come to watch “Howdy Doody” or “Mighty Mouse” with us at our house.

I can still remember an occasional Sunday Night being allowed to stay up late enough to watch Ed Sullivan with my father.

As I grew a little older, I was obsessed with television more so than my sisters and began to watch shows on my own such as Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Leave It To Beaver and Lassie.

I ignored my mother’s warnings of “Don’t sit too close to the television” and “Don’t watch tv in the dark” lest it ruin my eyesight. They say those are just “old wives tales” now but by the age of 12 I required glasses… so who knows for sure? Fortunately that “other” warning of that era, of a certain activity often enjoyed by young boys in the privacy of their bedrooms did not render me blind.

Then, in 1958 Screen Gems packaged 78 shorts for national syndication of a show that would become one of my all time favourites… “The Three Stooges”. 

Gathering around the television to enjoy their favourite show was bonding time for the family in the 1950s and 1960s. Yes it was black and white and only got one channel but on the plus side there were no arguments about what show to watch.

There were actually six, Three Stooges in all - Moe, Larry, Shemp, Curly, Joe and Curly Joe but only 3 appeared together at any given time. In 1961, when I was just 8 years old a Three Stooges movie came to our local theatre in the nearby city of Barrie. I begged my parents to let me go see “Snow White And The Three Stooges” on the big screen but my pleas all fell on deaf ears. I wasn’t old enough to go on my own, my father didn’t have time to take me and as we all know ALL girls hate The Three Stooges (or at least profess to hate them) so my mother and older sisters were not about to endure a running time of 107 minutes and 21 seconds of The Three Stooges’ “silly” (a girls’ description) slapstick comedy.

However, a couple of years ago as I was perusing the DVD shelves of our local “Trash and Treasures”, I happened across a copy of “Snow White And The Three Stooges” on DVD.

Sixty years after its release and still every bit The Three Stooges fan I always have been, I finally got to see the movie.

Here is my “Dog On A Root Review Of Snow White And The Three Stooges”.

“I wept, I laughed, I cried. I shrank in terror as the dastardly, evil queen planned her evil plots to murder Snow White.”

Yeah, yeah, I know "wept" and "cried" are the same thing and "planning a plot", especially an “evil plot” by an “evil queen” is a double redundancy; but then "double redundancy" is also a “double redundancy”.

After all these years of denial, I think My Shirley might, in fact, be a Stooges fan as she recognized immediately that “Curly Joe” was not the original “Curly”.

When I paused the movie to explain that Curly Howard died at a relatively young age, My Shirley also remembered that. So I think I "outed" her. My Shirley, as I suspect most women do, secretly likes the Three Stooges.

At this point, I should warn you there are a lot of "spoiler alerts" in this article if you are intending on finally watching this movie yourself.

One of the things the critics didn't like about this movie when it first ran, was that there wasn't enough of the Three Stooges in it.

Snow White And The Three Stooges was the second feature film to star The Three Stooges after their resurgence in popularity in 1959 thanks to the advent of television.

They were right. I think if you took all the Three Stooges parts out and played them together, you'd be hard pressed to get a 10 minute clip of the Three Stooges out of the almost 2 hour movie.

The rest of the movie is a typical "formula written" musical with some good singing, skating in place of dancing and even some not bad action scenes. On the plus side the colour is impressive for a 1961 movie and the skating scenes and musical selections are pretty good except that NONE of the songs were as commercially successful as something like "The hills are alive with the Sound of Music" or "When you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way" as other musicals of that era produced.

Snow White is played by figure skater Carol Heiss - 1960 Olympic champion, the 1956 Olympic silver medalist, and a five-time World champion. So there's THAT. It might at least keep some of the ladies’ attention.

On the other hand, figure skaters have gotten much better in the last 60 years.

But don't be impressed by Prince Charming (played by Edward Stroll). In the movie he's a ventriloquist with a dummy named Quinto. You will NEVER see his lips move but that's because Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck) is the voice of Quinto from off screen.

The Three Stooges, for the little they appeared - are worth watching the movie for although the much anticipated slapstick is sometimes noticeably lacking. There's a scene where you're thinking "here it comes" and they fool you and Larry and Curly DON'T hit their heads on the door header, but the scene where Moe falls and the eggs fall on his head is priceless. Some of the eggs are broken BEFORE they even hit Moe’s head.

Most disappointing was the absence of the "Three Blind Mice" tune. There were a few times I expected them to sneak it in, but it didn't happen. For a while I thought that it was going to be like Jaws. Stephen Spielberg insisted the shark would NOT appear until half way through the movie, so I was hoping to hear “Three Blind Mice” half way through this movie - or at the very least over the end credits - but no dice.

Maybe my parents weren't being mean to me after all. Maybe they somehow knew I would be bored sitting through this movie when I was just 8.

Yes, my friends… Those were the days.

- 30 -

Do you have some pictures or memories of the proverbial “good old days” that you would like to share? If so, please send them by clicking on this link, Those Were The Good Old Days.



Stuff others read

Published In The Great North Arrow, June 1, 2023: Do You Want Fries And Taxes With That?

Obituary: 173 Big Bay Point Road