US / 16 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir & Pr: Jules White Scr: Felix Adler Cine: William E. Whitley Cast: Shemp, Larry, Moe, Benny Rubin, Connie Cezan, Ferris Taylor, Phil Arnold, Murray Alper, Suzanne Ridgeway. It is a truth universally acknowledged that, given the option between watching a Three Stooges movie and nailing his own head to the wall, your humble correspondent would ordinarily choose the latter. On the other hand, this effort is a supposed parody of the kind of crime movies that Hollywood was churning out at the time, many of which had fringe noir/noirish interest, so it falls within our remit here. And thus does duty triumph over inclination. A wall is spared.
The original Three Stooges were Shemp Howard, Moe Howard and Larry Fine. Shemp left to pursue a solo career in 1932 and was replaced by Jerome “Curly” Howard. During the 1940s, Curly suffered a series of strokes probably related to his chronic alcoholism; the most severe occurred during the filming of Half-Wits Holiday (1947), and thereafter—aside from a guest cameo role in Hold That Lion! (1947)—his screen career was over. Shemp returned to take his place, and it’s the Shemp, Moe and Larry lineup that we see here.
Larry seems a rather different comedian from the two Howards: there’s seemingly the potential for danger in his persona, as if his real calling might have been satire, not knockabout slapstick. He was also an accomplished violinist; on occasions when the Stooges are seen playing violins, Larry is the only one actually doing so.
In Tricky Dicks the three are police detectives; the movie’s set entirely within the squadroom of their precinct house. Shemp brings in a sultry blonde pickpocket named Slick Chick (Cezan, who’s very funny and has something of a Bette Davis look). She not only promptly picks his pocket but comes out with the best line in the movie:
Shemp: Where were you born?
Slick Chick: In bed. I wanted to be near my mother.
The trio’s boss, Chief of Detectives B.A. Copper (Taylor), instructs them to drop everything to seek the killer of Slug McGurk. They haul up two of the prisoners from the cells: Chopper, aka Gilbraithe Q. Tiddlywadder (Arnold), a publicity seeker who’s more than willing to confess to the killing, and Antonio Zucchini Salami Gorgonzola dePizza (Rubin), an Italian organ-grinder who flees at the mention of blood but leaves behind his monkey, which proceeds to create havoc. The second time Chopper confesses, the Stooges take him seriously, only for the real killer (Alper) to appear and, irate that someone else should be trying to steal his limelight, start shooting the place up with a revolver that seems to hold an infinite number of bullets.
Even for this confirmed Stoogeophobe, the movie had its moments. There are several good snappy lines aside from the one cited above, and the monkey’s cute.
On Amazon.com: Tricky Dicks.