Tricky Dicks (1953)

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.

Tricky Dicks - 1 Moe, Shemp & Larry try to browbeat ChopperMoe, Shemp and Larry try to browbeat Chopper (Phil Arnold).

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.

Tricky Dicks - 3 Larry takes one for the teamLarry takes one for the team.

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.

Tricky Dicks - 4 Chief of Dets B.A. CopperChief of Detectives B.A. Copper (Ferris Taylor) clearly shares my feelings about the Three Stooges.

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.

Tricky Dicks - 2 the organgrinder's monkey goes for Shemp's shoesThe organ grinder’s monkey goes for Shemp’s shoes.

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On Amazon.com: Tricky Dicks.

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16 thoughts on “Tricky Dicks (1953)

  1. Your Three Stooges history is off. The original Stooges were Moe Howard, Shemp Howard, and Larry Fine. They performed in vaudeville with Ted Healy in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Shemp left the act in 1932 and was replaced by brother Curly Howard (the greatest Stooge, in my opinion). When Curly went into decline in the late 1940s (he died in 1952), Shemp returned to take his place. Shemp died in 1955, and was body-doubled by Joe Palma in four shorts that the Stooges had to complete under their current contract with Columbia. Joe Besser then became the third Stooge in 1956-1957, and was replaced by Curly Joe DeRita in 1958. Larry Fine had a stroke in 1970 and died five years later. There was briefly a plan to replace him with Emil Sitka, but nothing much came of it. Moe Howard also died in 1975, a few months after Fine.

    I used to share your negative attitude towards the Three Stooges – I think this was because they SCARED me when I was a kid. But I have made a major re-assessment as an adult. I now think they are brilliant, and not even as consistently “lowbrow” as people sometimes make out. For example, “You Nazty Spy!” (1940), the first Hollywood product to directly satirize Hitler (beating Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” to the post), is quite sophisticated in its political science references.

    • Many, many thanks for this information; I’ve checked and you’re absolutely correct, so I’ve made revisions accordingly. I’m now racking my brains to try to remember which source it could have been that gave me the wrong information, so that I know not to use it again!

      I’m quite prepared to believe that the Stooges are actually brilliant; but I find their style really quite repellent (this may be a cultural thing), and it’s hard for me to get past that.

      • Oh, I completely get what you are saying. Their comedy is CRUEL. They are really mean to each other (yet stick together through thick and thin). This is undoubtedly repellent, but comedy unsoftened and unsentimentalized often is. And that is why, as an adult, I greatly admire the Three Stooges. The world is a cruel place, in my mature estimation. Their disinclination to soften and sentimentalize begins to look like aesthetic principle cropping up in a very odd place. The Stooges’ “worldview,” if we might so dignify it, is bleaker than that of all but the bleakest films noir.

        • Actually, the cruelty doesn’t bother me at all.

          Lemme think. The way I feel about the Stooges is the way I feel about that loudly boorish drunk in the bar you just want to walk away from. It’s purely a personal reaction, and I suppose I should make an effort to get over it so I could try to assess the Stooges a bit more objectively; on the other hand, life’s full of things I should be making an effort for, and some of them are more imperative than this one. 🙂

  2. Well, I will say first up I am a HUGE fan of the Stooges. HUGE. But my affection is at its most pronounced when Curly is part of the mix. Shemp is a weak link. I have of course seen this particular short – heck I’ve seen they all many times over and as always appreciate your scholarship and opinion. Count me in the “brilliant” category.

  3. I’m one of those who would prefer the nail-head-to-wall option when it comes to the Stooges, but this one looks a bit appealing. However, maybe it’s the 16-minute run time that is most attractive? At any rate, I’ve not heard of this before.

    You know, your post makes me think maybe I’m overlooking something obvious when it comes to the Stooges. There has to be a reason why so many people have loved them throughout the decades. Must investigate further.

    • There has to be a reason why so many people have loved them throughout the decades.

      I know: puzzling, isn’t it? And yet you can see from some of the other commenters’ remarks here that their passion for the Stooges runs deep. Like you, I’m baffled.

      Thanks for dropping by!

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