Monday, July 28, 2008

The Three Stooges in "The Hot Scots" (1948), Columbia

For our first Shemp short we chose a personal favorite and one of the best "Shemp" Stooge comedies. Shemp Howard had been a member of the Stooges since their Vaudeville and Ted Healy days. Not a fan of the arrogant Healy, Shemp left the act in 1932 to pursue a very successful solo career. (He was replaced by younger brother Curly ).

Shemp worked in a variety of film roles including the Joe Palooka series, his own shorts for Vitaphone and Columbia and numerous supporting roles with the likes of Abbott and Costello, W. C. Fields, Charlie Chan, the Thin Man and the East Side Kids to name but a few.

When Curly took ill in 1946, Shemp was asked to re-join the Stooges. He brought his own comic genius to the trio. Shemp never tried to imitate Curly. He simply went his own way and added his own bits of business to the act (including his trademark "Heep! Heep! Heep!" cry.

The Stooge comedies of 1947-9 with Shemp are some of their funniest outings. "The Hot Scots" has the boys as would-be Scotland Yard men. (Their yard work consists of trimming the hedges). They accidentally wind up on their first "case" protecting the valuables in the Earl of Glenheather's castle. Out to get the goods are crooked servants Angus (Ted Lorch), McPherson (Charles Knight) and secretary Lorna Doone (Christine McIntyre), a beautiful and versatile Stooges regular. (More on her later.)

While the Earl is called away, the boys are put through their paces by the trio of crooks. Here's where we get into the tried and true "scare" gags. Included are the old guy in a cloak and scary mask bit; the parrot that winds up in a skull and flies around and around; the bed that moves from one room panel to another. (This goes back to Keystone days.)

The gags may be old, but the boys keep us in stitches. The addition of Shemp plus the sure direction of Ed Bernds (a Stooge regular from Curly's last days thru Joe DeRita) make this a Top Notch entry. Incidentally, this short was re-made in 1954 as "Scotched in Scotland" with a new opening and some transition scenes filmed. However, most of the film is the original "stock footage." We even have a new actor doubling for Ted Lorch, who had passed on. This Columbia "chicanary" was infamous. We'll cover more of it in a later post. The closing fight with the bad guys has some hilarious trick sound work as the Stooges voices sound like David Seville and the Chipmunks.
In closing we'll echo Shemp's introduction to Lorna, "Hi, Lorna. How ya' do-in?".

Addendum- The Hot Scots is now available on DVD as part of Sony's Three Stooges Collection.(Vol. 5).

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