Sunday, November 22, 2009

The 3 Stooges-Hula -La-La (1951)

The Stooges go native in this delightful 1951 short , one of their very best with Shemp as third stooge. The plot has the boys as dance teachers at a movie studio sent to a South Sea island to teach the natives how to dance , the studio is planning a big polynesian epic and find out their natives can't dance! Along the way the boys run afoul of beautiful island girls, headhunters, an evil witch doctor and a pesky idol with four arms!

This breezy short was directed by Hugh McCollum , primarily a producer at the Columbia Shorts Dept. His style was more laid-back and jovial than the violent Jules White, however we have the usual wild slapstick gags by the boys. The story was by Ed Bernds , himself one of the Stooges' best directors. His screenplay has loads of witty dialog and bad puns. Another plus is the little untitled island song that gets played thruout the short, it gives not only the proper flavor but a nice change of pace. (Columbia, always thrifty reused it as backround music at a waterfront cafe in the 1955 sci-fi classic , It Came from Beneath the Sea).

The supporting cast is an exellent one including Stooge regular Emil Sitka as Mr. Baines the studio chief.(he will be the subject of a future post) His part is small but he makes the most of it even getting in a nifty pratfall. Emil plays his own age here, he was very adept at old codgers and goofy professors.
Jean Willes plays the native girl Luana, she joined the Columbia shorts in the mid 40s as Jean Donahue and was a busy player with the Stooges and other comics thru the mid 50s. Jean was a tall, leggy brunette and like Christine McIntyre(the Stooges' first lady) she had a good flair for comedy. She worked in many features of the 40s and 50s, popped up in the feature version of McHale's Navy and was in the classic Twilight Zone episode , Will the Real Martian please Stand Up?
Another favorite Stooge foil Kenneth McDonald plays Varanu the Witch Doctor. Kenneth was a great slimy villain with his pencil mustace and theatrical voice , many Perry Mason fans remember him as one of the regular judges on the show. A Hawaiian named Lei Aloha (sounds like a stage name!) plays the idol and longtime bit player Heinie Conklin gets to mug a little as the king.

The comic highlights are many , but here are some of my favorites:
The opening scenes with the Stooges as dance instructors are a hoot. Moe telling Shemp that the "girls have their rondelets mixed up with their pirouettes and their fortissimos tangled with their allegrettos." Shemps's response- "Yeh, but what's wrong with their dancin'?" Shemp proceeds to give the girls a wild display of his dance style only to find he's dancing to a Trombone part! ( The boys were all great eccentric hoofers , but Shemp took the cake).

Varanu showing the boys his collection of shruken heads has a great Columbia editing gaffe as Moe's scream gets dubbed in before he can react. Shemp's visit to Luana's hut has him hiding under the bed when Varanu enters and Shemp dealing with a visit from a baby and momma crocodile while still under the bed. Great Stuff! We even get the old "You can say that again" bit when Luana tells the boys that the witch doctor is a bad man. (she says it again, of course).

Moe and Larry's encounter with the Idol (Old Four Arms) is a classic with both getting heaps of punishment from the multiple arms before Moe gets her with a great eye-poke. (the Idol uses all 4 hands to cover her eyes). The Idol is guarding a box of hand grenades that the Stooges use in the finale. Shemp also gets in some good jungle dialog calling Luana's boyfriend,Kuala the Coca-Cola guy and instructing a native to Ungow! and get him some food.

Just when it looks like the boys are to be victims of Varanu's axe on the chopping block , Moe asks him for a sample of his work on the grenade box. When arrogant Varanu obliges he gets blown sky high with only his smoking sandals left! (a perennial Stooge gag). Finally the boys get to give the islanders their dance lesson. Moe, Larry, Shemp and the cast start skipping, shuffling and trying to hula accompanied by the little island song. Shemp again takes top honors with his wild contortions.

Hula-La-La is oneof the best of the many classic Shemp outings by the Stooges. It is available on Vol.6 of the Sony/Stooges collection. (which should be wrapping up in 2010).

Till next time-Keep Stooging!





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