Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Three Stooges--Hoi Polloi

Hoi Polloi, an ancient Greek term for the masses, is one of the most famous Stooge shorts.  It is the first of several homage to George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.   The idea of taking some lower class citizens and turning them into gentlemen is a natural fit for the Stooges.   So natural, in fact, the story idea was suggested by one of their wives.  Moe’s wife, Helen, came up with the idea.  She was offered money or story credit for its use.  She shrewdly chose the former.

Professor Richmond makes a $10,000 bet with Professor Nichols that he can turn three low class individuals into gentlemen in the belief that environment trumps hereditary.  They run into the Stooges as inept garage men and Richmond has his three subjects.  He also has his work cut out for him. 

The Stooges demonstrate their usual lack of grace at the dinner table, in polite conversation, reading, and at dancing lessons.  The dancing lesson with Geneva Mitchell is considered one of the funniest stooge moments.  Mitchell informs the trio to do exactly as she does. But when a bee flies into her dress, the stooges mistake her exaggerated attempts to et rid of it as dance moves.  With the camera sped up, they twist, jump, and flip their way under until they wind up jumping out a window and landing in a fountain outside.

The make or break point is a dinner party at which the stooges are a disaster.  Along with the usual slaps and eye pokes, Curly rips Moe’s coat via loose thread, moa and Larry collide with each other and their partners on the dance floor, curly gets stuck in a spittoon, shaves in front of a guest, and swipes a bottle of champagne.  The most famous bit is when Curly gets a spring attached to his rear end on the dance floor.

Richmond concedes his bet to Nichols.  Nichols in turn mocks the Stooges.  His wife becomes offended and slaps him.  When Richmond laughs at the slap, Nichols pops him.  Soon, everyone is beating up on everyone else in Stooge-style slapstick.  The Stooges themselves are about to depart in disgust over the behavior of the hoi polloi when Richmond and Nichols get the final drop on them. 

Hoi Polloi is full of famous scenes and big laughs.  It is the best short they have filmed thus far.  It might very well be their best short period.  The Stooges knew this.  They essentially repeated the short twice more over their careers.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)    

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