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Not As Bad As People Might Think:

The Three Stooges Debut in Woman Haters

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Though the title of this Stooges short suggests misogynistic tendencies, neither the author nor the Stooges fan base support any kind of bad treatment to women)

(Some spoilers may follow)

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Woman Haters (1934) **** ½

Moe Howard: Tom (as Moe)

Curly Howard: Jack (as Curley)

Larry Fine: Jim (as Larry)

Marjorie White: Mary

Bud Jamison: WH Club Chairman

Walter Brennan: The Train Conductor

Written by: Jerome S. Gottler

Directed by: Archie Gottler

Synopsis: The Stooges decide to join the Woman Haters Club after so much bad luck in love. This decision quickly sees complications when Larry (called Jim) falls in love with a woman named Mary and asks her to marry him. In the ensuing attempts to break up the wedded bliss, Moe (called Tom) and Curly (called Jack) find themselves being tempted by the beautiful Mary, who has discovered their involvement in the group.

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The Stooges first ever solo short, after permanently breaking ties with abusive bully Ted Healy is a unique debut. Done in a sing-song, every line rhymes style dialogue, The Stooges are seen giving up women forever for whatever reason they have. In the fashion that would quickly become their trademark, this decision is easier said than done, and the boys find themselves fighting temptation after temptation to stay true to their club, even going so far as to try to foil one’s happiness when he discovers he can’t go through with it. Not the usual fare the Stooges found themselves in, it’s still interesting to see how they work with material before they could put their own fine spin on it. What adds to the uniqueness of the short is that it’s loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Loves Labors Lost, which offers good credence for the rhyme scheme style dialogue; though more argue it was an axed entry into Columbia’s Musical Novelty series that was simply recycled for the Stooges debut. Granted it might be cheap to some in getting their first shot at stardom, but everyone starts somewhere, and this really isn’t a bad debut for The Boys.

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The colorful antics that America and the World over would come to love about the Stooges are not on display here, and they are truly different people in this short. That they go by the names Tom, Jack, and Jim in the script and short itself shows it was indeed originally penned for something else that later become theirs. This would be the only time the Stooges would use totally different names when performing, though years later they would play totally separate characters who weren’t a team. The Stooges themselves were never happy with this short as their introduction as a solo group, but because they wanted to be rid of Ted Healy and be paid what they felt they were worth, probably had no choice. Even though it comes off as totally alien to what audiences loved the trio for, sight gags like the eyepoke and the head & face slaps make their debut as well in the short, and already have the markings that fans all over would soon recognize as part of the trio’s repertoire.  Interestingly enough, the short came in right around the time The Pre-Code Era was ending and The Hays Code was starting to be rigidly enforced, and while not explicit in anything, some sequences with Mary could be seen as somewhat risqué, even for the period it was made.

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The Stooges are in fine form as always, even when it’s clear this was the first time they were the headliners the story and action would be following around. All three, Moe especially, may look completely out-of-place talking like they were in a spoken word play, or a musical without tempo and tone, but even from the beginning they had a clear-cut idea of what they wanted in terms of chemistry from each other. Moe is the “Boss” Stooge from the very start, managing in one way or another to keep the other two in check. Moe really didn’t do much different throughout the years, but in this first starring short, speaks more calmly and isn’t bursting into his usual modem of rage and shouting, though still makes it clear he’s mad at Larry for breaking the oath they just made.  Curly is surprisingly not the buffoon he would heavily play up not too long into their success and is fairly straightforward in his acting. This is quite interesting to see because it offers a different side to Curly not many fans got to see, and apart from a couple of sight gags with Moe, he’s more of a levelheaded pal for his older brother and their man in the middle. His goofball antics always a blast, it’s interesting and refreshing to see how Curly was in those early days before their routines were finely honed. Larry is interestingly played up as the goof in this one, desperately, and humorously trying to keep two different events that occurred in the span of a few weeks from both his wife, and his buddies. Larry was normally the levelheaded one of the group, and to see him be flustered, bewildered, and unsure of how he’ll juggle marriage and being a member of the Woman Haters Club is quite funny to look at. While not what most fans are used to, it’s still intriguing to see how the boys shaped what they would eventually be famous for.

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Marjorie White, the Stooges first leading lady, offers a wonderful and bittersweet performance (as she would pass away months later in a car accident), as Mary, Larry (Jim)’s wife. An up-in-coming comedienne leading lady from Canada, White had all the makings of starlet. A combination of beauty, wit, charm, and dialogue delivery, White was an equal to Thelma Todd, Patsy Kelly, and Zasu Pitts in comedy, and a precursor to talent like Fran Drescher, Madeline Kahn, and Phyllis Diller. She acts as both foil and love interest to the Stooges, playing all three against each other, trying to figure out why husband Jim is acting so strangely on their honeymoon. Her singing is also quite good thanks to a successful stint in Vaudeville, belting out lyric after lyric. With only a small number of appearances under her belt it’s a bit of a difficulty in nailing down exactly what White’s style was, but it’s clear she was a talent that would’ve gone a long way had that unfortunate accident not prematurely ended both her career and life.

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In a surprising debut that viewers will have to look twice to notice is Walter Brennan in an unaccredited role as a train conductor. Normally known for Westerns and Dramas, Brennan’s start is in a laugh a minute comedy, acting as a flunky for the Stooges. Put through the wringer by Moe and Curly as they initiate him into the Woman Haters Club, Brennan takes the boys brand of comedy stride, and even make a second appearance, again unaccredited, as their father.

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This might not have been the Stooges favorite of their own work, but it’s still quite a good watch for anyone who likes the Stooges. It’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but it offers good fun, a unique method of dialogue delivery, and a good story that stands the test of time. Everyone starts somewhere, and this is unique enough a piece that it gives old fans an idea of how the Stooges had to start, and gives new fans something to compare the latter half of their career to see how they grew. In some places it comes off and clunky, but the Stooges even in this transition from one studio to another, showed they were consummate professionals who knew their craft and worked with even the mot slimmest of scripts that still needed fine tuning. Not something they would ever do again, Woman Haters is a nice one-off shot by The Stooges in what was soon to become one of the top-selling draws of the Great Depression and WWII eras.

(It might be clunky in spots, but Woman Haters is an interesting point for one of the greater comedy teams in The Three Stooges and is a must look at for anyone who loves them and/or comedy)

(I already have a link for the Stooges boxset in my other Stooges write-up, so just look up that review to buy the set)

All images courtesy of images and their respective owners

For more information

The Stooges Wikia





Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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