Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stooges & Fords: Never A Happy Ending.


When Moe, Larry and Curly got their hands on an automobile, it usually meant trouble was just around the corner. Its not that they couldn't drive...they handled that part well. Of course there was that one time when they borrowed their Fire Captain's shiny new '36 Ford Coupe without permission and ran it into a lightpost, and then crashed it into the back of a moving van.

There was also the time when they went hunting and nabbed a bear and threw it into the back seat of their '34 Ford Phaeton only to have it wake up and scare them into jumping out of the moving car. Who couldn't forget that other time when an escapade ended in a child abduction and the abandonment of a fine '36 Ford woody?

If you're keeping score at home, the Stooges had a terrible track record with cars, and usually it was a classic early V8 Ford that took the brunt of their punishment. They never meant to harm these vehicles, it just sort of happened. After a couple of slaps, an eye poke, and getting a pair of pliers clamped on your nose, scroll down and take a gander at some of the boy's collateral damage.

False Alarms (1936)

Car Damaged: 1936 Ford Model 68 Coupe

Early V-8 Ford coupes were beautiful machines back when they were new, and remain stylish some 70 years later. This epic Stooge short featured the trio as firefighters without much skill. Imagine that. After missing the last several fire alarm calls due to oversleeping and general laziness, the guys are determined to make up for it by being prompt on the next call. While the fire brigade is out one afternoon, Curly sneaks away to visit his lady friend. Once her friends say that they're bored, he decides to call up Larry and Moe back at the fire station to keep the other women company. He calls them the quickest way he knows how, by pulling the fire alarm on the call box on the street. Not wanting to miss a fire alarm call, Larry and Moe rush to the scene in the Captain's brand new 1936 Ford coupe, only to discover its Curly and his harem...not an actual fire.

To make lemonade out of lemons, the boys and girls all pile into the car, play peek-a-boo while driving, and terrorize the motorists and pedestrians of Los Angeles. With Curly at the wheel, eventually the car crashes into a pole and wrecks everyone's fun. In an attempt to push the car into the street and get it back to the station before the captain knows its missing, the boys forget to turn the ignition switch off and the car takes off on its own. Much like trapping a wild animal, the flathead Ford is trapped by the boys using ramps setup in the back of a Bekin Moving and Storage truck, where it crashes and burns. The truck takes off down the street and the fire brigade chases after it. That's what you'd call Built Ford Tough.

A publicity photo from Columbia Pictures featuring the finished product.      Photo Credit: The HAMB

Sure, take the Captain's car.

"Is there any gas in it?"
Distracted driving in 1936.

Stunt drivers were cooler back in the day when life meant nothing.

Notice the safety chains around Curly's neck, used for traction as Moe yanked him out.
The battered beauty would be rebuilt today, but likely ended up in the scrap heap after filming.

Wheelie bars optional.


Sock-A-Bye Baby (1942)

Car Abandoned: 1936 Ford Model B Deluxe Station Wagon

Kidnapping was added to the resumes of our three friends in this episode. Okay, in all fairness they didn't know they kidnapped a baby because the kid climbed into the back seat of their woody while they were running from the cops. Makes sense now, doesn't it? You know, this one has a long plot...I'll skip to the highlights. They discover a baby on their doorstep, left by a quarreling couple by mistake. Totally normal for 1942. Whatever. The boys take the little kid in, try to feed it spaghetti and stuff, and when the parents report the kid missing (the baby's daddy is a policeman, by the by), the guys freak out and leave town but the kid crawled into their car. 

They disguise their woody as a giant tent and drive around undeveloped Los Angeles to ditch the motorcycle cops chasing them. They steal a bottle of beer from a landscaper, and eventually abandon the car and hide out in haystacks in the country while the cop picks up his kid. Whoever wrote this short was on crack, which technically wasn't invented until 1984...but they were on it.
A sweet publicity still featuring the Stooges and the woody wagon from "Sock-a-Bye Baby   Photo Credit: The HAMB
Darn kids...

The Stooges make a break for it. Nice picket fence.

Hiding from the cops.

What's the top of the Washington Monument doing out here? Crack.


Higher Than a Kite (1943)

Car Damaged: 1941 Ford Standard 2 Door Sedan

A personal favorite, this World War II-era short prominently features a fat-fendered '41 Ford sedan that gets its guts ripped out. The Stooges want to be pilots in the Royal Air Force, but instead they get assigned to the motor pool as mechanics. Totally logical alternative for them, right? Right. One day, an officer drops off the Colonel's car for them to find a "squeak that's been driving him nuts". Simple task for most, but not for Moe, Larry and Curly.

Instead of solving the single problem, they create additional ones by jamming Moe's head in a hunk of cast iron pipe after he gets caught up under the rear wheels of the car. Moe retaliates by throwing a hammer at Curly, which misses him and goes directly into the passenger side windshield. Curly struggles with getting the long, narrow hood open. It closes on his hand a few times, prompting him to call it a bite from a "navigator", which is lunkhead for "alligator". Larry and Curly also disassemble the motor and transmission in an effort to track down the "squeak", which they believe is a tangible item. Quickly coming up on their repair deadline, they literally shovel the engine pieces into the engine bay just before the officer comes to pick up the Colonel's car. The car fires up, sounds good at first, and then pukes its parts all over the garage floor. The Stooges end up hiding out in a bomb, and getting dropped behind German enemy lines. A tad harsh, but whatever. They make the most of it.

The Colonel's car has a squeak and its driving him nuts. Why not bring it to the motorpool?

Curly pets the "navigator" in an attempt to pacify it.
"Well, this is the last thing in there, and still no squeak!" -Curly

Guess Curly & Larry didn't check those torque specs.


Idiots Deluxe (1945)

Car Abandoned: 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton

This short begins with a courtroom scene where Moe is on trial for beating Curly and Larry unmercifully. Then, we flash back to the incident that caused Moe to snap, which was the touching-off of his delicate nerves. The poor guy can't catch a break because his roommates are complete imbeciles who play loud music and act like fools. Moe is struggling to keep his composure but can't. His temper has reached the boiling point with Larry & Curly. So to alleviate his stress, the guys decide to go hunting. Hilarity ensues and a bear eventually eats their food, plays dead, and later wakes up in the backseat of their phaeton on the way home.

The boys freak out, jump out of the car, and the bear crashes it into a tree. We fast-forward back to the courthouse where the judge takes pity on the frazzled Moe, and finds him not guilty. As a free man, Moe proceeds to chase Larry & Curly out of the courtroom with an axe and threaten their lives. Roll credits. Incidentally, this car would be worth anywhere between $55,000 to $100,000 or more in today's market. The bear incident may have hurt its value somewhat.  




There's nothing like a little hunting trip with your buddies, some good eats, and a black bear.

The bear signals for a turn, and then misses it entirely.
"What's Moe gonna say when he sees this?"


Pardon My Backfire in 3-D (1953)

Car Damaged: 1940 Ford Standard 4 Door Sedan

The Stooges are mechanics once again, and unbeknownst to them, a group of escaped convicts appear, posing as customers in need of gas and a quick repair of their front fender. While listening to the radio, the boys hear the news bulletin and a description of the criminals, and they're a perfect match for their would-be customers. Eventually they wind up breaking the windshield, setting each other on fire with a torch, dodging knife-wielding gangsters, and even shooting lacquer paint in a guy's face. Oh, its a good short! Just get past the bad 3-D effects and "pneumatic chisel somehow winds up in Larry's mouth" part.
A little hammer and dolly work and some lacquer should fix that right up.


"Some sweet music for a sweet thing" - Moe

Sure, he's a criminal...but does he deserve to be shot in the face with paint and have his ass set on fire with an acetylene torch? Absolutely.


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It sure is funny to look back at all this destruction of cars that in today's market would fetch a pretty penny. For all the classic Fords The Three Stooges trashed, they seemed to actually repair Chevrolets.



Ah, who are we kidding. This car got wrecked just as the others did. These guys were numbskulls after all. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

-D


Image Credit: All images property of C3 Entertainment and/or Columbia Pictures Industries unless noted. 

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