Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Three Little Pigmalions: "Hoi Polloi" (1935)

The Three Stooges go the "Pygmalion"/"My Fair Lady" route in this funny short film.

Two professors (Robert Graves and Henry Holman) make a $10,000 wager that one of the men can turn three uncouth men off the street into gentlemen. They find three garbage men (our Three Stooges- Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard) who would be perfect candidates. They stay with the professor for months, taking etiquette and dance lessons, until their big society debut at a classy party. This is the highlight, with Curly dealing with a couple of hilariously awful dance partners.

All the old bits are here, but remember they were new bits back in the day! A still-funny sequence has the dance instructor (Geneva Mitchell) telling the three to do everything she does, just before a bee flies down the back of her dress. The slap and punching choreography is top-notch, and the other cast members get into the act by the end of the film. Lord does well with his direction, matching the performers.

I have never been a fan of colorizing black and white films, but Columbia/Tri-Star does a good job here. Their choice of crayon color costuming for the Stooges is hilarious, but the technology still isn't quite there yet, although the colorized print I saw was done about a decade ago (and for some reason, tacked on to a DVD release of Jamie Foxx in "Breakin' All the Rules").

"Hoi Polloi" is good, funny, surreal physical comedy from the kings of slapstick. They were at the top of their game. (* * * *) out of five stars.