Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Battle Royale #8: Battle of Comic Mayhem

Welcome to the eighth Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by  clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

Hey faithful readers and true believers, Battle Royale has returned with an all new no holds barred fantasy fisticuffs showdown.  This time around, instead of pitting just one against one, as we have in the first seven Battle Royale's, we are going three (or four) on three (or four, five or even six).  This time around, you are asked to choose between the two preeminent comedy teams of classic Hollywood.  Will your love for The Three Stooges win out or will your love for The Marx Brothers claim victory.  It is all up to you.  These are the two most famous (three or more member) comedy teams in classic movie history (sorry Monty Python gang, but we are going classic here and you are a bit too on the new side for such an honour) but these are also two comedy teams that, I believe, have very different fan bases.  While the Marx Brothers were usually more cerebral, the Stooges tended to go more for the gut - though the brothers' Marx had no problem going low either.  I myself have always been more of a Marx guy than a Stooge guy but don't let that influence your decision.  As if.  But I digress.

The Stooges began their career in 1925 as part of a vaudeville act known as Ted Healy and His Stooges.  This original act consisted of brothers Moe and Shemp Howard and fellow comic Larry Fine.  After Shemp's departure in 1932, younger brother Curly joined the group, and in 1934, the three comics broke free of Healy (apparently the relationship had always been rather tempestuous), renamed themselves The Three Stooges, and began a career all of their own.  In 1946, Curly suffered a stroke and Shemp was brought back in to replace him.  This was meant as just a temporary situation but after Curly died in 1950, big brother Shemp stayed on until his own death in 1955.  This brought aboard comic Joe Besser as Shemp's replacement, but this would only last four years before Besser was in turn replaced by Curly-Joe DeRita who stayed with the group until the end in 1971.  That was the year that Larry suffered a stroke.  Fellow comic Emil Sitka was asked to come aboard as a replacement, but these plans never came to fruition.  In 1975 Larry Fine passed away, followed by best friend Moe Howard a few months later.  But the Three Stooges will live in film history forever.

The Marx Brothers meanwhile began their stage career as teenagers way back in 1905.  Eventually all five brothers would be in the act - older brothers Leonard (Chico) and Arthur (Harpo), middle brother Julius (Groucho), and little brothers Milton (Gummo) and, once Gummo left for World War I, Herbert (Zeppo).  Gummo would never rejoin the act (he hated performing) and the other four brothers would move from stage to screen with the film The Cocoanuts in 1929.  Zeppo would only last for five films before he too quit (it's never any fun as the straight man in an act of insanity) and joined his brother Gummo in one of the most successful talent agencies in Hollywood history.  The apocryphal tale of Lana Turner being discovered at the counter of a drug store was hyped to the high hills by her agent Zeppo Marx.  Meanwhile, the remaining three brothers, Groucho, Harpo and Chico, would go on to add to their legendary status until they called it quits as an act after the dismal 1949 film Love Happy.  Groucho always considered their penultimate film, A Night in Casablanca, to be their final film, conveniently erasing the other one from his memory.  Groucho of course, went on to great success on that burgeoning medium known as television.  Chico would pass away in 1961, followed by Harpo in 1964.  Groucho would pass in 1977, with Gummo following a few months later.  Zeppo, the baby, would pass away in 1979.  But, like the Stooges above, The Marx Brothers will live forever in cinematic history.

So the decision is yours oh faithful readers and true believers.  The Three Stooges or The Marx Brothers.  All you need do is go on over to the poll (found conveniently near the top of the sidebar) and vote your collective little hearts out.  And please remember that one must go over to the poll to have one's vote counted.  You can babble away in the comments section all you want (and that is certainly something I encourage, as we never get enough feedback around these parts) but to have your vote count, you must click on your choice in the poll.  And also, please go and tell all your friends to vote as well.  Our biggest voter turnout since starting the Battle Royale series has been just 66 votes.  I know we can get that number to a cool one hundred before it is all said and done and the proverbial smoke does its proverbial clearing.  The voting period will last only until December 1st, so get out there and vote people.


Dave Enkosky said...

Just went with Marx brothers. Yeah, I loved the three stooges when I was a kid, but you can't beat the Marxes.

100 Years of Movies said...

I haven't seen all the Marx Bros. stuff yet, but thus far I find them intolerable. Stooges!

Kevyn Knox said...

Well there are a couple of dissenting opinions for ya. But that's what we want. A close race and a lot of debate, so bring it on people. I myself have never "gotten" the Stooges. I do have a close friend who is a standing member of their fan club though. I am guessing he will be voting Stooge-side, cancelling out my Marxist vote.

Unknown said...

...and indeed, I am that friend, and I vote for the Stooges! I love the Marx Brothers, but the problem is, I only like Groucho (one of my comic idols, really) and sometimes Chico. Harpo was never that funny to me, and his 5-minute harp solos, while pretty, always warranted the fast forward button on second viewing. Margaret Dumont was funnier than Harpo, and she wasn't officially part of the team.

The Stooges are an exercise in schadenfreude, and are beloved by people who find it funny when others fall down. Their episodes have nothing to do with plot, and everything to do with just enjoying the ride. Remember when Moe fell into the vat of quick-set latex, and Larry decided that the best way to remove it was to fill him with hydrogen, just before he went floating off? Or when Curly sees a socialite powdering her nose at a fancy dinner table, and then pulls out an electric razor and begins shaving? This is good stuff. Family Guy stuff.

With each passing incarnation of the Stooges, something was lost (though Joe Besser was terrible, and Joe DeRita was an improvement). Still, by the '60s, they'd become a kids' product, and as unfunny as they were, they finally made on merchandising what they never earned being funny (in their three decades at Columbia, they were fleeced and never got a raise).

...and who can say no to a pie fight? Or a clay fight? Or a tamale fight?

Edward Copeland said...

This isn't even a contest in terms of the number of brilliant features and all-around hilarity the Marx Brothers provided.

Anonymous said...

The only way the Stooges could be considered anywhere near the greatness of the Marx Bros is (maybe) if we're talking about Iggy & co.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx for your input, I mean Anonymous caller. I still call Marx over Stooges any day. And yes, even with Iggy and his crew - though their debut album is one of my all-time faves.

Michaël Parent said...

The Marx Bros for me too!