Monday, September 19, 2011

An Ache in Every Stake - 1941

“An Ache in Every Stake” (1941) presents The Three Stooges as icemen, who struggle to carry a block of ice up a long outdoor set of concrete stairs before it melts. Such are the simple plots that make The Three Stooges shorts easy enough to entertain children, which is why most children love the Stooges and then grow out of it when they realize they’re not supposed to like something this dumb.

This post is my entry for the Guilty Pleasures Blogathon sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Have a look here for a list of other blogs participating in this fun event.

However, I wouldn’t say that watching “An Ache in Every Stake”, directed by Del Lord, is really a “guilty” pleasure, as I guess I’m blissfully untroubled by too many of those. With a Stooge-like simplicity, I grew up with the idea that if I liked something, it was automatically “cool”. This covers a pretty large range.

I like the Stooges. These shorts are decried as being violent, which of course they are. But Moe, Curly, and Larry (and other stand-in Stooges off the bench) were never mean, devious, or sinister. They were just stupid. They reacted quickly, like children, to frustration, slapping each other or grabbing each other’s heads with ice tongs in an effort to encourage the offending party to cooperate.

It was always about cooperation. The boys were a team, and their mission here as icemen is to deliver that block of ice to a housekeeper, played by Blanche Payson, so high above them she needs a megaphone to shout her order.

They like their jobs. In any Three Stooges short, you’ll see them working at a variety of jobs, mostly unskilled labor. Films today don’t often show characters who like their jobs, especially “working stiff” type jobs. The Stooges bear none of the, for today, typical resentment and anger, or malice at their jobs. Perhaps because in the Depression they are glad to have any job; perhaps they are just too stupid to know they will never get rich driving an ice wagon.

Perhaps, like me, they are blissfully unaware that driving an ice wagon is not something so great.

But I think it’s their innate childlike pleasure when they accomplish a task that makes them happy people, if not terribly successful.

Not that they accomplish too many tasks well, but one must admire their perseverance.

Their most endearing quality is their willingness to help others, seen in “An Ache in Every Stake” when they suddenly put aside their icemen jobs to prepare a birthday dinner for the master of the house because the tempermental chef, played by Gino Corrado, has quit. Right after the food fight.

The man of the house is played by Vernon Dent, on whom they have already accidently smashed two birthday cakes he was trying to bring home to the party. (Toward the end of the film, they will explode another cake, filled with natural gas, in his face. They are nothing if not consistent.)

His wife, played by Bess Flowers, is distraught about her servant trouble, wanting the party to go well. The Stooges, ever chivalrous where a lady is concerned, don chefs’ outfits and start to cook the dinner and bake the cake. That none of them has experience in this field, has never attended a culinary institute, has never even watched an afternoon of cooking shows on PBS, is irrelevant. The boys must help somehow.

When Curly reads directions he is to separate two eggs, he of course, takes two eggs and places them apart from each other. Something I inevitably call to mind when separating egg whites from the yolks, chuckling with idiotic pleasure.

Bess Flowers, incidentally, has the distinction of being in about a zillion movies as an extra, usually with no lines. Some of the films we’ve already discussed on this blog in which she’s had roles include “Rear Window”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Executive Suite”, “Calamity Jane”, “Here Comes the Groom”, and “Double Indemnity.” In “Cry Wolf”, she’s the woman in the painting on the wall.

So, if the respected Queen of the Extras does not discriminate between A-list films and The Three Stooges, who are we to knock them?

Such is my appreciation for The Stooges and “An Ache in Every Stake” in particular, that I visited the site of those famous steps a few years ago. They are a public walkway (like a vertical alley) connecting a road at the bottom of the hill and a road at the top. It is a residential neighborhood, and as you can see by these photos, much more built up and overgrown than when the Stooges were here, failing to deliver a single block of ice.  They tried to carry a large ice box up the steps instead.  That didn't work out too well, either.  But, as always, high marks for trying.

(JT Lynch photo)

These steps are not marked with a sign noting them as a location shot for the Stooges, as the more famous “Music Box Steps” are that were featured in the Laurel and Hardy film. (Which I discussed in this previous post.) You can find the Stooge steps in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles between 2257 and 2258 Fair Oak View Terrace in a cul-de-sac. Have a look here at this website for more photos and an areal view of this location.

The blogger as tourist. (JT Lynch photo)

Speaking of film locations of Hollywood movies, have a look here at Dear Old Hollywood, which is a fun blog that tracks down the real-life spots in our favorite films.

The boys "toboggan" down past the landing where I stood in the above photo.

You can watch "An Ache in Every Stake" here on YouTube.


Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

We baked you a birthday cake
If you get a tummy ache
And you moan and groan and woe
Don't forget we told you so!

Great post, Jacqueline. I've been so busy working on my Guilty Pleasure entry that I haven't been able to read the others but I'll never pass up a chance to read good things about the Stooges (nyuk nyuk nyuk)...

Page said...

I laughed out loud as you were describing the plot and those silly Stooges trying, but failing to do what one would expect to be a simple task. It's just perfectly fine that we never grow out of slap stick comedy.

As crazy as it sounds this reminds me of an actual task that ran on an episode of The Amazing Race a few years ago where the teams had to hastily construct these wooden sleds in order to get heavy, cumbersome cheese wheels to the top of a hill. It was such a disaster with everyone's sleds collapsing, causing these giant cheese wheels to go whizzing past everyone down the hill over and over. I must have watched that task at least 10 times while laughing so hard.

Thanks for giving me a good laugh today, reminding me of things that have made me laugh in the past regardless of how silly they were and for choosing such a fun little film for your Blogathon entry.

Adding the actual photos of the steps really was a great little surprise at the end and I book marked that site. (I love location stuff)

KimWilson said...

I'm not a big Stooges fan. I don't know if it's because I'm a girl or not, but they just don't appeal to me. Which one might find strange, because I really like Laurel and Hardy. And, when you mentioned The Music Box as being marked as sort of a landmark I started to ask myself why I like one and not the other. Perhaps the Stooges are too violent for me...I don't know. Interesting choice.

Kevin Deany said...

This was a wonderful review of one of my favorite Stooge shorts. I would it put at least in the top ten, if not the top five, of Stooge shorts.

One of the classic scenes in Stoogedom is in this short where Curly is asked to shave some ice, which he proceeds to do as if he was a barber. He lathers up the ice and talks to the block of ice as if it were a customer. It just kills me each time I see it.

I've loved the Stooges since I was a kid and have never outgrown them.

Thanks for the update on the stairs. Glad to know they're still there.

Caftan Woman said...

Your idea of what makes things cool is so true.

You have done me quite the service. I sometimes think I am the only girl in the world who gets a kick out of the Stooges. They work hard for my laughs and I give them easily.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

A big nyuk, nyuk, nyuk to you, too, Ivan, my brother in Stoogeness.

Thank you Page, Kevin, and Caftan Woman, for sharing your own appreciation of silly stuff.

Kim, it's okay not to like the Stooges. A lot of the people dislike the Stooges because they are violent. And they are. But to me, it was like watching a Daffy Duck cartoon when I was a child. Those were violent, too, but none of it was real. There was far more malice in Yosemite Sam than there ever was in the Stooges.

And I'm a girl. Yet I made the sacred pilgrimage to the steps, for heaven's sake. There are more of us Stooge-loving girls than some folks realize. I nod to Caftan Woman across the table, who is busily trying to shave a block of ice.

Dave the Movie Guy said...

Great post - I always wondered if the Stooges and L&H used the same steps in their shorts ... Thanks for the info, cool pix too ...

whistlingypsy said...

I seem to be sitting at the same table as Kim, I’m not a big fan of The Stooges but Wheeler and Woolsey films are my guilty pleasure. Your observation regarding “regular joes” and “working stiffs” taking real pleasure in attempting and completing a job is nothing short of brilliant. After all, on some level we all (boys and girls) have a little of the stooge’s mentality about us: the maddening perseverance even when our ineptitude and the odds are against us. I especially enjoyed your background and “where it was filmed” information. I confused the Laurel and Hardy location and The Stooges location, assuming both were the same. It is fascinating to see how much the spot has changed in seventy-plus years, but is easily recognizable as the same location where the stooges once went to work.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Dave and Gypsy, thanks for stopping by. I think a lot of people confuse the L&H "Music Box" steps with this one, but they are maybe a little over a mile apart, in the same Silver Lake neighborhood. The "Music Box" steps are clearly marked with a sign, however. I found them both the same day, but the Stooges steps are trickier to find.

As for the working stiffs angle, I think if this were filmed today featuring a trio of misfits, the plot would be more about how they get around not doing their work, how they try to put one over on the boss, or maybe cheat somebody. How they spend the day in the back of the wagon high or drunk, or trolling for babes. Our comedy is a little more sarcastic these days, and dismal.

DorianTB said...

Jacqueline, I've known plenty of people who love The Three Stooges, and I don't think I've ever actually seen a blog showcasing them (which may say more about my ignorance than anything else :-)), so I enjoyed reading about "An Ache in Every Stake"! The physical humor is priceless! I also enjoyed what you had to say about Bess Flowers, and your pictures of your locations are terrific, as always. Great post!

By the way, I took the liberty of including a link to ANOTHER OLD MOVIE BLOG on my blog TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED. Hope that's OK!

FlickChick said...

You know, those Stooges are always a good tonic and pick me up and, at their best, a real pleasure. I'd say you elevated their art quite a bit with this post! Very enjoyable!

The Lady Eve said...

Jacqueline - I love your blog - love it. But...I don't love The Three Stooges. It all goes back to my brother and me battling over control of the TV. Him with his Three Stooges and Popeye...

I wondered about the Stooges' steps and those used for "The Music Box" - good to know both are still standing (L.A. has such a habit of 'out with the old, in with the new'). Even though I'm not a Stooges fan I did enjoy your post - nyuk nyuk nyuk -

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Dorian, FlickChick, and M'Lady - thank you all for commenting (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

Eve, I think we can agree that the Stooges are an acquired taste - definitely not for everybody. Dorian, thanks for the link.

Rick29 said...

Jacqueline, I guess the Stooges are an acquired taste, but I've always enjoyed them--especially the most famous contingent of Moe, Larry, and Curly. This was one of their best shorts. I love the fact you visited the "site of those famous steps a few years ago" and learned they were a public walkway. Very well-done review and perfect choice for the blogathon.

John Hayes said...

Love the Stooges, love your review, & love the fact that you went to the actual setting!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks Rick and John. I figured if Audrey Hepburn can climb Rome's Spanish Steps in "Roman Holiday", I can do the Stooges' steps in LA.

ClassicBecky said...

Jacqueline, I like the Stooges in short bursts, and I sure never minded the violence - it reminds me of Road Runner and all of those cartoons - they were fun, and none of us grew up to be serial killers (or eye pokers) because of them!

This was obviously a tribute to Laurel and Hardy. I have to say that The Music Box with L&H is, in my opinion, one of the greatest pieces of comedy film ever. The Stooges are cute, but not great in that way, at least to me. But boy they are fun.

My favorite funny from you isa bout Curley: "...he of course, takes two eggs and places them apart from each other. Something I inevitably call to mind when separating egg whites from the yolks, chuckling with idiotic pleasure." I can't picture you doing anything idiotic, and the thought of you laughing that way makes me smile. Loved your post!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, Becky. I think "The Music Box" is great, too. I wonder if L&H haven't gotten the attention from critics and movie buffs they deserve.

I do many idiotic things, I just try to hide them from you behind a facade of sultry nearsighted sophistication.

ClassicBecky said...

I had to come back -- I'm still laughing at your response with "a facade of sultry nearsighted sophistication." Good one!

Yvette said...

Jacqueline: I wasn't a big fan of The Three Stooges either. I just couldn't relate to their sort of humor. Can't really figure why.

I'm fond of Laurel and Hardy, primarily in one film: MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS.

But I still enjoyed reading your post and seeing you on location. :)

Grand Old Movies said...

As a Stooge fan, I love it that you're posting on them! You make a great point about Stooge violence - that it's not meditated or cruel, but arises out of childlike frustration. There's a lot of violence in golden-age Hollywood comedy (eg, Bugs Bunny), although the Stooges always get singled out. But, as you note, no matter how they bungle a job, they at least try to do the best they can to complete it - surely an admirable quality! Bess Flowers & particularly Vernon Dent were in a number of the Stooge shorts (I love the bit in 'A Plumbing We Will Go' when Flowers gets blasted by Niagara Falls!). The guys had their own stock company at Columbia, and part of the Stoogeaphonic fun is recognizing these familiar faces every time they appear. Great post, thanks so much!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I think we see a pattern here: Stooge fans are born and not made.

Thanks, GOM, and you mention the Stooge stock company, something I failed to do. I agree part of the fun is picking out the regulars.

Yvette, I'm glad you liked my location shoot. I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Brandie said...

Count me among those who isn't a fan of the Stooges--even as a child, I didn't like the shorts, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. When it came to comedy teams, I was (and still am) a Laurel and Hardy and Marx Bros. girl. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading your post and seeing the personal photos (it adds such a nice touch!).

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, Brandie. I hope to cover the Marx Brothers sometime in the next few weeks.

Robby Cress said...

Great post Jacqueline and thanks for the plug! I love finding all these old stairs in Los Angeles. There are so many still around the hills of Los Angeles leftover from the streetcar era - back when people used to walk around Los Angeles.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

You're welcome, Robby. I love your blog.

"Back when people used to walk." Boy, what a sad sound that has.

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