Three Stooges’ tune was in ‘Woman Haters’

Q: There is a scene in a Three Stooges short in which the Stooges sing a song with a line that goes, “For you, my life, my love, my all.” For years, I have been trying to find sheet music for this song. Can you help? Reid Setterlund, of Mascoutah A: I wish I could say, “Why, soitenly, nyuck, nyuck, nyuck,” but I’d probably be branded a knucklehead if I did. From what I can tell, the song merely was part of a musical score written expressly for this particular short. Not only that, but it was the same song (with new lyrics) that had been used in a similar short the previous year. Neither song apparently became a breakout hit, and, as you might expect, the scores were never published for public use. That’s a shame considering the historic nature of this particular two-reeler. In early 1934, Moe and Curly Howard along with Larry Fine had broken up with vaudevillian Ted Healy for the last time after a tumultuous decade-long relationship when they were known variously as Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen/Three Lost Souls/Racketeers and, finally, Ted Healy and The Three Stooges. In 1930, Healy and his trio of nitwits had appeared in their first feature film, “Soup to Nuts,” for the Fox Film Corp. Fox wasn’t wild about Healy but they loved the antics of Moe, Larry and, at that time, Shemp, so Fox offered the three their own contract. Healy, however, told Fox in no uncertain terms that the Stooges were his employees, forcing Fox to withdraw the offer.

So when the Stooges parted ways with Healy for good in ’34, Columbia Pictures pounced, signing them to a one-year deal that reportedly paid them $7,500 a picture. As a result, their very first film as an independent act was the one that boasts the song that Stooge fans still remember — “Woman Haters.” It was part of a series of what Columbia called “musical novelties” that showcased such talents as Betty Grable, Frank Albertson and Lou Holtz. Most of these 20-minute comedies were done completely in rhyming dialogue, much like the heroic couplets William Shakespeare used to end crucial scenes. In “Woman Haters,” Moe, Larry and Curly play traveling salesman who join the Woman Haters Club, swearing never to become romantically involved. As you might expect, their bold oath runs into an immediate snag when Larry falls in love with Mary (Marjorie White) and proposes marriage. Moe and Curly then talk him out of it — until Mary’s father threatens Larry with something worse than a poke in the eyes if he doesn’t follow through. Naturally, hilarity ensues. The film is both memorable and unique in many ways. For starters, the Stooges’ character names are Jackie, Tom and Jim rather than their real-life names for which they would become famous. Moreover, Curly Howard was billed under his pre-Stooge name, Jerry Howard. (His real name was Jerome Horwitz.) The short also clearly showed an act that was evolving. In this film, Larry was the lead character, and Moe is frequently subjected to the comedic physical abuse he soon became better known for dishing out. But there are plenty of familiar shenanigans, including Bud Jamison delivering the first eye pokes, and Curly’s first “woo-woo-woo-woo” and “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk,” although these, too, still needed work to get them into classic form. Also of historic interest, an uncredited Walter Brennan plays a train conductor, and it would be the best-remembered — and last — role for Marjorie White, who would die in a car accident the following year at age 31. Finally, a note about your music: Because these short films usually were dashed off in a week or less, they apparently didn’t waste much time worrying about original musical scores. In the case of “Woman Haters,” which was filmed from March 27-30, 1934, they reportedly pieced together sections of music from three previous shorts. The “classic” song “My Life, My Love, My All,” is reportedly simply a lyrical rewrite of “At Last!” from the 1933 Columbia short “Um-Pa.” (And don’t confuse the latter with the 1942 Harry Warren/Mack Gordon/Etta James standard.)

So, if you have a good ear, maybe you can come up with your own sheet music by watching and listening to the short on YouTube. You also can find the complete transcript of the movie at http://threestooges.net/filmography/episode/1. Aw, nuts: Looks like I need to get out more. In my Saturday column about restaurants that allowed you to throw peanut shells on the floor, I speculated that area diners perhaps had confused the many eateries that followed Shoney’s at 4204 W. Main St. in Belleville with the old Sugar Mill on North Belt West (now Crehan’s). But my colleague Suzanne Boyle assures me that BarbWire’s, which moved in immediately after Shoney’s, did indeed allow the practice when it was in business in the mid ’90s. (She says she remembers because she watched O.J. Simpson’s infamous slow-speed chase there on June 17, 1994.) And Tom Martin, of Freeburg, says he distinctly remembers that Amarillo Tex’s, which eventually followed BarbWire’s, kept the tradition. (I never ate there, and none of our old stories mentioned it.) It must have been a popular fad at one time. Larry Lands, of Mascoutah, and Evelyn Vitez, of Belleville, called to say that in the late 1970s Jacks or Better at 10517 Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights (now Fortel’s Pizza Den) had the same quaint custom.

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