Dutiful But Dumb (1941)
Article 5805 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Del Lord
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard
What it is: Three Stooges short
The Three Stooges are sent by Whack magazine to go to Vulgaria to get a photograph of a new secret weapon. However, no photographer sent to the country has come back alive.
This short isn’t listed in any of my sources, but with the presence of the fictitious country of Vulgaria, the plot element of an invisible death ray, and a gag in which the Stooges appear as a group of headless men, I’d say there is enough fantastic content to make it qualify. As for the short itself, there seems to be a general agreement among Stooges fans that Curly was the best and funniest of the Stooges, and I suspect that the makers of this short believed that as well; perhaps more than any other short I’ve seen so far, this is primarily the Curly show, with Moe and Larry spending much of the time on the fringes. Curly gets two long sequences all to himself; in one, Curly tries to prevent his enemies from finding him hidden behind a radio by performing a one-man band routine, and in the other, he has dinner at a cafe where he tussles with a very live oyster in his soup (I’ve seen Lou Costello do a similar sequence). Even when the other Stooges are present, Curly is the center of attention, such as the scenes in the darkroom and the cigar scene. I’ve never been a big “Curly is the best” advocate, but his performance here has convinced me of one thing; he’s the only one of the many Stooges who could’ve gone on to become a comedy star on his own right without the rest of the team. And keep in mind that I said “Comedy Star”; I’m fully aware that both Joe Besser and Shemp had successful side careers as character actors, which isn’t quite the same thing.