|Directed by||Jules White|
|Produced by||Jules White|
|Written by||Zion Myers|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Half-Wits Holiday is the 97th short film released by Columbia Pictures in 1947 starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, in his final starring role). The comedians released 190 short films for the studio between 1934 and 1959.
In the second Stooge adaptation of Pygmalion, the trio are repairmen who make a scene in the presence of two psychologists, Professors Quackenbush (Vernon Dent) and Sedletz (Ted Lorch). Quackenbush makes a bet with Sedletz that he can turn the boys into gentlemen through environment. Training is slow and painful for the professor, who pulls his hair out in disgust. The Stooges take the opportunity to flirt with the professor's daughter, Lulu (Barbara Slater), while learning proper table etiquette. Finally, the winner of the wager will be decided by the boys' behavior at a fancy society party.
The party goes awry. Curly greets guest Mrs. Smythe-Smythe (Symona Boniface) by kissing her hand, and biting off the diamond in her ring. Realizing this, Moe and Larry take Curly to a secluded area to lecture him, only to find that the kleptomaniac Stooge has taken a large handful of silverware as well.
Curly then grabs a pie from a pastry table, and tries to eat it whole. Moe sees this, swipes the pie, and pushes Curly out of the way (the moment when Curly leaves the stage for the last time as a Stooge, before suffering a stroke that would come to end his career). Seeing the approaching Mrs. Smythe-Smythe, Moe tosses the pie straight up, resulting in it sticking to the ceiling. Noticing his nervousness and frequent upward glances, she sympathetically comments, "young man, you act as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head." Moe tells Mrs. Smythe-Smythe she must be psychic and leaves. Bewildered, Mrs. Smythe-Smythe says "I wonder what's wrong with that young man?" and looks up to see what had him so concerned. At that moment the pie comes crashing down in the society matron's face. A massive pie melee inadvertently commences leaving everyone present affected. Quackenbush ultimately loses the bet to Sedletz, believing he had learned his lesson.
The untimely absence of Curly from the pie fight would prove somewhat helpful when pie fight footage was needed. The Curly-less footage was recycled in Pest Man Wins, Scheming Schemers and Pies and Guys and the compilation feature film Stop! Look! and Laugh.
The pie on the ceiling gag was borrowed from the Andy Clyde film In the Doghouse.
Half-Wits Holiday was filmed on May 2-6, 1946; it marked the final appearance of Curly Howard as an official member of the slapstick comedy team. During the final day of filming (May 6), Curly suffered a severe stroke and was rushed to a nearby hospital, effectively ending his career.
Curly was to be featured prominently in the pie-fight scene, but after Moe found him with his head slumped on his shoulder, it was apparent the comedian was in no shape to perform. Moe quietly alerted director Jules White of Curly's unfortunate situation, leading White to quickly rework the scene to be divided between Moe and Larry. Reaction shots from the supporting cast were spliced in more frequently to hide Curly's absence.
Supporting actor Emil Sitka, who made his debut with the Stooges in this film, remembered:
|“||After (the stroke) occurred, Curly was just missing all of a sudden. It wasn't announced to the rest of the cast; nobody knew what happened. So, we're approaching the last scene in the picture, a big pie fight. They had a big set and they put a huge canvas all around; it was going to be like a battleground. They're getting all geared up and the script calls for all the Stooges. I see a dry run-through of the scene and there's no Curly. I thought it was just a change in the script. No one — including Moe, Larry and Jules — ever told us how serious his condition was. It was only after the picture had been completed that I found out he took ill.||”|
Even before the day Curly suffered his debilitating stroke, the Stooge had been suffering a series of strokes and having problems taking direction from White during filming. Many of the lines intended for Curly were either given to Larry or eliminated altogether. One scene in particular took much longer to film than it should have.
The Stooges are supposed to behave like proper, dignified gentlemen, and communicate fluently when introduced to the wealthy gentry:
- Larry: "Delighted."
- Moe: "Devastated."
- Curly: "Dilapidated."
- Larry: "Enchanted."
- Moe: "Enraptured."
- Curly: "Embalmed."
White later said, "I had a devil of a time getting that scene. Curly just couldn't get the hang of it. I should have realized then that he was deteriorating even further."
- Half-Wits Holiday at the Internet Movie Database
- Half-Wits Holiday at AllMovie
- Half-Wits Holiday at threestooges.net