STOOGE, THE(director: Norman Taurog; screenwriters: from the story by Fred F. Finklehoffe and Sid Silvers/Fred F. Finklehoffe/Said Silvers/Elwood Ullman/Martin Rackin; cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp; editor: Warren Low; music: Joseph J. Lilley; cast: Jerry Lewis (Theodore ‘Ted’ Rogers), Dean Martin (Bill Miller), Polly Bergen (Mary Turner), Marion Marshall (Genevieve ‘Frecklehead’ Tait), Eddie Mayehoff (Leo Lyman), Richard Erdman (Ben Bailey), Frances Bavier (Mrs. Rogers), Percy Helton (Sam Robertson); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1952)
“Whenever there’s something that might be funny, we’re socked over the head with sentimentality and our need for laughter evaporates.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made 16 movies together from 1949 to 1956, and they became the most popular comedy team before their messy breakup five years after making this pic. Norman Taurog (“G.I. Blues”/”Living It Up”/”The Caddy”) directs this black and white shot old-fashioned sugary comedy in a workmanlike way that’s framed around a straight story.
It’s set during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Vaudeville singer and accordion player Bill Miller (Dean Martin) marries his longtime Broadway actress/singer girlfriend, Mary Turner (Polly Bergen), and during the wedding ceremony divorces himself from his vaudeville partner Ben Bailey (Richard Erdman) because the conceited entertainer wants to go solo. Bill only becomes successful when he teams up with Ted Rogers (Jerry Lewis), a dumb fall-down comedian he recruits from the audience (planted by his agent Leo for comic relief). Success goes to Bill’s head, but he doesn’t get it that the act’s real attraction is his stooge partner–perceived as an innocent idiot savant. It also puts at risk his career (as he goes solo again and flops, and it takes a generous Ted to get the act back together) and marriage to the retired Mary. The problem is that whenever there’s something that might be funny, we’re socked over the head with sentimentality and our need for laughter evaporates.
The familiar story and the lame comedy are from hunger. The film reprises a lot of their nightclub material and amounts to little more than a vehicle for seeing their live act on film. It should come as little surprise to note that this was Lewis’ favorite Martin and Lewis film, especially since he’s given credit for making the act work and being so pure hearted while Dino is pictured as an arrogant credit seeking egotist.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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