Thursday , April 18 2024
Three Stooges FAQ is an exceptional and objective look at the comedies of the two-reeler trio.

Book Review: Three Stooges FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Eye-Poking, Face-Slapping, Head-Thumping Geniuses by David J. Hogan

I’ve always considered FAQs as question and answer documents on relatively common and basic information related to a particular topic. It’s clear, though, that Davd J. Hogan has an entirely different view of the term. His Three Stooges FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Eye-Poking, Face-Slapping, Head-Thumping Geniuses may be the magnum opus of the comedy trio’s two-reelers for Columbia Pictures.

The two-reeler comedies are the foundation upon which the Stooges’ legacy is built and with which most people are familiar. Hogan examines the 190 films in what may be unprecedented depth. In doing so, Hogan also recognizes that although the Three Stooges are the centerpiece, their accomplishments (and occasional duds) required the assistance of many others often unrecognized.

Three Stooges FAQ does not resort to simply taking a chronological look at the two-reelers. Instead, Hogan breaks them down into 13 broad themes and devotes a chapter to each (such as “The Stooges and the Fairer Sex” and “The Stooges and the Law”). Within each category, the films are examined chronologically, as well as any subsequent remakes. These chapters are preceded by ones introducing not only the history of the act but discussing — and evaluating — the work of those who produced and wrote the films.

When it comes to looking at the films themselves, Hogan not only provides a narrative about the storyline, the actors, and the production of each film but assists the reader in recognizing the historical context in which the film was made or released. Thus, we see how films dealing with war or employment reflected the state of society at the time. We also get insight into the impact of the decline in Curly Howard’s health prior to the 1946 stroke that ended his career. Hogan also avoids a formulaic approach. There is sufficient variety in the book that it doesn’t come off like reading an encyclopedia.

Although Hogan views the Three Stooges as “peerless” professionals, this is not simply a deferential homage. In examining the role and significance of the group in American comedy, Hogan takes an objective look at the films and their production values. And he is not afraid to call it as he sees it. Hogan is not hesitant to criticize a particular film’s comedy (or lack thereof), the production, or even if the level or type of mayhem appears excessive.

Although the discussion of particular films refer to and occasionally evaluate other actors and their performances Three Stooges FAQ makes an additional effort to introduce readers to approximately 30 of those actors. These brief biographical sidebars present an aspect of the two-reelers often given short shrift, giving the reader a broader picture of all the elements contributing to Stoogemania.

That doesn’t mean Three Stooges FAQ is perfect. Sometimes Hogan tries a bit too hard to turn a cute phrase or gets a little slangy. He also occasionally tends to describe some of the female actors more by physical appearance than acting skill. Yet, if anything, these flaws are akin to those you might see in a Stooges film.

Over the years, dozens of books have discussed the films and legacy of the Three Stooges, some good and others simply exploitive. Three Stooges FAQ is a fair and extensive work that undoubtedly ranks among the best explications of the work of the Three Stooges. It earns a place on the shelf of every true fan.

About Tim Gebhart

After 30 years of practicing law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs. Tim Gebhart is now perfecting the art of doing little more than reading, writing and sleeping.

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