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A ‘Three Stooges’ Family Album

Some years ago I was contacted by Paul Howard, the son of Moe Howard, to ask if I would participate in a documentary he was making about his famous father, the eye-poking, head-banging leader of The Three Stooges. Of course, I said yes. In subsequent conversations Paul revealed that it had taken him many years to come to terms with being the offspring of a Stooge. That piqued my curiosity, and if you’re a lifelong Stooge fan (like me) I think you’ll have the same reaction to the finished product, a nine-part series called The Three Stooges: Hey Moe! Hey Dad!, which is now available in an elaborate boxed DVD set.

Paul and his filmmaking partner, Frank Basile, cover all the bases as they explore present-day Stooge fandom (including an annual convention in Philadelphia), the enduring appeal of the slapstick trio, and their personal and professional history. The show draws on interviews with Stooge family members (including Paul’s sister Joan Maurer), experts, and admirers (including Whoopi Goldberg, voice artist Billy West, and yours truly) as well as a treasure trove of rare photos, home movies, television clips, and scrapbook ephemera. There are even audio recordings of Moe, Larry, and Joe De Rita. And unlike almost every previous Stooge tribute, this one makes extensive use of the Columbia Pictures library and doesn’t rely solely on public domain footage to show the comics at work.

Three Stooges-Hey Moe-Hey Dad
I’ve been a Stooge fan from the moment I first encountered the trio on television when I was eight-years-old. In those days there was no place to read about them, so in my teens I began conducting my own research and published the first Stooge filmography in Film Fan Monthly, which I expanded for my chapter about their career in my 1970 book Movie Comedy Teams. I saw the aging knuckleheads make a personal appearance at my local theater when they were promoting The Three Stooges Meet Hercules in 1962 and had the thrill of corresponding with Moe Howard, who was an avid and articulate pen pal for several years. (You can read more about that HERE.)

My early efforts have been eclipsed by decades of writing and research by other diligent fans and enthusiasts, but I’ve never lost my boyhood interest in the Stooges. I look forward to each new issue of The Three Stooges Journal, faithfully published by Gary Lassin, who operates The Stoogeum in Philadelphia, home town of Larry Fine.

A less devoted admirer might find Paul Howard’s nine-part miniseries overlong; the story could have been told more concisely, but I didn’t mind. And I love all the goodies that come along in the boxed set: a replica script of their 1935 two-reeler Uncivil Warriors, a reproduction of a giveaway comic book from the 1960s, sheet music for “The Alphabet Song,” a facsimile of Moe Howard’s membership card in Actors Equity, personal photos, and much, much more.

You can read about the Stooges in books and online, but this heartfelt documentary series brings them to life in a different way. I’m honored to have participated in it.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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