Half-Wits Holiday is the 97th short subject starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges. The trio made a total of 190 shorts for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959.
The short is a reworking of 1935's Hoi Polloi, without the aid of any stock footage, and would itself later be reworked as 1958's Pies and Guys. The pie fight footage itself was later recycled in Pest Man Wins, Scheming Schemers and Stop, Look and Laugh.
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 table etiquette. Finally, the winner of the wager will be decided by the boys' behavior at a fancy society party.
The party, naturally, 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 swiped a load 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. 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. This sparks off a massive pie melee that takes no prisoners.
Curly's final appearanceEdit
Half-Wits Holiday marked the final appearance of Curly Howard as an official member of the slapstick comedy team. During filming on May 6, 1946, Curly suffered a severe stroke and was rushed to a nearby hospital, effectively ending his career.
Curly was actually supposed 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 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, remembers:
- "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 having problems taking direction from White during filming. Many of the lines intended for Curly were either given to Larry or disposed of 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."