‘Rusty Romeos’ (1957) is the 181st short film made by The Three Stooges for Columbia Pictures. It was photographed on Tuesday, February 12 and Wednesday, February 13, 1957 and released on Thursday, October 17th of that year. The film is a scene by scene, joke by joke, practically line by line remake of ‘Corny Casanovas’ (1952), the Shemp short that I posted last week. Shemp, who died in 1955, was replaced by Joe Besser, who briefly served as the third stooge (1957-59). The Joe Besser Stooge shorts are more or less universally considered the nadir of the Stooges output and are hampered by the fact that, as evidenced by this film, almost no thought or effort was put into their making. Producer/Director Jules White developed a system for creating a new short out of the shards of older ones–picking out scenes without Curly or Shemp in them, lifting them from the older film, then shooting the bare minimum new footage with Besser to cobble together a ‘fresh’ short. Inspiration was all but gone by this time, and the Columbia short subjects unit was a wheezing one-lunger, a jalopy out of gas. It would fold up shop permanently in 1959.

In recent years a Joe Besser re-appreciation has emerged–a sort of apologetic reassessment of Besser’s considerable comic abilities. He briefly had his own short subject series at Columbia in the late 40s/early 50s and was a popular fixture on radio shows of the forties, always playing basically the same character that he brings to his Stooge outings. It must be taken into consideration that Besser, by following Curly and Shemp Howard, was filling two sets of very large shoes. Nevertheless, I’m not part of the Besser re-appreciation cult. His character never feels to me like one of the threesome. Instead he appears to be Moe and Larry’s gay cousin who’s come to visit and who they can’t get rid of. The Besser shorts are interesting as curios though and, fear not, I’ll have a middle-era Curly or early-era Shemp to offer next week. Anacanapa!


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