By Doug Gibson
A while back we reviewed "Wife to Spare," starring Andy Clyde, one of hundreds of Columbia comedy shorts that never make it on TV or DVD anymore. We also note the wonderful website, The Columbia Shorts Department, which is dedicated to making more aware of all, not just the Three Stooges shorts.
This week's review is the Gus Schilling and Dick Lane 1946 short, "Pardon My Terror," which, if not for the tragedy of Curly Howard suffering a stroke, might be better known as a Stooges short. The two-reeler, written and directed by Edward Bernds was meant for the Stooges but shifted to Schilling and Lane after Curley's stroke.
Here's what Bernds told Ted Okuda and Ed Watz, in their must-have guide, "The Columbia Comedy Shorts:" "If I had more time, I could have tailored the script to suit them. But as I remember the circumstances, we were committed to go with the Stooges; the sets were up, we were on the schedule -- which was sacred to the production office -- and we even had some of the cast obligated to the film. In the business it's called "play or pay" -- if you don't use them you pay anyway. ... I believe I only had two or three days to change the script, ad much of the Stooge-type humor stayed in. It turned out okay, though it probably would have been better with the Stooges because it wasn't ideal Schilling and Lane material."
Bernds is correct, "Pardon My Terror" turned out more than OK. It's an enjoyable laugh-fest with the duo as dopey detectives helping a heiress discover who "kidnapped" her grandfather. The more burly Lane plays the "Moe" character, even taking a few slaps at the smaller, nervous Lane, who is 80 percent "Curly" and the rest "Larry." The Stooge stuff works well. One particularly funny bit involves the boys being punched by a boxing glove that comes out of a bookcase. Also, Lane gets some good laughs out of a code for danger that Schilling devises, called "it's warm in here."
Another bit, corny but pure Stooges, is the boys walking "this way" following the butler to their bedroom.
Veteran Columbia hands Christine McIntyre (the heiress) and Vernon Dent (as grandfather) add class to the short. The baddies trying to bilk grandfather out of his money are Dick Wessell, the attractive Lynne Lyons and Kenneth McDonald. Another old hand, Phillip Van Zandt, plays a Jeeves-like butler to Denton's grandfather. A scene where Lyons tries to get Lane to drink poison is almost the same as a scene in the short "To Heir is Human" in which McIntyre tries to poison Harry Langdon.
Unbilled, but very funny is Emile Sitka as the landlord who wants the detectives' rent money and the black comedian Dudley Dickerson, also unbilled, provides strong humor.
I love these old Columbia shorts. We'll keep reviewing them through out the year and I hope they get views on YouTube. At YouTube, there's the Shorts Department, 2reelers and JohnnyFlattire pages that have Columbia comedy shorts.