Three Stooges FAQ by David J. Hogan
Reviewed by Jared Scott Stroup
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Right on the heels of Sony releasing the eighth and final volume of The Three Stooges Collection (finally allowing audiences to see all 190 short films on DVD), David J. Hogan published what could be the most comprehensive companion piece to the most comprehensive Stooges collection yet. His book Three Stooges FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Eye-Poking, Face-Slapping, Head-Thumping Geniuses is the perfect textbook for a Three Stooges course.
The working years of the Stooges spanned over fifty years between stage and screen, and Hogan takes full advantage of the amount of information that amount of time provides. Nearly 400-pages in length, it’s not as exhaustive a read as it could have been. This is to Hogan’s credit, who spends substantial time focusing on more than simply five comedy actors and their work. He elaborates on the other aspects of the films: studios, culture, economy, show business, and even foreign affairs. He vividly recreates moments on the set, and gives the reader a subjective viewpoint of the era. It reads like liner notes with a personality. Hogan interjects his own two-cents from time to time, but with very astute and educated analysis. His adoration for the comedy troupe is present in each page, and occasionally dabbles in full-on fanboy vernacular, but that enthusiasm makes the reading that much more enjoyable. By presenting this mass of information in such a way, the book functions not only as a guide to the Stooges, but unilaterally a guide to early 20th Century American comedy, as well as the first era of sound cinematic comedy.
The reader is privy to the in’s and out’s of every single one of the 190 shorts the Three Stooges made for Columbia. Instead of presenting these films in chronological order, Hogan sections the book off in a very academic way so that each chapter focuses on all the films that reflected a similar ideology, social more, or era. This makes for thorough exploration of the subjects and avoids the repetition of inevitably encountering similar themes and anecdotes throughout the book. Instead, these concepts are compressed into individual chapters where context is taking into consideration and each contribution is made apparent. The supporting cast and recurring crew members are profiled as well, fleshing out the atmosphere surrounding the productions. There’s also a plethora of set and promotional photographs to make the book stand out as a collectible of visual historical significance.
The subtitle marks the Stooges as “geniuses”. The introduction to the book includes a defense by the author for that claim, admitting that it’s not obvious, but insisting that it’s evident in numerous ways. After the introduction, there’s a chronological timeline of the Stooges from 1895 to 2000, which you can refer back to help follow the non-linear structure. Books on the Stooges used to require the reader to inevitably imagine some of the films that were referenced, but thanks to the aforementioned DVD releases, you can follow Hogan’s book to the finest of details by simply popping on the short in question. How can any fan of the Three Stooges say no to this much information at their disposal?
Now available from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
Jared Scott Stroup is a Film Studies Major at Eastern Michigan University. He lives, works, and studies in the Detroit area, where he’s involved in theatre and stand-up comedy.
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