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.
Professors Sedletz and Quackenbush are engaged in a debate; Sedletz believes that heredity is responsible for one becoming a gentlemen, while Quackenbush believes that it can be achieved through environment. They decide to make their argument more interesting and place a bet; if Quackenbush can make one man a gentlemen as a result of environment, he would be paid a handsome sum. As they shake hands in agreement, the butler, Sappington, walks in with a set of plumbers (Moe, Larry, and Curly) who are to fix an improperly installed pipe in the fireplace. The Stooges get to work, and, by way of Curly’s misaiming of a sledgehammer, get embroiled in a scuffle. Sedletz and Quackenbush watch the Stooges beat each other up with amazement, and the bet is changed so that Quackenbush would try and make THREE men into gentlemen, the three being the Stooges. They walk over to them and Quackenbush gives them their proposal, which the Stooges reluctantly agree to.
Their first test of learning to be gentlemen involves proper dining etiquette. Professor Quackenbush’s attractive daughter, Lulu, has agreed to help her father win the bet and starts teaching the Stooges how to act at a dinner party. Quackenbush leaves, leaving Lulu in charge, and telling the Stooges to do everything she does. Moe and Larry then attempt to woo Lulu, who is ignoring them and putting on make-up. Moe and Larry touch each others‘ hands under the table and believe it to be Lulu’s until Moe, noticing Lulu’s hands occupies above the table, yanks a hair out of Larry’s hand. Larry yelps as he does and Moe reprimands him verbally before turning his attention back to Lulu. Curly watches her put the make-up on and, taking Quackenbush’s advice to heart, grabs her lipstick. He then proceeds to apply it as Moe and Larry pitch more woo to Lulu with Moe telling her about the beautiful furs he would adorn her with (“mink…skunk…porcupine!”) Moe then notices Curly and chews him out, to which Curly sticks his tongue out at Moe, who slides the tip of the lipstick against it. Curly, tasting the line on his tongue, believes the lipstick to be tasty and starts eating it. Sappington then enters, placing invisible plates of food on the table in front of all the patrons. The Stooges watch Lulu eat the invisible food, thinking the whole thing is ridiculous at first, but eventually start playing along. Larry starts by taking big bites out of some imaginary celery and chewing with his mouth open, before burning his mouth on some invisible soup. Curly then follows suit by eating handfuls of invisible olives over and over until Moe, disgusted, chops him in the throat, causing Curly to “almost choke on those olive pits.” Quackenbush, worried that he will lose the bet, tries to reason with them to act more maturely. As they continue, Larry is frightened at seeing his fake lamb chop “lost its pants” and Curly realizes that all this fake food is making him really hungry and notices something off-screen. He sneaks away and ducks down, drinking from a saucer of milk a cat is drinking from.
The second test is the Stooges’ reading skills, but all three fail miserably at it, causing great frustration to poor Quackenbush, who thinks he will end up losing the bet before it all comes to pass. At the end of the month, however, Quackenbush throws an elegant dinner party to showcase his ability to turn the Stooges around, who show up at the party decked in lavish suits and espousing gentlemanly verbatim, seemingly transformed due to the environment Quackenbush supplied them. As they mingle with the guests, Sedletz speaks to Quackenbush, in which the latter gloats of his apparent success. Sedletz doesn’t believe his eyes at first, but tells Quackenbush that the night isn’t over yet, and anything can happen. The Stooges end up speaking to Lulu, charming her with their gentlemanly ways. Her compliments at their demeanor causes Curly to swoon, but in doing so his attention is turned to something else entirely and he walks off. Lulu then introduces Mrs. Smyth-Smyth to Moe and Larry while Curly picks up a bottle of Champaign (“Sham-pag-nee!”), which he puts in his back pocket. Moe calls “Curlington” over and introduces Mrs. Smyth-Smyth to him, and in doing so he feigns kissing her hand but is in fact biting a diamond off her ring. Moe notices and drags Curly away, demanding to know where the diamond went. Curly tells him that it’s in his “safe deposit box” but he lost the combination, causing Moe to smack him hard enough to make the silverware Curly pilfered fall from his clothes. Curly attempts to pick the silverware up and Moe spots the bottle of Champaign in his pants pocket. He kicks Curly hard in the backside, causing the liquor to burst from the bottle all over Larry’s face. Moe, acting fast, then grabs a carpet to put over the discarded silverware, inadvertently tripping a patron and knocking him on his face. The Stooges then leave and enter the party once again, where Curly spots someone walking by with a platterful of pies. He grabs one and is ready to eat it, but he is interrupted by Moe, who chastises him and confiscates his pie. He demands Curly go sit down, and he does so, walking away (for the last time). Moe, not sure what to do with the pie, ends up tossing it upward, causing it to stick to the ceiling. Mrs. Smyth-Smyth then notices Moe and walks over, asking him about how his transformation came to be, but a nervous Moe tries to get away as he notices the pie peeling off the ceiling. Mrs. Smyth-Smyth continues her interrogation until Moe finds a way to escape, and he does so just as the pie falls from the ceiling, splattering all over Mrs. Smyth-Smyth’s face. Wiping the pie off her face, she throws some of it away, hitting another patron in the face. Meanwhile, Larry is eating his own pie when Moe accosts him, reprimanding him and pushing the pie out of his hand. The pie flies into the face of another patron, who sneaks up on the quarreling Stooges and tries to hit Larry in the face with his own pie, but Larry ducks and Moe gets the face full. This turn of events creates a pie fight that encompasses every patron just as Sedletz and Quackenbush come out of an adjacent room. Sedletz had written out the check he promised to give Quackenbush, but as they enter the main room they notice the fight, with Moe and Larry in the middle of it, and Setlitz gets a pie to the face. A humbled Quackenbush hands the check back to Sedletz, stating that that he learned that one “can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Sedletz takes his check back, and tells Quackenbush that he’s learned something too, and gives him a face full of pie all his own. The film ends with Moe and Larry exchanging pie blows and Moe washing the pastry off his face with ladlefuls of punch.
Curly's Final Appearance Edit
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, was rushed to a nearby hospital, and his career abruptly ended. The superstooge had suffered a series of minor strokes since early 1945, and had become a ticking time bomb ever since.
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 unfortunate 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 Half-Wits Holiday, 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.
he Stooges are supposed to behave like proper, dignified gentlemen, and communicate fluently when introduced to the wealthy gentry:
* o Larry: "Delighted." o Moe: "Devastated." o Curly: "Dilapidated."
* o Larry: "Enchanted." o Moe: "Enraptured." o 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."