Pain in the Pullman, A [1936]

"A Pain in the Pullman" (1936, short number 16 in the Columbia series) starts with the team rehearsing a number--very badly, of course--which leads to their eviction and subsequent chaos on a train, thanks to the boys and their monkey. The old business of two or more crammed in an upper berth is repeated, but there is a fairly original sequence with a crab dinner (Curly preferring the shells). "Gents Without Cents" (1944, number 81), on the other hand, is fabulous. It starts also with a rehearsal number--the immortal "Niagara Falls... slowly I turned" routine that would be repeated with Lou Costello in Lost in a Harem. They meet a winsome trio of acrobatic dancers and give a show at a war plant. When another act can't make it, the boys volunteer--and it seems the props and scenery are all ready and the other actor even knows his lines! The complete "Niagara Falls" routine is performed, including a short skit that is the ancestor of a similar Monty Python "Who will volunteer to die?" episode. Even the ending is hilarious as they are off to their honeymoons and Curly makes the fatal mistake of reading the road sign: Niagara Falls. "Termites of 1938" (1938, number 28) has only an opening routine with an elaborate mousetrap to distinguish it. A high-society dame mistaking these exterminators for an escort service takes up the rest. There is a long, not very funny sequence in which an English lord decides to take his cue for table manners from the Stooges, with predictable results. But "Gents" makes this Columbia entry an excellent choice. --Frank Behrens

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