LOS ANGELES Slapstick trio The Three Stooges kept Americans laughing for more than 40 years - and gave fan Jim Pauley what has turned into a lifelong obsession.
After a quest of more than a decade and hours of old-fashioned sleuthing, Pauley has published "The Three Stooges: Hollywood Filming Locations," which documents hundreds of the filming sites of the 190 short Columbia Pictures films made by the comedy team between 1934 and 1958.
Pauley spoke with Reuters about his book, which shows pictures of what the locations looked like then and now, along with quotes from Three Stooges directors, supporting actors and family members of the act, whose early members were Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, who replaced his brother Shemp in the lineup.
The book was published by Santa Monica Press last weekend.
Q: This book takes its roots in you writing location articles for The Three Stooges Fan Club's quarterly journal. When did you decide to put together a book?
A: "The articles started getting a following. I pretty much located all the locations over a period of 12 years. Fans and family members of The Three Stooges who were reading my articles started bugging me that they wanted me to do a book.
"So I started to think about it. There have been over 40 books written on The Three Stooges, but never one about this particular subject. I felt this was needed to document part of their history."
Q: Do people really care where The Three Stooges filmed their shorts in Hollywood?
A: "A lot of Three Stooges fans are nostalgic. They've watched the films so many times and recognize the supporting actors, actresses and the locations. Such as the intersection in their 1935 short 'Three Little Beers' where beer barrels roll down a hill, through an intersection and create havoc including knocking down a police officer.
"In this book, they can see images of The Three Stooges at the filming location and what that location looks like today."
Q: Where did you get the original stills?
A: "A lot of photos came from private collections, including my own. I've been collecting Three Stooges memorabilia for over 25 years now. Some came from a Three Stooges museum called The Stoogeum. Some came from Mark Wannamaker, a Hollywood historian."
Q: In your quest to identify locations, did you find yourself knocking on strangers' doors to verify them?
A: "In one short from 1938, 'Mutts to You,' an actress gets into a taxi cab and actually mentions the exact location where she wants to go - 111 South Norton Street. I drove up to that location and sure enough there's the house. To this day, some 75 plus years later, it looks almost identical to the way it looked in the short. I spoke to the owner and they did not know the house was in a Three Stooges film."
Q: Did homeowners ever wonder why there was a stranger photographing their properties?
A: "There was a house on Larchmont Blvd. (in Los Angeles) featured in short called 'False Alarms.' A gentleman came out of his house and was curious as to why some guy was taking pictures. When I explained his house was in a short film with The Three Stooges, he was very happy. He actually went out to buy the DVD so he could see the short we were talking about."
Q: What was your biggest challenge in putting together this book?
A: "I live in Philadelphia and when I started, Google Maps was not available. So I did it the old-fashioned way. I would study the shorts carefully and look for clues in the background such as business signs, names, anything. Then I would go out to Los Angeles and sit down in a public library and go through a 1935 Los Angeles city directory and look up those business names. I'd go out to the location and try to prove that it was exactly the same spot."
Q: What did you look for at the location?
A: "In some cases, the structure or the building still existed. In others, it was gone, but there might be other things in the background that helped prove that it was the right location. If I was starting from scratch today, I could pretty much do everything sitting in front of my computer."
Q: Do you have a favorite spot?
A: "The Three Stooges steps from 'An Ache in Every Stake.' That to me is the holy grail of all The Three Stooges locations. The boys have a great routine in front of it both at the base and the top of the steps: Moe, Larry and Curly are icemen and their job is to bring up a block of ice on a hot summer day up a tall set of stairs. By the time Curly gets to the top, that large block turns into a little ice cube."