For the past 12 years, the Alex Film Society has presented a Three Stooges Big Screen Event at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We first attended in 2001 and haven't missed one since. Of the 8 times I have attended, this year's collection was the best.
Before getting into the details of this particular show, a few tips in case you are interested in next year's event. First of all, purchase your tickets in advance at Goldstar. This provides two advantages. It is cheaper (by about a third) and it is faster to pick up the tickets at the will call window than to purchase them from the box office. Second, arrive at least 30 minutes early. The Alex Theatre has 1,381 seats and this year's show was nearly sold out. You want to arrive early in order to get a good seat. Finally, park at one of the following three garages: the Orange Street Parking Garage located at the corner of California and Orange (enter from Orange), the Exchange Parking Garage located on Maryland Avenue, south of Wilson, or the Glendale Marketplace Garage located at the corner of Harvard and Maryland (enter from Maryland). [see map] Parking costs $1.00 for four hours with Alex Theatre validation.
Each year, the Frank Gladstone led Alex Film Society selects 4 or 5 Three Stooges shorts around a chosen theme. Of the 5 shorts in this year's set, the first 4 of them get a full five stars on my scale of quality and humor. The 5th gets four stars, because it contains Shemp rather than Curly and has the annoying 1950's Stooges crutch of a man in a gorilla suit. From the 1950's shorts, this was definitely one of the better ones, but it still does not live up to the standard of the earlier shorts.
In addition, this year's show included bonus scenes of Moe appearing on the Mike Douglas Show in 1974. These scenes also included clips from other Three Stooges shorts. So this bonus material more than compensated for the disappointing final short. It was very interesting to see Moe in the final year of his life and to enjoy his reminiscences and humor at that age. I hope future shows will also add bonus material of one or more of the Stooges being interviewed or appearing on a talk show. This element gives a fuller tribute to the Three Stooges and surfaces material that is otherwise unavailable to the public.
Another aspect of this year's event that differed from previous events was the inclusion of a 3-D short (the disappointing 5th one). Being handed disposable red and green 3-D glasses certainly added to the excitement and anticipation of the show, but unfortunately the quality of the 3-D projection as well as the content of the short was somewhat of a letdown. Early 3-D was always pretty gimmicky in the first place and this particular short does nothing to dispel that reputation with the predictable knife seeming to come toward the audience and the bat fluttering out into the audience. The green side of the 3-D was rather dark, so the technology did not work very well and ultimately was more trouble than it was worth.
The Alex Theatre is an historic theater from the Golden Era of Hollywood (constructed in 1925), so it is a unique experience to enjoy these shorts as they were originally enjoyed in a big screen theater from that era. The theater was completely renovated and restored in 1992, so it is in very fine condition and the movie screen and projectors are top quality. Finally, the Alex continues the tradition of opening the curtains at the beginning of each short and closing them as the short ends. So it is interesting to see the opening and closing credits project upon the fabric curtains as they close in the center. This is a throwback to that Golden Era of long ago.
Since we attend as a family, these shorts provide all kinds of opportunities for discussion. Some of the Stooges humor is risque, so that is something that needs to be dealt with at times. And the shorts often give a glimpse into the cultural attitudes of the 1930's and 1940's, so sometimes a conversation is required concerning how women or minorities or different classes of people were viewed and treated in those days. Having an historical artifact like one of these shorts gives a window into the past that can be used reveal how our cultural values have changed for the better. Finally, these shorts contain a great snapshot of Los Angeles at that time with its trolley cars and broad boulevards.
This unique event combines an historic venue with classic material that results in a mixture of entertainment, history, sociology, and cultural anthropology. Much of the Three Stooges humor can still be enjoyed, while the aspects that cannot provide for a context lesson in our growth as a society. Hopefully, the organizers will find a way to top this show next year!
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The historic Alex Theatre is a Glendale-area landmark, the community's premier performing arts venue and a hub of artistic and economic activity for the city's downtown business and entertainment district. Official website
At Your Soivice -- Professional Mayhem with the Stooges