The new Three Stooges movie that opened this weekend was in the works for the better part of a decade, and went through many casting changes. What’s more, it wasn’t the first time someone thought of reviving the Stooges on the big screen with new actors taking the place of the original comics. (I’m not even thinking about the time when Moe and Larry were still alive and planned to recruit longtime supporting player Emil Sitka as their “third stooge.”) In going through my files I came upon this 1984 press release from Columbia Pictures, longtime home of the comedy trio, proudly announcing the launch of a James Bond parody intended to feature the Stooges. This one was the brainchild of Norman Maurer, Moe Howard’s son-in-law who produced and directed their last big-screen appearances in The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze and The Outlaws is Coming. He also supervised the “New 3 Stooges” TV cartoons, with their live-action wraparounds, and the TV pilot film known as Kook’s Tour.
The question remains whether Maurer, who knew the Stooges and their work as well as anyone in Hollywood, could have found ideal replacements for Moe, Larry and Curly, and hearkened back to the silent-film-oriented slapstick of their heyday. After all, by the time he worked with “the boys” they were much older, and while they were still troupers through-and-through, they couldn’t perform the kind of physical comedy that had made them famous. But it’s certainly interesting to speculate about what might have been.