Sing a Song of Six Pants is the 102nd short subject film the Three Stooges produced for Columbia Pictures and features Shemp as the third Stooge. Given it’s placement near the middle of the trio’s film run and the fact that it would colloquially be referred to as “a Shemp” by Stooge aficionado’s this episode should be a nondescript entry in the series. Instead it has special meaning to myself and many other Stooges fans throughout the country despite it’s seemingly indiscernible nature.
Before the era of DVD, digital downloads, and streaming video, the only way to watch a program you liked was to catch it via broadcast television or to own it on VHS. Video tape was a far more expensive medium than the DVD’s that replaced them so the possibility of owning TV shows (or in the case of the Three Stooges, short subject films) was remote and reserved only for a handful of programs with exceptionally large and rabid fanbases. The Three Stooges did have several video cassette tapes on the market but nearly all of them seemed to include the same selection of videos; one of which was this particular film. Apparently at some point in the 1960’s some day dreaming clerk at Columbia failed to renew the copyright on four Three Stooges films which subsequently entered the public domain. As a result every fly by night video company trying to make a buck pumped out a cassette featuring these public domain shorts. Over the years I’ve owned several of them which were typically received as gifts from family and friends that knew I enjoyed the comedy team.
Although millions of other fans watched and re-watched this short on their inexpensive Goodtimes Home Video tapes picked up in bargain bins everywhere, I remember it for a different reason. KPLR, a local independent station where I grew up would air six Three Stooges episodes every Saturday night between midnight and 2AM. I routinely tuned in weekly and at some point in the mid 1990’s I began recording shows I enjoyed tirelessly. During the summertime I would watch these tapes on a near daily basis. Sing a Song of Six Pants happened to be the first episode I recorded on tape 1 of my Three Stooges VHS bootleg collection and as a result I’ve seen it more times than any of the triad’s other films; dozens of times. As a result I know every bit, gag, sequence, and mishap by heart.
The episode opens with a shot of the Three Stooges tailor shop window. Their business is called Pip Boys and they are “unaccusstomed tailors” that sell new and second hand clothes “cheep” and also specialize in altercations. Inside Moe is opening the day’s mail as Shemp is hemming a pair of slacks and Larry is diligently rubbing a stain with cleaning fluid. Unfortunately for Larry no amount of elbow grease will conquer this spot; it’s actually a sun beam shining in through a hole in the wall. On a side note my mom scrubbed a sun spot on our carpet in a similar fashion in the house I grew up in around the time I would have recorded this episode. What a stooge.
An alarmed Moe reads one of the letters out loud which sets the stage for the episode’s plot. The Skin & Flint Finance Corporation (I. Fleecum President) has sent a notice to the Pip Boys stating that unless $321.86 that they owe for tailoring equipment is made within 24 hours, the equipment will be repossessed. While Larry and Moe ruminate the potential consequences of this misfortune, Shemp states that he is too young to be worried and get wrinkles. He instead suggests that they all listen to some music to cheer them up which leads to our second major plot point. A news flash over the bulky and heavy looking radio set announces that the criminal Terry “Slippery Fingers” Hargan has cracked his 18th safe in nine days and a large reward is offered for his apprehension. Shemp suggests that the team capture Hargan so that they can pay their bills with the reward, an idea which Moe quickly dismisses.
Moe: We’re gonna be paupers! Paupers!
Shemp: Are you kidding? We ain’t even married!
Meanwhile Larry has finally eliminated the spot he has been working on by wearing out the fabric and rubbing a hole in it. Fortunately my mom didn’t go this far with her scrubbing of our carpet. After realizing his mistake he accidentally grabs the bottle of cleaning fluid to take a swig and spits the solution all over Moe who is getting ready to cook some pancakes for lunch on one of their tailoring presses.
Shemp is then tasked with pressing a pair of pants which was pinned up on the window shade and has now developed a memory to roll itself up. This sets up the following scene which I thought was pure hilarity as a child:
Eventually Hargan enters the shop while on the run from the police and poses as a mannequin unbeknownst to the Stooges. As the pursuing officer enters the shop and tries to get the attention of the Stooges they assail him with sales tactics assuming he is a customer. They disrobe Hargan in a failed effort to sell his suit to the officer all the while thinking they were taking some of their stock clothes off of a mannequin. The officer eventually laments that they allowed Hargan to give him the slip and he threatens to arrest Shemp.
Officer: I oughta run you in!
Shemp: Please officer I have six wives and two kids!
Hargan eventually sneaks away and returns to his hideout where he explains to his girlfriend that he needs his clothes back because the combination to a safe he wants to rob is in the watch pocket of his pants. She assures him that she will have no problem retrieving them. Meanwhile Moe finds the combination and a TH monogram on Hargan’s suit causing some concern. When Hargan’s girlfriend comes in to purchase the suit, Moe’s suspicions are correctly aroused and he decides to keep the safe combination, replacing it with a receipt. Hargan’s girlfriend then pays them $450 from cash she takes out of the pocket of the suit which causes the Stooges to bemoan overlooking the small fortune.
When Hargan’s girlfriend returns to the hideout and he realizes the combination and cash from his suit are missing he decides its time for his gang to pay the Pip Boys a visit. A melee then ensues as the gang roughs up the Stooges in an effort to retrieve the safe combination. In typical Stooge fashion the Pip Boys eventually overcome the odds and defeat the crooks at which point the same officer from earlier in the episode conveniently enters to make the arrest. As the Stooges celebrate and inquire about the reward, the cop informs them that he will be the one receiving the reward but that they can have some tickets to the Policemen’s Ball. As they begin crying Shemp, who uses Hargan’s sport coat as a handkerchief, notices some cash in the front pocket which he pulls out. After the police take Hargan and his gang away the trio begin counting up the bankroll they took. At the end the boys have enough to pay Skin & Flint after all. This is certainly a solid episode which I would give a *** 1/2 rating.