A Popular and Influential Comedy Institution

Commotion on the Ocean is the 174th short film released by Columbia Pictures in 1956 starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard, in his final starring role).  The comedians released 190 short films for the studio between 1934 and 1959.  The idea behind hiding microfilm in watermelons stems from an actual event that occurred in 1948.  Time Magazine’s managing editor Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist spy-turned government informer, accused Alger Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party and a spy for the Soviet Union.  In presenting evidence against Hiss, Chambers produced the Pumpkin Papers: four rolls of microfilm of State Department documents, which Chambers had concealed in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm.

The Stooges are janitors working at a newspaper office, and they ask to be given a chance to become reporters.  The managing editor promises to think about it, but he needs to have his dinner first.  The phone rings while he is out and Moe answers.  The person on the other end is one of the boss’s reporters, Smitty, who tells Moe that some important documents have been stolen by foreign spies.  Coincidentally, the spy with the microfilmed documents, Mr. Borscht lives next door to the Stooges and they go to him for help with learning a foreign language, so they could pass as spies.  He asks them to help him carry these watermelons and they all wind up as stowaways on an ocean liner, stranded on a freighter on the high seas.  The Stooges eventually subdue Borscht and recover the microfilm, and they finally reach land.

Written for FOWC with Fandango – Commotion and for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Ocean.

4 thoughts on “A Popular and Influential Comedy Institution

    1. In 1919, Shemp and his younger brother Moe appeared in a very rare movie short called “Spring Fever”, with Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shemp was afraid of his own shadow and he acted in a lot of movies without Moe. He was in a Jimmy Stewart film, he appeared with John Wayne, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello and with Lon Chaney Jr. After Shemp had left the Stooges, Moe and Larry took kid brother Curly into the act to replace Shemp and he was a perfect fit. Curly’s health started deteriorating, and Shemp rejoined the Three Stooges had live performances. Shemp was a fine comic, but he never quite escaped the shadow of his kid brother Curly’s comedic genius. Both Curly and Shemp were great ad-libbers, but Shemp could never quite fill the bill. Unlike Curly, though, who could never remember his lines, Shemp was a total pro and knew his lines thoroughly.

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