Two Crooked Ornaments for the Holidays

by NORMAN SIMMS December 27, 2014

(1) When Lunatics Howl At The Moon

How many lone wolf attacks does it take until the police and government sees the wolf pack racing around the camp?  When will the shouts "God is great" in Arabic be recognized as he howling of wild beasts?  One official says we should not jump to conclusions, be calms, and remain non-judgmental.  Another says the perpetrator was perhaps not even a criminal but a deranged maniac, like those fathers and mothers who shoot or stab all their relatives, driving from house to house to accomplish this deluded duty of cleansing his mind of unbearable, or the demented Palestinians who drive into crowds on the streets of Jerusalem.  Still another comforts the crowds in the street who stare in horror at the mangled bodied ploughed down by a rubbish truck by saying the driver had a heart attack.  Nobody says the world has gone mad.  Nobody says that the madness must stop.  The madness that includes making excuses and making nice to maniacs on the loose.

How many beheadings of journalists and aid-workers can we tolerate or selling off of young girls to be sex slaves? How many ancient Christian cities will we allow to be destroyed or children trained to be killers? 

How can we know, how can we protect ourselves, how can we prepare for the next explosion of violence?  They keep coming in France, in Australia, in Belgium, in Canada.  No one in a position of responsibility will connect the dots, draw the analogies, or speak the truth.  There are mad individuals who certainly do act out of the demons that inhabit their brains.  There are criminals who take advantage of our fears.  But there are terrorists. Real ones, and of course, they are insane and deadly, but their private motives are not to the point-what is to the point is that they heed the appeal of fanatics, zealots and jihadist groups to maim and kill us wherever we are, at home or abroad, and until we see them for what they are, respond to the universal threat, and eliminate the danger they pose, we are lost.

(2)  Movie Farce Shows the Way to Handle Tyrants

One of the wittiest images to appear on the internet following the decision of SONY to withdraw the showing of The Interview after threats from North Korea is of the famous "Hollywood" sign perched on the rise above the City of Dreams or Tinsel Town transformed into "North Korea".  Although now some independent theatre chains have offered to show this satirical movie and SONY seems to have relented in its decision-and it kight be added that possibly the US government or some affiliate has hacked into the internet service above the 38th parallel, insofar as something like that exists in the secretive and mad kingdom of the north, what has been encouraging is that so many ordinary people (as well as the President himself) have told SONY they were wrong.

This little episode of cyberhacking and capitulation reminds us how little Hollywood did in the 1930s to confront the rising menace of Fascism in Italy and Spain and of Nazism in Germany.  Fearful of their economic interests in those European countries and leaving itself open to the charges of collaboration and support of these murderous regimes, the great Moguls of the Film industry hardly broached the topics of dictatorship, persecution and anti-Semitism.  Recent scholarly articles and popular histories have sh owed more or less accurately how culpable Hollywood was, with one exception usually cited to prove the rule, Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator.  But the Little Tramp's parody of Hitler strutting about and shrieking his maniacal message of hate came only after the Second World War started a year earlier, while FDR's government dithered and temporized in its approach, leaving it to 6 December 1941for the Japanese Empire to make the choice for it. 

Though a well-crafted work of cinematic art, with Chaplin sterling in his performance and subtle exposure of the madness challenging Western civilization and offering a somewhat stirring speech at the end when the poor little fool co-opted into playing the part of Adenoid Hinkler (Adolf Hitler) appeals for peace and understanding among peoples, The Great Dictator did not change hearts or minds, let alone policies in Washington, DC.  Instead, in its own way, an otherwise minor short by the Three Stooges, today virtually forgotten, hit the nail on the head, at least briefly.  One commentator put it this way:

In 1940, the immense popularity of the Three Stooges was deemed such a potential threat to the credibility of The Third Reich that Adolf Hitler added them to his personal death list.  What roused the Fuhrer's ire was a Stooges two-reeler called You Nazty Spy!, a ruthless sendup of Hitler and his fascist regime released nine months before Chaplin's The Great Dictator, a full year before America, still fairly isolationist, entered World War II, and produced in direct defiance of both the censorious Hays Code and the prevailing mood in Hollywood which, with overseas markets already in jeopardy, to play nice and not rock the Nazi boat.[i]

You Nazty Spy! is certainly not great art, even by the standards of the best of The Three Stooges repertoire.  Those commentators who judge it only by the merits of its comical form and verbal humour do the film and the three comedians a disservice.  To their everlasting credit he Three Stooges-Moe, Curly and Larry-truly got up the nose of Adolf Schicklegruber (alias Hitler) and survived to tell the tale, or make more films and gain increased popularity. 

The two Horowitz brothers, Moe (Moses) and Curly (Jerome)  and their pal Larry Fine, three minor Jewish vaudeville comedians before they got into the movies, and then gradually their kind of crude mock-violent farce caught on. Usually, there is nothing remotely Jewish in their knock-about farce and reliance on sight-gags, unlike the talkative Marx Brothers (aside from the non-speaking horn-honking Harpo), but they had guts.  When they made their ffilm they put their jobs on the line and risked the wrath of Hollywood heavies, as well as a government not ready to bare its claws. You Natzy Spy! pulls no punches when exposing the mendacious and stupid Nazi regime, with Yiddish jokes such as substituting for the "Sieg Heil!" salute of the Storm Troopers the defiant "Shalom aleychem!" thus asserting a Jewish identity before an America still too squeamish about their non-Christian fellow citizens, and of course saying what most Jews in the USA were still too frightened to say in public. 

In other words, Moe, Curly and Larry, nice little Jewish boys from Brooklyn and Philadelphia, did not play nice at all with the Nazis.  Not even Charlie Chaplin was this blatant and assertive in his mocking ballet The Great Dictator.  Nor did any of the other comedy pairs and trios of the period dare to identify themselves or assert their political opinions. Nor should we cower or kowtow  in front of any tinpot dictator and idiotic mass murderer: poke them in the eyes, bonk them on the shnoz, and stop them in their tracks.


[i] Anon., "The Tragic and twisted Tale of The Three Stooges" Empire online at http://www.empireonline.com/features/the=three-stooges

Norman Simms has just published the first volume of a new book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes (Cambridge Scholars Publisher.  Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK).  It is available from the publisher as well as amazon.com and other online bookseller sites.  The second volume may be out before the end of this year    


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