The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

There is a popular GIF (in this usage, a short, repeating movie) of a gorilla maniacally firing a machine gun.

link to GIF at Giphy

It can be used to express different things, but I think I’ve seen it most as unbridled joy and enthusiasm…for example, because it’s Friday. šŸ˜‰

I got it recently in one of my Twitter feeds, the one for

The Measured Circleā€™s Geek TimeĀ Trip

posted by “Retro Horror” (@el_zombo).

There was some curiosity as to what the origin of the clip was…and I was happy to answer!

That’s from a 3 Stooges short,

A Bird in the Head (watch at YouTube)

In this case, the “third stooge” is Curly…and that’s important, and surprisingly, may have a good deal to do with why this video exists.

While many people think of Curly as the original third stooge, who was replaced by his brother Shemp, that’s not exactly how it happened.

The Stooges were part of an act, and they didn’t get top billing…it was Ted Healy and His Stooges. Healy was the front man, the lead comedian, and the Stooges (originally Moe, then his brother Shemp joined, and later friend Larry Fine) would interrupt him, leading to slapstick abuse.

Shemp left the act, and the third brother, Curly (then nicknamed “Babe”) joined it…the version I like the best is that Curly (then with long curly hair and a mustache) auditioned, and Healy (who reportedly had alcohol issues) didn’t like him. Moe (who was the leader in real life, as he was in the eventual shorts), took him out, shaved his head, told Healy he was a different brother, and Healy fell for it.

With the Moe/Larry/Curly team, the Stooges made a number of now legendary comic shorts (after parting ways with Healy and changing studios).

Shemp was off as a successful solo act (including appearing with Abbott and Costello), supposedly with the promotional line, “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood” (and this is while Rondo Hatton was working…Hatton had a medical condition which gave him unusual looks which led to him being cast in horror movies).

Shemp rejoined the act after Curly had a major stroke in 1946…reportedly reluctantly, but realizing that Moe and Larry would be in trouble without a third stooge.

Prior to that stroke in May, Curly already was being impacted by medical issues…what has been described as a series of “mini-strokes”.

On the set of A Bird in the Head, Curly’s performance was impacted. If you watch the short, he appears to be okay, even doing some physical comedy. However, the director, Edward Bernds (this was his first film as director) realized that Curly wasn’t at full capacity.

He decided (he was also the screenwriter) to expand the roles of the mad doctor Professor Panzer, and his gorilla, Igor (played by Art Miles). The Professor is looking for a human brain small enough to transplant into Igor…and Curly’s would fit (there is also a bit of animation in this short, unusual for the Stooges, showing an animated cuckoo clock inside Curly’s head instead of a brain).

So, the forced inventiveness of accommodating a Stooge’s medical condition in 1946 led to a popular GIF of a gorilla firing a machine gun in 2018!

Do you have other pop culture (especially) geeky questions you’d liked answered? Feel free to ask…and check my series of

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in theĀ The Measured CircleĀ blog.

One Response to “The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF”

  1. Bufo Calvin Says:

    I asked Brad “Curly G” Server (Curly’s grandson @grandstooge) to review what I wrote, and he kindly said it was, “Perfectly said to the ā€œTā€”. Read his whole tweeted response here: https://twitter.com/grandstooge/status/1075141988561735680

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