Muscle Up a Little Closer (1957) starring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser, Maxine Gates
Moe, Larry and Joe are about propose marriage to their girlfriends. Joe’s fiancée is a nice, oversized young lady named Tiny (Maxine Gates). Later, the boys discover that Tiny’s ring, worth $5,000.00 has been stolen. The Stooges suspect it’s a muscular bully named Elmo (Matt Murphy), the trucking foreman who works at the same factory as them.
Once at work, they cause the typical slapstick disaster in the shipping department where they work. I love the visual joke of Matzos being made in Japan. Afterward, they try to search Elmo’s locker, without success. Although Larry manages to get a concussion from falling barbells.
Back at work, Joe having gotten “wrapped up” in his work previously, stitches it together with a burlap bag — costing him his shirt. Also, Joe drops dozens of eggs, and fries them with a blow torch to make cleaning up the the mess easier. If only he’d sealed the bottom of the box. Moe takes a moment to pretend to be a doctor and examine Joe. Next, they spend some time in the company gym, where Tiny helps Joe lift weights – with predictable results.
Soon, they come face to face with Elmo in the company gym, and discover that he’s made a copy of Tiny’s locker key. Then they foolishly try to attack him. It backfires, of course. Moe and Larry are knocked senseless. But Joe’s fiancée Tiny is beats Elmo up with weights and wrestling moves, and knocks out Elmo. Frankly, Tiny’s fight is the funniest part of the short film. She retrieves the ring and she can now marry Joe.
In short, Muscle Up a Little Closer was a typical Joe Besser Three Stooges short film — simply not that funny. Much of the comedy doesn’t flow organically. For example, Moe’s medical exam feels like it was inserted to pad out the film. I’d rate it only 2 stars out of 5.
- Muscle Up a Little Closer was the first film to feature Moe and Larry’s less zany, more “gentlemanly” haircuts, suggested by Joe Besser. It frankly doesn’t help the comedy at all.
- The title of the film parodies the Otto Harbach/Karl Hoschna 1908 song Cuddle up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine.
Tiny: Oh, Joe, you’re too fat! Look at your head!
Elmo: That’s how I stretch my muscles!
Joe: You’re stretching my skull!
Moe: This is a man’s job.
Larry: Where will we find one?
Larry: It was a great fight, Ma, but I lost.
Cast of characters
- Joe Besser … Joe
- Larry Fine … Larry
- Moe Howard … Moe
- Maxine Gates (Husbands Beware) … Tiny Ray
- Harriette Tarler (Space Ship Sappy) … Mary Brown
- Ruth Godfrey (Pardon My Backfire) … May Trent
- Matt Murphy (Guys and Dolls) … Elmo Drake