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Scrambled Brains

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Shemp Howard hallucinating that he's playing the piano with 4 hands in "Scrambled Brains"
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Scrambled Brains (1951) starring the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard), Vernon Dent, Emil Sitka

Moe and Larry's reaction on first meeting Nora

In Scrambled Brains, Shemp Howard is recovering from a nervous breakdown in a sanitarium. However, he’s not quite recovered. He hallucinates that his homely nurse Nora (Babe London) is a beauty. When his friends Moe Howard and Larry Fine finally take him home, they discover that he’s become engaged to Nora!

There’s a funny moment as Shemp leaves the sanitarium.  After a kiss-filled farewell to Nora, he says goodbye. Goodbye to the chair, to a mackerel statue, and the fireplace. And a hand pops out of the fireplace to shake hands farewell!

Paging Doctor Gesundheit

Dr. Gesundheit (Emil Sitka) examining Shemp while Larry and Moe watch

Back at home, Moe and Larry try to take care of their sick friend Shemp. They’ve called Doctor Geseundheit (Emil Sitka) to examine him. As Dr. Geseundheit sits in a rocker to examine Shemp, as he leans forward with his stethoscope to listen to Shemp’s heart, the rocker pushes the stomach of a doll left by a neighborhood child. Each time, Shemp’s heart apparently beat “ma-ma.” Eventually, the neighborhood girl reclaims her doll, and the doctor prescribes sleeping pills – that Shemp can’t swallow. So the doctor tries hypnosis.

Shemp Howard hallucinating that he's playing the piano with 4 hands in "Scrambled Brains"

After the doctor leaves, Shemp reveals that he was only faking. Using the rule of three, the Stooges try to get Shemp to swallow a pill. It ends with Larry being tranquilized instead. Next, Shemp has to practice playing the piano – doctor’s orders! A funny bit, as Shemp hallucinates having a second set of hands. This ends with Shemp hallucinating that he’s cut off his fingers. So the Stooges take him back to see the doctor.

Shemp, Vernon Dent, Larry, Moe all crammed in a phone booth

Phone booth chaos

They go to call the doctor from the telephone booth in the lobby but get into an altercation with a stranger (Vernon Dent). Soon the four are crowded into the phone booth. They ruin the man’s groceries, and get into a food fight in the enclosed place. They end up knocking over the phone booth, with the stranger vowing to kill them if he ever sees them again.

Here comes the bride …

Vernon Dent as the father of the bride in "Scrambled Brains"

Soon, Shemp is getting married to Nora in the Stooges apartment …. And her father is in town to give the bride away. Of course, it’s Vernon Dent, who proceeds to beat the Stooges up – until Nora intervenes and carries Shemp away, humming the wedding march.

Funny movie quotes from Scrambled Brains

Sign at the sanitarium: Croakers Sanitarium – under management of doctors Hart-Burns and Belcher


Shemp: Nora! My beautiful sunflower!
Larry: [reacting to the homely Nora] Now I’ve really seen a dream walking!
Moe: Dream? She’s a nightmare!
Larry: Hey, you know … I think she’s uglier than you are!
Moe: Well, she’s got [realizes, beats up Larry]


Dr. Geseundheit (Emil Sitka): Go ahead, how does your head feel?
Shemp: The usual empty feeling.


Larry: Wait a minute! I got a brainstorm!
Moe: Anything in his brain is a storm.


Moe: [encouraging Shemp to practice the piano] Now go on, practice like the teacher showed you. And if you’re a good boy, we’re gonna give you some c-a-n-d-y.
Shemp: Aw, you know I don’t smoke.


Larry: [seeing the ugly woman Shemp is attracted to] I’d better have another drink; I can still see her face.
Moe: [bonks Larry on the head] Quiet.


Trivia for Scrambled Brains

  • Scrambled Brains was Larry’s all-time favorite short, with You Nazty Spy! and Cuckoo on a Choo Choo his runners-up. He would often screen this film during his last days residing at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.
  • The gag of making a doll whine by leaning a rocking chair on it comes from Laurel and Hardy‘s 1940 film Saps at Sea.

Cast of characters

Additional cast

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