Termites of 1938 (1938) starring the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard), Bud Jamison
Termites of 1938 is an early Three Stooges short film, where the Stooges (Moe, Larry and Curly) disrupt a high society dinner party. The trouble begins when a rich society woman has no date for a high-society party, and the hostess recommends that she use the Acme Escort Service. The woman has her African American maid dial them up, after mentioning that she hopes that they will be ‘discriminating.’ The maid calls the Acme Exterminators instead.
The exterminators are, of course, the Three Stooges – Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard, who at that moment are watching as Moe unveils his “latest invention”. Moe’s knack for inventing things appears to be somewhat of a recurring pattern in the early Stooges short films, and they all fail as miserably as this one. Moe’s invention is a convoluted series of trip wires in front of a mousetrap, that triggers a small cannon firing when the mouse trips the wire.
Unfortunately for the Three Stooges, the mouse is smarter than they are. After exiting the mouse hole and avoiding the trip wires, the mouse climbs up the cannon and fires it off. This knocks over the Stooges and deafening them for a few moments. Which of course is when the call comes in, ensuring that they can’t quite hear the other side of the conversation, i.e. “I hope you’ll be on your best behavior.” – “We’re all about pest behavior, lady!”
The Three Stooges arrive at the party in their company car, with various pest control mottos covering the car, looking utterly out of place. They enter, and almost immediately dinner is served. Never one to miss out on a free meal, they dig in. Stooge regular Bud Jamison is at the party as “Lord Wafflebottom”, who is unacquainted with American customs, and decides to imitate the dinner manners of the Three Stooges.
Soon everybody is doing likewise so as not to offend Lord Wafflebottom. This is a highlight of the film, and should be seen to be appreciated. After the dinner, the Stooges decide to entertain musically, with Moe playing a cello – with a saw. When he saws the cello open, mice pop out, the female guests leave screaming and the ‘exterminators’ try to get to work.
Shortly afterwards, the hostess’ husband returns from his hunting trip, and decides to dispatch the Stooges with one of their own ‘gopher bombs’ that they conveniently left behind as they flee in their battered car. A well-aimed toss of the bomb blows up the car, leaving the Stooges to scamper from the wreckage and head for the hills. A funny Three Stooges short film, possibly not their funniest, but very funny and well worth watching. I rate it 3 clowns out of 5.
Termites of 1938 is available as part of The Three Stooges Collection Volume 2 (1937-1939).
Funny movie quotes from Termites of 1938
Moe Howard: Now, if I only had a mouse.
Curly Howard: [pulling out a piccolo] Why didn’t you say so? That’s a cinch.
Moe Howard: What’s the idea?
Curly Howard: [showing Moe the book The Pied Piper of Hamelin] I’ve been readin’ up on it. See?
Moe Howard: So what?
Curly Howard: If a pie-eyed piper can call ’em out, I guess I can sober.
Moe, Larry and Curly: At yer service, day or night, we do the job and do it right … Acme!
Curly Howard: Look at all that silver! What do you do with it?
Larry Fine: I’ll show you what to do with it. [starts stuffing silverware in his pockets]
Trivia for Termites of 1938
- The title Termites of 1938 is a parody of the film title Gold Diggers of 1937.
- This film was remade as Society Mugs, a non-Stooge short that starred Shemp Howard.
- This short has two musical quirks unusual for Stooge shorts. First, the Three Stooges’ opening theme, “Listen to the Mockingbird,” is played again when we first see the Stooges. Second, background music plays during the otherwise silent scene in which the Stooges and other guests are eating. This is the result of producer Charley Chase, who liked to put music in as many parts of his films as possible.
- This is the first short in which Curly drops to the ground and spins in a circle. This ‘coffee grinder’ would be a recurring routine in later Stooge shorts.
- This is the first Three Stooges episode to be released after Ted Healy’s death.
Cast of characters
- Curly Howard … Curly
- Larry Fine … Larry
- Moe Howard … Moe (as Moe)
- Beatrice Blinn (Three Sappy People) … Guest
- Symona Boniface (Vagabond Loafers) … Guest
- Helen Davis … Guest
- Lew Davis (Back from the Front) … Guest
- Richard Fiske (Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise) … Arthur Van Twitchell
- Bess Flowers (Micro-Phonies) … Mrs. Muriel Van Twitchell
- Dorothy Granger (Punch Drunks) … Mrs. Mabel Sturgeon
- Carlton Griffin (Half Shot Shooters) … Guest
- John Ince (Three Little Sew and Sews) … Clayhammer
- Bud Jamison (A Ducking They Did Go) … Lord Wafflebottom
- Delos Jewkes (Pardon My Scotch) … Guest
- Etta McDaniel … Mandy – The Maid
- Kay Vallon (Slippery Silks) … Tall Blonde Guest
[Updated October 10, 2022]