Written by Eric Plaut
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages…
–Jaques (Act II, Scene VII)
As You Like It (1599)
By William Shakespeare
Shakespeare has the nobleman Jaques briefly discuss each of the Seven Ages of Man. In this order, they are: Infant, Schoolboy, Lover, Soldier, Justice, Pantalone and Old Age.
Now we will fast-forward to almost 350 years into the future. Within that time, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. One does not need to go to the theater just to see a stage production—whether it is either comedy or tragedy. Film, for over the past century, has given us the advantage as well.
I always enjoyed motion-picture comedies. Usually they were the later ones in the silent-film era as well as the “talkies” from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were my favorite comedians. Buster Keaton was second in my book while the Three Stooges took the bronze medal.
One of the best Stooge shorts debuted in 1941. All the World’s a Stooge features a wealthy couple Ajax and Lotta Bouillon (played by Emory Parnell and Lelah Tyler). While they tend to represent the “gold standard” in society, each of them has a different view of life. Ajax is a disagreeable Pantalone—which is defined by Wikipedia as having “greed or status at the top of the social order.” His wife Lotta, however, always seems to be in her own world. She’s only interested in keeping up with the latest fad—this time she wants to adopt a refugee from overseas. Their butler Botters (Olaf Hytten) is disgusted by both of his employers.
The short opens up with Lotta receiving a letter saying she’s getting a refugee “from the war-torn battlefield of—somewhere.” Her husband Ajax arrives at the breakfast table with a toothache. He’s outraged to hear his wife’s news. And to add insult to injury, even his breakfast seems to literally mock him. His oatmeal spits milk into his face, then he scalds his cheek with a hotcake.
Meanwhile at the dentist’s office of Dr. I. Yankum (Richard Fiske, a character actor who was killed in France in 1944 during World War II), the Three Stooges begin a new job as window-washers. The inept trio barely start work before they land in trouble. First Curly literally “takes a dive off the scaffold” then, while attempting to clean the glass, he accidentally soaks Dr. Yankum with a bucket of water as the dentist opens up the window. The dentist storms off drenched, looking for the manager in order to fire the Stooges.
Moe Howard, the boss Stooge, makes his kid brother Curly and middleman Larry Fine clean up the mess. While they do this task, Ajax Bouillon walks into the office and sits down in the dentist’s chair. His eyes are shut so he doesn’t recognize the Stooges, who tell him the dentist has stepped out. Ajax doesn’t care who’s in the office—he just wants his tooth pulled!
The Stooges comply, and Curly knocks out Bouillon before he can tell them which tooth is hurting. After some wild attempts, they manage to yank out Ajax’s bridgework. “You stripped his gears!” Larry says as they try to put the dental gear back in with quick-drying cement. But the cement dries too quickly and the Stooges “have to blast” it open with dynamite. The dentist and the building manager (John Tyrell) arrive just before the TNT blows up. Bouillon’s toothache is gone but so are the Stooges, who escape down the scaffold and hide in Ajax’s car.
Bouillon discovers the trio hiding out in the back seat, not realizing that they were the ones who actually pulled his tooth. Moe explains how the Stooges are “refugees”, so Ajax decides to teach his wife a lesson. He has Moe and Curly dressed up in sailor suits while Larry wears a dress. The Stooges are now referred to as “Johnny, Frankie and Mabel.” Lotta is overjoyed with the three “children”, but she and Ajax soon learn to regret it.
During the brief stay at their new home, the Stooges resort to crooked ways: swiping cigars, playing a rigged game of dice with Botters the Butler (who loses his pants) and stealing a bottle of hooch from the liquor cabinet. Their mannerisms slowly infuriate Ajax who becomes—courtesy of Moe—on the receiving end of more food: a plate of watery spinach, a pitcher of milk and a pie. The party guests, who witness the pie in the face, are delighted to see Ajax get his “just desserts”. The Bouillons realize their mistake of having the Stooges as their “refugees” a bit too late. Their “gold standard” rapidly plummets, and their society value is now worth its weight in “fool’s gold!”
We all seem to be searching for the “gold standard.” Sometimes, however, we may end up winning the silver or bronze instead. Just make certain it isn’t that so-called “fool’s gold”—or as my friend Jeff once dubbed it as “tarnished tin.” In other words, be careful what you wish for! You might think you’re getting the gold standard even though you end up with fool’s gold. So, in conclusion, remember that old saying: All that glitters is not gold!
Last modified: June 24, 2023