Hoi Polloi is the tenth short film starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges. The trio made a total of 190 shorts for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959.
In a Stooge adaptation of Pygmalion, Professor Richmond (Harry Holman), certain that environment and not heredity dictates social behavior, bets one of his peers, Professor Nichols (Robert Graves) $10,000 that he can take a common man and through environment and proper training turn him into a gentleman. Naturally, the Stooges, who are garbage men, are discovered and made the subjects of the wager. After many attempts to teach them proper etiquette (including a dance class punctuated by an errant bee), the Stooges will decide the wager by their behavior at a fancy society party.
The party does not go well: Curly pulls Moe's jacket threads until it splits. Moe then hijacks Curly's oversized jacket. Larry and Moe dance with stomped feet and bumps galore. Curly, as usual, gets most of the faux pas: he shaves in front of a guest; he gets stuck on a spittoon; he picks a “maraschino” cherry from a punch bowl; he hides a bottle of champagne, which Moe sees. Frustrated, Moe butt-kicks Curly, resulting in the champagne popping open and spraying a guest.
Eventually, Professor Richmond loses the bet and gives the $10,000 dollars to Professor Nichols. Nichols in turn makes a comment to a lady guest concerning being pestered by a bunch of “rowdies”. The remark does not go over well with her, and she slaps him in the face. Professor Richmond laughs, and the unfortunate fellow slaps him in turn. In quick succession, guests laugh at other guests' misfortunes, and slaps and gouges fly until the party becomes a melee of Stooge-born slapstick. The Stooges, disgusted by it all, realize that this is what they get for "associating themselves with the hoi polloi!" and decide to leave, but Rickmond and Nichols get the last laugh on them via champaign bottles crashed onto their heads.
Birth of an idea Edit
The idea for Hoi Polloi came from Moe Howard's wife, Helen, who was offered either screen credit or money (she took the latter). Moe later stated that the plot of Hoi Polloi was so good that it bore repeating. The Stooges reworked the film twice more, as Half-Wits Holiday in 1946 (Curly's final starring role) and Pies and Guys in 1958.
- In The Three Stooges 75th Anniversary Special, hosted by Woody Harrelson, the dancing scene with Geneva Mitchell was voted by the fans as their favorite Stooge moment of all time.
- A colorized version of this film was released in 2006. Oddly, it was not released on a Stooge DVD, but rather as a hastily added DVD bonus feature for the Jamie Foxx movie Breakin' All the Rules.
- The expression "hoi polloi" is a generally derogatory term for "the masses".
- This is the first of several Stooge shorts in which Curly manages to get a spring attached to his backside. The spring gag would be recycled again in Three Little Sew and Sews, An Ache in Every Stake, Hugs and Mugs and Have Rocket, Will Travel.
- When Curly antagonizes a very large woman he is dancing with (Blanche Payson), she initiates a 'tit for tat' slap fest. This goes on until a 'draw' comes out of it, they make up and continue to dance. A similar slapping gag would reappears later in the short False Alarms and An Ache in Every Stake.
- In the first street scene where the Stooges are rubbish sanitation workers, the original "Hollywoodland" sign is visible in the distance.
- On the street is a marquee advertising the film Mississippi featuring Bing Crosby. Coincidentally, this film also co-stars Fred Kohler who was "Double Deal Decker" in the short Horses' Collars made the same year.
- The dancing sequence would later be reused in In the Sweet Pie and Pie.