Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, FR, Calhoun County, Michigan
Imagine this: It’s 1940, and time for the 16th Decennial U.S. Census count. You hear a knock at the door, and open it. There they stand with Census ledgers in hand: Moe, Larry, and Curly--The Three Stooges! [Perhaps the Census Recruiter ought to review their Census test scores]. Such was the backdrop for the 1940 madcap “No Census, No Feeling” which aired in movie theaters across the country.
The Three Stooges of course, need no introduction. Their 190 “movie shorts” as they were called have become comedy classics in themselves. Originally shown on the “big screen” prior to the main attraction, their films were subsequently carried over to the television medium for future generations to enjoy, even today. We all have our own favorite “Stooge” moments we remember, such as: the television program showing Niagara Falls spewing forth water from the TV set, the monumental cream pie fight, Curly becoming a prize fighter boxer during the playing of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” their bathtub plumbing expertise, “separating two eggs” as part of a recipe, and other gems.
Brothers Shemp (b. 1895), Moe (b. 1897) and Curly (b. 1903) Howard (their stage surname) were the sons of immigrants Solomon and Jennie Horovitz. The parents (who were cousins to each other) had fled their native Lithuania in advance of Russian troops, and had come to America in search of a better life. The couple settled in Brooklyn, New York, where their several sons were born and raised.
Moe and Shemp began working in vaudeville in 1923, and added Larry Fine (originally Feinberg) to their troupe in 1925. When Shemp bowed out in 1933, his younger brother Curly (whose real name was Jerome) took his place. That year Columbia Pictures signed the trio to a contact, and production of their classic shorts began. Shemp later returned to the act in 1947 after Curly suffered a dehabilitating stroke.
In “No Census, No Feeling,” the Stooges are hired as census takers and are promised four cents (4¢) per head. A publicity “still shot” shows the trio on their tricycles ready to ride to their first case. The 1940 Census was the first to utilize individual enumeration forms, including the “long form.” One can just imagine 1940 U.S. Census Director William Austin, described as an “old liner” in the literature, cringing when this film was released--especially when hearing how the Census questions and procedures are pulverized by the Stooges. The first enumeration question Moe asks after ringing the doorbell is: “Are you married, or happy?” They participate in several antics at this particular residence, including adding alum to the punch which makes it difficult for the residents to speak.
After no further success and wanting to earn more money at 4¢ a head, the trio heads to the nearby football stadium to conduct a census of all of the players on the field. There they find themselves in the midst of activity, and end up with the football. The flick ends with the Stooges running off the field with the ball, and the players in hot pursuit. For the record, “No Census, No Feeling” contains 18 slaps, 1 eye poke, and 2 conking heads, complete with the sound effects.
Although this particular Stooge title is occasionally shown on one of the cable channels from time to time, you have to be lucky enough to catch it from among the other 189 episodes. Fortunately however, “No Census, No Feeling” has been included in the DVD “Stooged & Confoosed” where you may watch “how not to do it” in its new colorized format, or in the original black-and-white. A toggle switch on your DVD allows you to choose which version you wish to view. No, you cannot view this film and charge it to your primary project code under “training.”
Information about obtaining this DVD can be found on the www.soitenlystooges.com website, which has a vast array of Stooge materials, biographies, and information available.
“No Census, No Feeling” provided some good laughs to moviegoers, while the ominous war clouds of World War II loomed over the horizon for the United States of America. Illustrations in this article are taken from the book “The Three Stooges, An Illustrated History,” by Michael Fleming.
On their way to their first case.
Nonsense from “No Census No Feeling” 1940.
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic