The film was shot by George Mann in 1938, at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. It’s like a two-minute time machine: Full color film, not colorized, with beachgoers in the background having a good time while the original Stooges play their parts. Plus, it’s Atlantic City in its heyday. Atlantic City was the vacation spot on the eastern seaboard at this point. Today it’s a mere shadow of that old, rambunctious self.
This wasn’t a commercial film. It’s a home movie that happens to have been directed and shot by a professional, using professionals who would become legends. And it happens to follow the basic storyline of nearly every Three Stooges film ever made.
According to this site, it’s among 50 reels in the archive left by Vaudeville comedian George Mann. He is the tall Ric Ocasek look-alike that appears in the film as the Stooges’ foil. He was half of the Barto and Mann duo, and was a big deal at the time. You can see a photo of the pair, with George in a fetching evening gown, here. Here’s a photo of George and Moe, probably from the same moment in time: It’s 1938, and Moe is already doing his Hitler bit. Moe appears to be wearing the same shirt as in the home movie. Maybe one of the other Stooges, or the woman in the film, took the photo.
The woman is George Mann’s wife, Barbara Bradford. The YouTube posting says Taylor was a successful model who appeared in Coca-Cola ads and was voted the most beautiful woman in New York in 1937. She had also appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan, so she was already famous when this film was shot. She and George might have been the Brangelina of the day, though hardly anyone today is even aware that they ever existed.
Barbara was either tall as models tend to be, or the Stooges were really short. Or both.
The Three Stooges would have been about five years into their long film careers when George shot this home movie, so they might have been recognizable to the people on the beach. Five of the most famous celebrities of 1938 were thus captured here, and now have a kind of immortality on YouTube. One YouTube commenter notes that at about 1:17 it looks like some on the beach have started watching the filming. In the still above, it does look like one woman on the right is watching. Even if the stooges weren’t familiar faces (they really became popular when their films started appearing on TV in the 1950s), the sight of a group of people clowning around for a film camera might have been enough by itself to attract attention, in 1938. Movie cameras, let alone one capable of shooting in color, were exotic at this point in time. But the camera and the film were harbingers of things to come: Feature film took over and crowded out acts like Barto and Mann, who would dissolve their partnership five years after this film was taken.
Another YouTuber has taken the time capsule and done the one thing to it that could possibly improve it: He added the Stooges’ theme and sound effects.
*The model’s name is Barbara Bradford, not Taylor as I originally wrote. I cross-Googled myself.