Films of Emil Sitka: BRIDELESS GROOM (1947)
by Saxon E. Sitka
BRIDELESS GROOM is regarded by many fans as one of the best of all Stooge films. It has quite a few very funny, even classic, scenes running throughout, such as "Miss Hopkins" singing lesson, Shemp learning his uncle died, Moe and Shemp stuck in the phone booth, Moe kissing Larry as the bellhop passes by, "Miss Hopkins'" knocking Shemp through the door, the wedding ring lost in the piano, and of course Emil's famous "Hold hands, you lovebirds" sequence.
Emil plays "J. M. Benton," the justice-of-the-peace who must complete Shemp's wedding ceremony amid a roomful of fighting young women. Each time Emil commences with the words, "Hold hands, you lovebirds," pandemonium erupts and he and the Stooges get clobbered.
In this film, Emil's third with the Three Stooges, Emil delivered this odd little line, but he had no idea that it would become his signature phrase and eventually go on to gain "Stooge" immortality. "Hold hands, you lovebirds!" became a fan favorite, and Emil has since repeated it countless times for fans over the phone, on radio and television, in speeches and in interviews. It's never failed to get a laugh from his fans. Emil has even been piped in live over the phone to a Stooge fan's actual wedding ceremony, chiming in at just the appropriate moment with, "Hold hands, you lovebirds!"
Emil actually used this expression only twice in the film, after first saying "Join hands, you lovebirds" once, but it seems like more because of all the commotion that ensues each time. In fact, the line was a last-minute script change, jotted in pencil by Emil at the top of the page. Of course he would have discussed such a change with the director before shooting, so it's not an ad-lib, but it was definitely a change for the better. The script originally had Emil starting Shemp's wedding ceremony with the expression, "Dearly beloved..." It just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Emil's diary entry for his first day working in BRIDELESS GROOM, Wednesday, March 12, 1947:
With "the Stooges" in another Columbia comedy! Production # 4095 - Ed Bernds directing, at Stage X in Columbia Ranch.
But it's more than that now. This marks my third job with the Stooges, and they are my friends (I hope) not just co-workers!
Immediately I'm being hustled by the make-up man and director because I open the day's shooting.
My role is that of Justice of the Peace Benton. An old eccentric character with old-fashioned slick hair-do. And my "den" is such as to allow these perfectly-timed comedians to play with as many peculiar props as their talents can encompass.
Traps, guns, stuffed birds, book-presses, grand piano, canary, etc. - and I'm in the middle of their carnage!
We started off professionally enough, two "takes" and my biggest scene was over! Later, after lunch with Shemp Howard, I had a close-up made of my reactions, and that was it. From then on I watched a little more of these slap-stick artists and departed at 3 P. M.
Emil's diary entry for his second day on the job, Thursday, March 13, 1947:
It was all fun and play with "the Stooges" at Columbia Ranch today.
They had half a dozen pretty girls to work with today, and this is what generated the gayety and fun, all in the spirit of play.
The Stooges are very serious comics in their work, but also can kid around some, especially if their audience enjoys their antics.
The girls at first seemed cold and uneasy but my own contributions of clowning with a German dialect with Shemp Howard started to melt down their stiffness. And soon there were tears in the eyes even of Moe Howard, the comedia scientist!
And again I had lunch with Shemp Howard who is advising me like a friend and appears to be interested in me. Anyway, all day long he and I comically carry on a German accent, which at least we think is funny.
Finally they come to my big moment in the picture. I'm (as the "Justice") about to pronounce --- when - BAM - I get hit over the head with a bird-cage! After I land on the floor, the live canary twirls about my face in the cage which is over my head! And soon I'm in the final fadeout of the movie!
Emil was once asked if it hurt when the birdcage was smashed over his
head. He said, "No, those things were all props and couldn't hurt you.
But the bird was real. I was more worried about that live canary in the
cage on my head than anything else, because I had to keep my eyes open.
But everything went OK... in spite of all the violence, nobody got hurt
Although this scene was used by Columbia Pictures in another Stooges short called HUSBANDS BEWARE, it's most recent revival was in the 1994 hit movie PULP FICTION. About an hour into the film, as John Travolta rushes the comatose Uma Thurman to his drug dealer's house for a shot of adrenaline, the drug dealer is watching TV and Emil's BRIDELESS GROOM bit is on. Trying to ignore this telephone, the drug dealer watches the entire "hold hand, you lovebirds" sequence and even winces when Emil gets the bird cage slammed down over his head. The next scene, where Travolta drives a huge needle into Thurman's chest, has so much dramatic impact that many viewers are later confused about the details of Emil's appearance.
As quoted in The Three Stooges: From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons,
by Michael Fleming, PULP FICTION director Quentin Tarantino said, "That's probably my favorite Stooge line of all time, and I just knew I had to put it on TV during that scene." He also observed, "It's funny, everybody remembers that the Stooges are in PULP FICTION, only you never see the Three Stooges."
At the end of PULP FICTION, Emil is listed as a member of the cast in the role of, you guessed it, "Hold hands, you lovebirds."
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BRIDELESS GROOM (1947)