The First Hollywood Actor to Lampoon Hitler

The Three Stooges Hitler episode You Nazty SpyThe Three Stooges Hitler Spoof: Moe Howard the first Hollywood actor to lampoon Hitler

A few years ago, in the San Diego Jewish Journal Lynn Rapaport discussed the first Hollywood comedian to play Adolf Hitler on film. No, not Charles Chaplin. Try The Three Stooges' Moe Howard.

Now, it's worth pointing out that Hollywood has always relied on foreign revenues to sustain its filmmaking factories. Even so, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, several Hollywood movies did tackle the Nazi menace. Those included Warner Bros.' Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), directed by Anatole Litvak, and starring Edward G. Robinson and Francis Lederer; MGM's The Mortal Storm (1940), directed by Frank Borzage, and starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, and Robert Young; Paramount's Arise My Love (1940), directed by Mitchell Leisen, and starring Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland; and 20th Century Fox's The Man I Married (1940), directed by Irving Pichel, and starring Joan Bennett and Francis Lederer.

Also, the United Artists-distributed Foreign Correspondent (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, and Herbert Marshall; So Ends Our Night (1941), directed by John Cromwell, and starring Fredric March, Margaret Sullavan, and Frances Dee; In addition, of course, to Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), featuring Paulette Goddard and Jack Oakie as a Benito Mussolini parody.

You Nazy Spy: 'Grim' situation in Europe made 'funny'

Below are a couple of quotes from Rapaport's article:

“In mid-1939, Jules White, head of Columbia Pictures Shorts Department and long-time producer and director of the Three Stooges comedies, walked into his brother Sam's office and said that he was planning a comedy about Hitler. Moe would be Hitler, Curly would be Göring, and Larry would be Goebbels. Sam told his brother that the situation in Europe was grim, and asked if he could make it funny. 'I'll make it funny,' Jules replied.

“Filming began on December 5, 1939. It was shot quickly, in seven days. Cutting was finished on December 26, 1939, and on January 19, 1940 Columbia pictures released its 44th Three Stooges comedy, You Nazty Spy. The film cost about $18,500 to make, and preceded the release of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator by nine months. Moe Howard of the Three Stooges was the first American actor to lampoon Hitler in film. It was also his favorite Three Stooges short.”

The original Moe Howard as Adolf Hitler article is no longer available online via the San Diego Jewish Journal. However, a copy of the article can be found here.

The Three Stooges Hitler episode featuring Curly Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard as Adolf Hitler publicity photo: Columbia Pictures.

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