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The Three Wise Guys in
The Domino Effect

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Bred in a secret government lab from bionic insects and Douglas Fairbanks’ toenail clippings, the Three Wise Guys sprang to life in 1933. Their wacky exploits helped ease America’s Depression-era doldrums with pratfalls and poop jokes until 1939, when filmed entertainment was resurrected by the action-packed thrill ride of World War II.

The Three Wise Guys made their debut in the one-reel short, The Domino Effect, in which they stumble into a mystery over a prized cubic zirconium that has gone missing. Though modern audiences may yawn at the premise, during the 1930s CZs were rationed by the government. Valued as much for their sparkle as for their use in tasty soups, a black market for CZs sprang up. Those lucky enough to own a CZ kept it in the bank or in constricting ‘girdle vaults’, popular at the time. The garments were so tight that they frequently deprived the wearer of air, inducing a flailing, dance-like seizure. The Dowager character falls victim to such a fit in the film, and the sequence was so admired that it caught on as the ‘Suffocatin’ Lady’, a dance craze that rivaled the ‘Polio Rag’.

The Three Wise Guys’ debut influenced many other aspects of American culture, including binge drinking (the boytoy, Raoul, was an early archetype for such modern bohunks as George Hamilton and Burt Reynolds), exaggerated sneaking, and the wearing of pants, a trend still popular today. The Wise Guys were early pioneers in the depiction of violence on film, and their innocent antics inspired a wave of copycat crimes and carnage, the likes of which America had never seen.

After the runaway success of The Domino Effect, Doofosi Studios cast the trio in a series of feature-length films, beginning with the smash Insert Name of New Wise Guy Piece. It catapulted the Wise Guys into the upper echelons of the Hollywood glitterati... but lasting fame was not in the cards. Hastily edited together and written by a WPA-funded team of unemployed wetnurses, the rest of the film series never attained the popularity of the first feature. The Wise Guys did their best to inject comedy into such lame situations as Wise All the Lights Off? and The Three Wise Guys Iron Some Pants, but even their genius could not extend what was fated to be a quick jig around Fame Mountain.

During the 1950s, there was a modest resurgence of interest in the Wise Guys, but their most notorious moment came in 1963, when, during a bad acid trip, the three broke into the Doofosi Studios archives and burned it to the ground. Miraculously, the only films that survived are their best... (well, those and the regrettable 16-hour foray into experimental film, ‘Dish Of Milk Rotting’ from 1959—that one we burned ourselves).

Copyright © 2005 Six Characters.

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