I’ve been a steady fan of The Three Stooges since July 1992— twenty three years ago around this very day. I occasionally stumbled upon them in passing back in the 1980s while flipping channels, but I never caught on and became a fan-for-life until just before turning thirteen.
I have handfuls of favorite shorts, but my all-time number-one is Disorder in the Court. Released in May of 1936, it was just like the title says and is full of nothing but trademark Stooge slapstick and bedlam. Disorder is one of the very few stooge shorts that accidentally fell into the public domain back in the 1960s— when it’s copyright renewal was somehow overlooked. However it is possible that the digitally-colored version may be copyrighted by Sony. Then again, maybe not, if not just licensed.
In Disorder you’ll see a character pivotal to the short, Gail Tempest. She was played by dancer/actress, Suzanne Kaaren. She was twenty-four years old when she filmed her part with the stooges. In an interview she remarked on working with Howard, Fine & Howard:
What fun! ‘Disorder in the Court’ is the biggest moneymaker of all the Stooge comedies. I only did it as a lark—I had a little time when Jules White saw me dancing and said, ‘With those legs, you’ve gotta do it.’ My favorite is ‘What’s The Matador?’ I played a Spanish girl—with a very jealous husband. I had a Stooge under my bed, in the closet. It was a lot of fun. I went to the Stooge Convention in ‘91.
Back in the late 90s/early 2000s I used to be part of an online hub for Stooge fans and one day a comment thread was in full effect about favorite shorts, and I of course piped in about Disorder. A well respected member of this hub, who was tightly in with some of the surviving folks involved with the stooge shorts, sent me a message. He mentioned that Suzanne Kaaren lived in New York City and slipped me her phone number.
“Give her a call… she loves hearing from fans.”
I was shocked and surprised on many fronts, including the notion that someone of adult-age from a mid-30s short was still around at that time. When you’re barely in your early twenties— you still have a lot to learn about numbers and so forth. I was hesitant, but I dialed her up the following morning and after several rings when I was just about to hang up— a voice picked up on the other end. I asked for Ms. Kaaren.
“I’m Suzanne Kaaren-Blackmer…”
“The actress?”— I asked?
It was her. She explained that during her career she had married actor Sidney Blackmer who died sometime in the early 1970s. We talked for a few minutes about her career and Disorder in the Court and she had nothing but fond memories— much like she expressed in the interview link above.
Suddenly she appeared a little pensive, and then shared with me that she was sitting in her apartment without power. She didn’t want to turn the call sour as she was excited to hear from “such a young fan,” as she put it. Sometime overnight the power went out and she began lighting candles and was afraid to sleep with them still lit. She didn’t know what to do.
We talked for a few more minutes more and then I felt like I should do something, and while on the line with her a quick internet search showed me that her power company was Con Ed. I told her I would make a call for her and since it was daylight she felt she would take a nap. I called Con Ed, and they said they were going to send a man out. I called Mrs. Blackmer back a few hours later and all was fine. Towards the end of that call she gave me her address and said for me to write to her and she’d send me an autograph in return.
I ended up moving unexpectedly in the months just after, and lost in the shuffle was stuff in various boxes that I didn’t go through until a year or two later. I came across my notepad I jotted in during our phone calls and I was prepping to write to her, but wanted to give her a call as well. No answer. Tried a few more times over a considerable period and got the same.
Not long after her name appeared in the papers. At some point she had relocated to a care home over the river into New Jersey and she passed away at the age of 92. It wasn’t until her obituary that I learned she took on a rather large corporate giant— and given how this man acts even today… kudos to her.
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