Summary: The biography of the one man the Stooges seemed to always be taking down, actor Vernon Dent.
My Thoughts: He just always seemed to be there. If it wasn't Emil Sitka, it was Vernon Dent.
No matter the outcome of their shorts, whether they ended up triumphing over the Nazis or breaking rocks on a pile in Leavenworth, the Three Stooges always had an authority figure to battle. Veteran actor Vernon Dent had that role plugged to a "T."
Dent was certainly a familiar face to the boys, no matter what face he donned for that particular film. Sadly, to most of us, the first two decades of his work has been otherwise elusive. Growing up when I did I did not have access to the many hours of silent film comedies he made with Harry Langdon and others. I had no idea who he really was, other than the big guy who always wanted to bonk Moe, Larry and Curly's head's together.
And so, as biographies go, I learned a whole lot more about the man, and inwardly wept with his passing. I'm a sucker that way. Even though he died long before I was born, and his death was already an accepted fait accompli, it still saddened me for the journey to come to an end.
Dent was from San Jose, started out in music halls (his musical talents would be displayed once in a while in his films) and moved into silent films, a "Fatty" Arbuckle-style comedian, or Oliver Hardy before there was an Oliver Hardy. He was a hard worker, yet retiring. Had he not gone into film, he would have been at ease as a gentleman farmer. He was noted, as his grave marker said, as a "gentle presence." He died just a few weeks before John F. Kennedy, in November, 1963.
The author has compiled, with the help of colleagues, a 50-page filmography, showing the deep extent to which he worked. You may have last seen him as Santa Claus on I Love Lucy (1951), or in his last Three Stooges 2-reeler, Guns A-Poppin' (1957, and it was a "Joe" if you're asking). Or, you may have seen him this past New Year's Eve, during a Stooges marathon. Maybe you'll see him this Sunday morning.
The author has done a wonderful job of combing the early archives of San Jose's newsprint to find the stories behind not only Vernon, but the generations who came before him, exposing the sorrows that no doubt impacted his life at a young age. We get the story from beginning to end, knowing, full well, that having been on so many sets there had to be much more of import that went on in his life. He was in Hollywood during the Hollywood heyday, appearing in features like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart, and others. Had Vernon Dent had the inclination to tell his own story, we might know even more.
This biography shares with us the professionalism, the creativity and ultimately the flaws of the man who gave the Stooges so much trouble on screen, and who helped to propel them to entertainment immortality.