Vernon Dent: Stooge Heavy (2010) – By James L. Neibaur

Vernon Dent’s name might not be well known outside of film buff circles, but his face is quite familiar to the many fans of The Three Stooges, as he appeared with the trio frequently and in various roles. In a career dating back to the silent era, Dent initially made his name at Mack Sennett’s studios, most notably as support in many of Harry Langdon’s best films.

In this fascinating, thorough biography, writer Bill Cassara details Dent’s life and career, offering unique insights from those who knew and worked with Dent, including memories of his widow, Eunice. The book shows us a life and career that, while it ended sadly, was filled with exciting moments and many triumphs.

Cassara interestingly points out how Dent and Harry Langdon formed a dynamic that could be considered the roots of the Laurel and Hardy screen relationship, which around the time Langdon left the Sennett studios and began making features for First National Pictures. Langdon films like All Night Long and Saturday Afternoon feature Dent quite prominently in roles that are not unlike those Oliver Hardy played opposite Stan Laurel in their earlier silents like With Love and Hisses or Sailors Beware. Langdon would be reunited with Dent during the talking picture era when Harry’s career was at low ebb. Dent’s widow recalls how Harry admitted to her that he’d like to form a team with Vernon, but realized Laurel and Hardy had already reach prominence by this time.

It was at Columbia where Dent started working with The Three Stooges, appearing in most of the films that featured Curly, as well as most that featured Shemp. By the time Shemp died in 1955 and was replaced by Joe Besser, Vernon was no longer working, having lost his eyesight due to diabetes complications the year before.

Vernon Dent’s last appearance was dressed as a Keystone Cop when Mack Sennett was honored on TV’s This is Your Life program in 1954. Dent suffered a sudden heart attack and died in November of 1963.

In examining Vernon Dent’s life and career, Cassara takes on a journey through screen comedy’s development, as Dent appeared with everyone from Langdon and the Stooges to Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball (playing Santa Claus on an I Love Lucy holiday episode).

VERNON DENT: STOOGE HEAVY is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates motion picture comedy’s rich history.