Emil Sitka (Emil Sitka)

Emil Sitka

Emil Sitka’s first Three Stooges’ film was Half-Wits Holiday. It was a reworking of their earlier Hoi Polloi. Both films were adaptations of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (1913). The Three Stooges’ films dealt with the idea that two professors bet on the outcome of turning the Three Stooges into gentlemen—with predictable results. Sitka played Sappington, the upper-crust butler, who was an excellent foil for the Three Stooges—and the target of several pies as well. Sitka’s most famous scene was when he approached a woman with a cocktail and stated, “Your drink madam,” and was plastered with a pie. Without changing expression he says, “Pardon me madam” and walks off. However, during the filming on May 6, 1946, Jerome “Curly” Howard suffered a devastating stroke, another after a series just before Beer Barrel Polecats was filmed. Curly, who was never able to return to a regular performing role, died 6 years later. Despite this bittersweet beginning, Sitka went on to appear in dozens of Three Stooges short films, as well as most of their feature films and the live action segments for The New Three Stooges 1965 cartoon series. He worked in both short films and feature films with others as well, including Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Tony Curtis, Alan Hale, Walter Brennan, Dan Blocker, Joey Bishop, Bob Denver, and many others. However, Emil Sitka is best remembered for his association with the Three Stooges, and with one line in particular which he repeated several times: “Hold hands, you lovebirds!” from Brideless Groom (one of the four Three Stooges shorts that lapsed into the public domain and thus was distributed freely and widely).

In January 1970, Larry Fine suffered a stroke during the filming of Kook’s Tour. Plans were in the works for Emil Sitka to replace him as the Middle Stooge in late 1970 and again in ’75, but nothing other than a few promotional pictures were ever made. Sitka was to play Larry’s brother, Harry. He later described him as being “conscientious to the point of ridiculousness.” Two feature film offers for the Stooges had been considered, but this proposed version of the group would never transpire, due to Moe falling ill and dying shortly after its conception. One of the film offers was Blazing Stewardesses, which would go on to feature the surviving members of the Ritz Brothers. Emil Sitka continued with the acting career, more out of love for acting than the need for money (including a cameo as a supermarket customer in the 1989 horror film Intruder, in which he said his signature line), appearing in films as late as 1992. He was in demand at various Three Stooges conventions, and had numerous requests from Three Stooges fans to appear at their wedding to say “Hold hands, you lovebirds!” While hosting several Stooge fans in his home in June 1997, Sitka suffered a massive stroke and never regained consciousness (one fan was a certified EMT and was able to keep Sitka alive until paramedics arrived). He died on January 16, 1998 in Camarillo, California, less than a month after his 83rd birthday. He is interred next to his wife Edith at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park in Camarillo. As a tribute to his tenure with the Stooges, Sitka’s gravestone reads “Hold hands, you lovebirds!”, as well as “He danced all the way.”

Born

  • December, 22, 1914
  • USA
  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Died

  • January, 16, 1998
  • USA
  • Camarillo, California

Cause of Death

  • stroke

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