Commotion on the Ocean is the 174th short film, starring the Three Stooges.
The Stooges play janitors who work at a newspaper office, begging to be given a chance to become reporters. The managing editor (Charles C. Wilson) promises to think about it over dinner. The phone rings while he is out and Moe answers. The person on the other end is one of the boss's reporters, Smitty (Emil Sitka), who relays a scoop to Moe that some important documents have been stolen by foreign spies. Coincidentally, the spy with the microfilmed documents, Mr. Borscht (Gene Roth) lives next door to the Stooges. He and the boys wind up as stowaways on an ocean liner. Stranded on a freighter on the high seas, and sustained by eating salami, the boys eventually overtake Borscht, recover the microfilm, and are thrilled with their newspaper scoop.
End of the Shemp Howard era
As he had already died, Commotion on the Ocean would be the last Stooge film featuring Shemp Howard as the third stooge. For his last four films (Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers and Commotion on the Ocean), Columbia utilized supporting actor Joe Palma to be Shemp's double. Even though these films were remakes of earlier Shemp efforts, Palma's services were needed to link what few new scenes were filmed to the older stock footage. At one point, then-Columbia boss Harry Cohn and Stooges director Jules White considered making shorts with Palma as a Shemp double indefinitely. However, Larry and a very grief-stricken Moe disagreed, believing that if they did that, the Stooges' days as a comedy act would definitely be numbered and that they had to have a living "Third Stooge." By the time the Stooges returned to making shorts, comedian Joe Besser had been recruited to be the new "Third Stooge."
For Commotion on the Ocean, Palma appears in only one new shot during the newspaper office scene. After Larry says, "Oh, I know Smitty: 'Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smitty stands'," Moe slaps him. Palma gets involved in the slapstick exchange and shields himself in defense, obstructing his face.