"I Can Hardly Wait" is the 73rd short subject starring American slapstick comedy team the Three Stooges. The trio made a total of 190 shorts for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959.
This short is a remake of the 1928 Laurel and Hardy silent short film Leave 'Em Laughing.
As the short was filmed during World War II, aside from its central theme of wartime rationing, it has other references to wartime activities and propaganda, such as the Stooges working on fighter planes as defense workers, having “Jap” neighbors, and Moe’s reasoning for the dentist to have Curly’s broken tooth removed: “Listen, doc, we're defense workers. If you wanna cut down on absenteeism, yank this guy’s tooth! He won’t let us sleep, he’s sabotaging the war effort!”
The Stooges, who are defense workers, prepare a late night meal of a single slice of ham, an egg, and coffee. Moe and Larry share the food, and Curly gets the bone and the eggshell. While eating, Curly breaks his tooth while attempting to eat the hambone, resulting in a major toothache. Moe suggests he simply get some sleep, and in the morning the toothache will be gone.
The boys situate themselves for bed in a conveniently placed three-tiered bunk bed. Curly naturally receives the top bunk and his ascent thereto is not without mishap. During the night, Moe unsuccessfully tries to alleviate Curly's pain but is unable to do so. While Curly does finally fall asleep, we are introduced into his dreams where he is still whining on about his current state of affairs. His persistent moaning and complaining about his toothache finally aggravate the other two into action. His fear of dentists leaves the Stooges with precious few options, leaving them to improvise their own brand of home dentistry techniques. These techniques include trying to extract the tooth with a fishing pole and line, tying the tooth to the doorknob and violently closing it, tying the tooth to a ceiling light fixture and jumping from a ladder, and lastly, firecrackers.
At their wits' end, Curly is taken off by Moe to the dentist, Dr. Tug (Lew Davis), who admits to being a butcher as an earlier profession. He then calls Curly and Moe in the room where patients get checked up, but a belligerent Curly makes the check-up difficult. Dr. Tug is exhausted from wrestling with Curly, so he asks his partner Dr. Yank (Bud Jamison) to complete the extraction. However, Moe tries to placate Curly's fears about dentistry by laying in the chair and simulating the procedure just as Yank, unaware who the actual patient is, enters the office and knocks Moe out cold with ether in a rag and pulls his tooth instead despite Curly's protests. Yank hands the extracted tooth to Curly and, upon learning that Curly is the real patient, runs out of the room. Moe awakens and finds Curly holding the tooth. This understandably angers him to no end and he takes it out on Curly, who attempts to defend himself. This flailing action in the dream translates to similar action in his sleep, causing him to fall through the entire bunk bed, causing it to collapse in a heap, on top of his two sleeping compatriots. This, in classic Moe fashion, angers him once again and he gives Curly a solid slug to the jaw. This dislodges the problem tooth and all is well. The boys fall asleep where they lie amongst the bed cushions and splintered wood.
The film title is officially listed with quotation marks (as "I Can Hardly Wait"), as it represents a phrase Curly repeats throughout the film
- Solomon, Jon. (2002) The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion, p. 233; Comedy III Productions, Inc., ISBN 0-9711868-0-4