You Nazty Spy! is the 44th short subject starring American slapstick comedy team the Three Stooges. It was the first Hollywood film that openly satirized Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, months before Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator.
In the fictional country of Moronica, three munitions manufacturers—Messrs. Ixnay (Richard Fiske), Ohnay (Dick Curtis) and Amscray (Don Beddoe)—decide their country is in need of a change. They decide to implement a dictatorship, oust the king, and go about finding someone stupid enough to be a figurehead leader. The Stooges enter the room, who are wallpaper hangers having been hired to a contract in this building. True to Stooge form, the trio lackadasically knock each other with tools, which then culminates into annoyance and "out of my way, you knuckleheads!" Seeing they have their ideal figurehead, Ixnay nominates Moe as the puppet leader. Moe only agrees if there are also positions for Larry and Curly ("one for all and all for one").
Ixnay presents Moe Hailstone, Curly Gallstone, and Larry Pebble with the offer to run Moronica. Moe is instituted as the leader (the Adolf Hitler role), with Curly as Field Marshal Gallstone (a representation of Hermann Göring), and Larry as Minister of Propaganda Pebble (a representation of Joseph Goebbels). After his takeover, Hailstone proceeds to give a speech to the masses, cueing Larry to display signs reading "APPLAUSE", "CHEERS" and even "HISS". Moe "bonks" Larry after Larry accidentally raises the cue card for "HISS" at the wrong time during one of Hailstone's speeches. (In this scene Curly is clearly mimicking Benito Mussolini.)
However, the daughter (Lorna Gray) of the overthrown king pays Hailstone a visit, going by the name Mattie Herring (a spoof of World War I spy Mata Hari). The Stooges suspect she is a spy, and attempt to execute her. She escapes, and gathers a huge mob to storm Hailstone's palace. The trio quickly abdicate, and flee into a lion's den. The lions inside spot the Stooges and chase them to their doom; the lions are seen leaving their secluded area wearing the trio's clothes, with one burping.
You Nazty Spy! satirized the Nazis and the Third Reich and helped publicize the Nazi threat in a period when the United States was still neutral about World War II, and isolationist sentiment was prevalent among the public. During this period, isolationist senators such as Burton Wheeler and Gerald Nye objected to Hollywood films on grounds that they were anti-Nazi propaganda vehicles designed to mobilize the American public for war. According to the Internet Movie Database, You Nazty Spy! was the first Hollywood film to spoof Hitler. It was released nine months before the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator, which was then in production.
The Hays code discouraged or prohibited many types of political and satirical messages in films, requiring that the history and prominent people of other countries must be portrayed "fairly"; but short subjects may have been subject to less attention than feature films.
- The title is supposedly a parody of comedian Joe Penner's catchphrase "You Nasty Man!"
- The Three Stooges were the first actors to spoof Hitler.
- Moe Howard became the first American actor to portray/imitate Adolf Hitler in this film.
- Both Moe Howard and Larry Fine cited You Nazty Spy! as their favorite Three Stooges short.
- You Nazty Spy! was followed by a sequel, I'll Never Heil Again, in 1941.
- Larry Fine injured his leg shortly before filming, and can be seen with a limp throughout the short. Fortunately, this was appropriate for his role as a parody of Joseph Goebbels, who walked with a limp due to a club foot.
- The names of the munitions manufacturers are Pig Latin for "Nix" (a slang term of that era), "No", and "Scram", which in turn were known by the audience as slang in their Pig-Latin form.
- The parody of the Nazi banner with two snakes in the form of a swastika says "Moronika for Morons" which is a play on the Nazi slogan "Deutschland den Deutschen" (Germany for Germans).
- The Stooges—all Ashkenazi Jews—occasionally worked a word or phrase of Yiddish into their dialogue. In particular here, the Stooges make several overt Jewish and Yiddish cultural references:
- The exclamation "Beblach!" used several times in the film is a Yiddish word meaning "beans".
- "Shalom aleichem!", literally "Peace unto you" is a standard greeting in Yiddish meaning "hello, pleased to meet you".
- "Moe: We'll start a 'Blintzkrieg' (Blitzkrieg). Curly: "Oh! I just love blintzes...especially with sour krieg." This is a reference to the Ashkenazi Jewish dish blintzes with sour cream.
- In Moe's imitation of a Hitler speech, he says "in pupik gehabt haben" (the semi-obscene "I've had it in the bellybutton" in Yiddish). These references to the Nazi leadership and Hitler speaking Yiddish were particularly ironic inside jokes for the Yiddish-speaking Jewish audience.
- In addition to the "Mata Hari" reference, the name of the female spy Mati Herring is a play on the Yiddish and German name of soused herring, matjeshering.
- When Mr. Ixnay informs the Stooges of how to overthrow Moronika's monarchy, and suggests that the takeover of Moronika start with a "putsch", it refers to the historical Beer Hall Putsch, the real-world Nazi party attempt at a power grab in the Weimar Republic of 1923. Curly's humorous response to Mr Ixnay's suggestion, to explain it to Moe and Larry, was that "You 'putsch' your beer down, and wait for the pretzels".
- A colorized version of this film was released in 2004. It was part of the DVD collection entitled Stooged & Confoosed.
- If you watch Curly's lips closely after he shoots Moe, and the three of them are talking together, you can see him mouthing both Moe and Larry's lines.
- This films marks one of the few instances in which the Stooges end up dying in the end of the film; they end up eaten by their own characters' lions.
- You Nazty Spy was also the first Stooges short to bear a new opening title sequence, with the "Torch Lady" on the left-hand corner, standing on a pedestal where each step has printed out "Columbia," "Short Subject" and "Presentation," and the opening titles and credits are inside a box with rounded edges. This format will remain in effect through Booby Dupes.