Jules J. White, who produced and/or directed more than 130 of the nearly 200 "Three Stooges" comedies in addition to directing such classic slapstick comedians as Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Charlie Chase and Chester Conklin, has died in Van Nuys.
White, who took over the short subjects department at Columbia Pictures in 1934, was 84 and had retired in 1958, the year the studio closed his department after the short subject, which was often sandwiched between two major film features, lost its appeal.
He referred to himself as "The Fourth Stooge," claiming in a 1982 interview with The Times that he had earned the sobriquet because "it was easier to show them (Larry, Curly and Moe) what to do than to write it down."
Time was of the essence, White remembered, because each of the 12- to 15-minute shorts had to be completed in 10 days on a budget ranging from $16,000 to $20,000.
White, who died Tuesday, came to Columbia from Paramount, where he was an assistant director, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he helped create "The Barkies," a series of one-reelers that featured talking dogs.
That was in 1929, in the infancy of sound, and anything that made noise sold tickets, White said. Taffy was placed in the dogs' mouths so they would move their jaws and then voices would be recorded over the movement. "The Barkies" followed a satirical line, mocking current film successes. One of White's most successful was "All Quiet on the Canine Front," released shortly after the highly acclaimed "All Quiet on the Western Front."
He was lured from MGM to Columbia by Harry Cohn and began churning out a succession of one-reelers that culminated in "The Three Stooges," portrayed originally by brothers Moe and Shemp Howard and Larry Fine. Another brother, Curly Howard, soon replaced Shemp and those three became the Stooges still popular on Saturday children's television shows.
White also produced, directed or wrote about 500 other shorts for Columbia.
He is survived by his wife, Judith; son, Richard; brother, Sam, and sister, Ruth Rand.