Long before comedic legends like Jim Carrey and Melissa McCarthy dominated the comedy scene of Hollywood, it was the American comedy troupe “The Three Stooges” that first pioneered comedy as we know it today. The first to use slapstick comedy as a tool to make people all over the world laugh, these vaudeville performers rose to fame during some of the nation’s toughest, darkest times, utilizing elements such as pain, pies and misunderstandings in their series of shorts in order to shape their unique form of physically centered comedy, providing much needed relief during the Great Depression and World Wars.
Following the 2012 DVD release of all of the comedy troupe’s shorts, fans old and new were once again able to fall in love with the notorious antics of the group. Today, they are known as one of the most popular comedy acts of the 20th century. The Stooges’ unique style of comedy was pivotal in shaping the many generations of comedians that followed this iconic trio, and will indefinitely continue to shape the many more generations of comedians to come. Want to test out your Three Stooges knowledge? New to the Three Stooges craze, and want to learn more about the iconic comedic troupe? Check out these slap-happy facts about this truly legendary comedic group.
Moses Harry Horwitz
Born Moses Harry Horwitz, Moe Howard is widely recognized as the leader of The Three Stooges comedy team. Raised in Brooklyn, Howard was just one of the five sons born to his Levite-Lithuanian Jewish family. Howard first discovered his interest in acting after serving as an errand boy for Vitagraph Studios, in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Vitagraph Studios would later provide him with acting jobs. Eventually, Howard would go on to join an acting troupe, which performed on a Mississippi River showboat.
Howard’s career in show business began following his decision to drop out of high school, in order to join a vaudeville comedy act. Howard’s brother Shemp, and Larry Fine also joined the group; together, they were known as “Ted Healy and His Stooges.” In 1931, The Three Stooges signed on with Columbia Pictures. By 1957, the stooges made 190 short films.
The second stooge, Louis Feinberg—otherwise known as Larry Fine—was a member of “The Three Stooges” from the very beginning, to the very end. This original stooge was crucial in the comeback of the Three Stooges in the ‘70s. Additionally, not only was Feinberg a natural comedian, but also an accomplished dancer, classical violinist, and pianist. Despite his immense success, like all people do, Fine had his faults. A seriously gambler and a reckless spender, he nearly went bankrupt after being terminated from Columbia Pictures in 1957. Contrary to the joyously uplifting nature of his character on the Stooges, Larry’s life was often plagued by sadness. In November of 1961, Fine’s 24-year-old son was killed in a tragic car accident. Just six years later, his wife Mabel, the true love of his life, passed away suddenly of a heart attack while Fine was away on tour with the Stooges.
In 1970, just three years after his wife’s passing, while on set filming the Stooges’ comeback series “Kook’s Tour,” Fine suffered a massive stroke, an event which paralyzed the entire left side of his body, ultimately leading to the abrupt end of his career. This series would later be cancelled, its footage eventually turned into a film. Though confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home in his later years, he did not let his disabilities stop him. In fact, he was so passionate about dancing, that in the last years of his life, he was known to happily move about the nursing home, and despite being paralyzed in a wheelchair, still managed to do what he loved most: to entertain others; in this case, to entertain the other patients in the nursing home. Feinberg suffered another stroke on January 24, 1975, and died at 72.
Born Samuel Horwitz, Shemp Howard is the brother of Moe Howard and five other brothers. Know as a troublesome kid, throughout his childhood Shemp took pleasure in everything from playing hooky, to clogging toilets; stuffing most everything down them, until the stuffed toilet reached the “clogged-up” point he desired. One time, a young Shemp even grabbed a bowl of tomatoes, and threw them at an unlucky man at a family picnic. Known as one of the first members of The Three Stooges, Shemp was a part of the original vaudeville comedy trio from 1930, up until 1932: the year he decided to leave the group to sign a deal with Vitaphone. Here, he created a series of shorts titled, “Shemp Howard Series”. Additionally, Shemp also starred in Vitaphone studio’s “Joe Palooka” series, appearing as Knobby Walsh, a boxing manager.
At the same time, he also had a contract with Columbia Pictures, the same company that managed The Three Stooges. Here, Shemp was cast in a number of shorts, one of which included the Andy Clyde series, which was produced and directed by Jules White and Del Lord, who were also responsible for the making of many Stooge shorts. When not acting in short series, Shemp also managed to maintain a successful career in features, appearing in films for a majority of the major studios in Hollywood at that time, starring alongside legendary actors like Abbott & Costello, as well as Jimmy Stewart. In 1946, after Curly’s crippling stroke, Shemp went back to his original Stooge roots, and returned as a recurring member of The Three Stooges. With Larry and Moe by his side, Shemp would appear in 73 Stooge shorts, in addition to a number of guest appearances. Shemp would remain a Stooge up until his death in 1955.
Jerome Lester Horwitz
The most popular of the Three Stooges, Jerome Lester Horwitz, otherwise known as Curly Howard, was a member of the popular comedy group from 1932 to 1946. To many, this Stooge was considered the most stand out of all the comedians in the group.
Sadly, like Larry Fine, while filming the movie Half-Wits Holiday, Curly also suffered a stroke: an event which would prematurely end his role as one of the Stooges. The first of the Stooges to pass away, Horwitz would suffer from a cerebral hemorrhage, and passed away at the young age of 48. Though the death of Curly certainly didn’t mean the death of the Stooges, the group was never the same without him. Both Moe and Larry both agreed he was was without a doubt the pivotal key to the Stooges’ success.
Joe Besser became a member of the Three Stooges from 1956 to 1958, replacing Shemp Howard, following his passing in 1955. Born on August 12, 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, Besser is the son of Fannie and. Morris Besser, both Orthodox Jewish, first generation Polish immigrants. Long before his career as a Stooge, in 1928 Besser’s career as a solo comedian was already in full swing. While on tour, Besser met his future wife, Erna Dora Kretschmer (Erna Kay)—who was most known for her choreography on the Marx Brothers’ 1929 Paramount film “The Coconuts”.
The two would tie the knot on November 18, 1932. Around 1940, Besser would take Columbia Pictures contractee Jimmy Little along with him on his tour. Soon after, Besser went on to become a headline act on the Orpheum, RKO, Paramount, and Loew’s theater circuits. When not headlining, Besser also performed on Broadway. In addition to his role as a Stooge, this St. Louis native is also best known for his role as Mr. Jillson on “The Joey Bishop Show,” and for his voice roles in “Shirt Tales,” “Yogi’s Space Race,” and “The Houndcats.” Besser later suffered from heart failure, and passed away at 80, in 1988.
Joe “Curly Joe” DeRita was a member of the Stooges from 1958, up until 1969. Prior to his iconic role on The Three Stooges, DeRita, a Philadelphia native, was actually widely known as a child star, starting out in the Vaudeville performance scene when he was just seven years old.
Additionally, DeRita also appeared on the big screen, in movies including “The Sailor Takes a Wife” (1945), “People Are Funny” (1946), and “High School Hero” (1946). Sadly, the last surviving of the Stooges, DeRita came down with a fatal case of pneumonia, and passed away at 83.
The Three Stooges: Origins & Tragedies
Moe’s Bowl Cut
For the Three Stooges, one of their most memorable features was, without a doubt, their infamously strange and unusual haircuts. Considered an extension of their unique kind of comedy, Moe, who rocked his trademark bow haircut even after his retirement from the Stooges, had a very different, almost unrecognizable haircut as a child.
Interestingly enough, Moe’s infamous bowl cut hairstyle originated from a bad haircut. As the story goes, because his mother never let him cut his hair, as she always wanted a daughter, Moe’s hair as a child was long and curly. Consequently, he was incessantly taunted by his classmates, who teased him for his unusually long, shoulder-length hair. Eventually, Moe’s constant bullying would lead him to hide in a shed in the back of his house, and give himself the haircut his mother never allowed.
For Curly Howard, of all the features of his hilarious character, his most memorable feature was by far his peculiar trademark walk. Though many thought this way of walking was intentional, and while he did in fact work to make his style of walking funnier, a major aspect of the Three Stooges act, in reality, his strange walk was actually the result of a tragic childhood accident which left him with a prominent limp.
According to his story, at just 12 years old, while cleaning a shotgun, Curly accidentally shot himself in the left ankle. Because he refused to see a doctor to receive surgery for his injury, the accident left him with a lifelong limp. Curly’s unusual on-screen walk was used to cover up the actors’ permanent impediment.
Larry Fine’s Violin
As every Stooge fan is well aware, Larry was extremely talented on the fiddle. However, the story behind his talent does not begin with his interest in music. Growing up with a jeweler father, there were always corrosive materials around the house, which his father used to test the quality of gold. Consequently, one day, during his childhood, a young Fine picked up what he believed to be a beverage, but what actually turned out to be a bottle of acid.
His father quickly smacked the acid out of Fine’s hand, causing the dangerous liquid to spill all over his arm, eating away his flesh right down to the muscle. In addition to receiving a skin graft for his injury, Fine also decided to start violin lessons, in an attempt to strengthen the damaged muscles on his impacted arm. At this point in time, this type of therapeutic technique was one largely accepted as a form of both physical and emotional healing. And so, the image of Larry Fine and his famous Violin was born.
Ironically, though Larry was known for his very curly hair, in contrast, Curly, despite his deceitful name, actually had a very bald head. In addition to his signature walk on the Stooges, Curly was also widely known as the character with a bald head. However, surprisingly, it wasn’t always this way. Prior to starring on “The Three Stooges,” Curly actually had a pretty great, curly set of hair.
But this would not last. Ted Healy, the brains behind the group’s success, decided Curly was not as funny with all this hair, and initially refused to hire Larry as a Stooge. Thus, to prove his worth, Curly shaved his head for his role on the show.
Ted Healy’s Mysterious, Unnatural Death
Though childhood friend and vaudeville performer Ted Healy is to thank for first bringing together the “stooges” for his comedy act in 1922, and while Healy remained on tour with the comedy team for years, the stooges eventually became unable to deal with Healy’s notoriously acerbic attitude and excessive drinking habits, and separated themselves from Healy in 1934, in order to independently pursue their career in film. In 1937, Healy’s infamously foul behavior would allegedly lead to his brutal murder. Though there are many different accounts of the night that lead to Healy’s eventual death, it is believed by most that he was beaten to death outside of a bar on Sunset Strip, after getting into a violent altercation with an associate of legendary mobster Lucky Luciano.
Despite the events leading up to it, there was still much uncertainty surrounding the true reason behind Healy’s tragic death. According to one MGM spokesperson, Healy died from a heart attack. However, injuries to Healy’s face lead others to believe he died from the altercation that night at the Trocadero. After much debate, the public release of his autopsy revealed Healy’s death to be a result of “nephritis and alcoholism”. According to the surgeon conducting the medical examination, there was no signs of skull injury, brain or blood clots, or any evidence of cerebral hemorrhage. Despite the autopsy, there was still much debate over the true death of the Three Stooges founder. While there were allegations that Shemp may have possessed information about Healy’s last, fatal night, this evidence was withheld, most likely out of fear of the powerful mobster. No one was ever charged with this supposed murder.
The Eye Poke
Of the many memorable moments on “The Three Stooges,” by far one of the most known is the eye poke gag. The origins of this trademark move? An apparent real life altercation over a game of cards. As the story goes, during during one bridge game between fellow stooges, Sheep angrily accused Larry Fine of cheating, stood up, and in his rage, went up to Fine, and proceeded to poke him in not one, but both of his eyes.
In response, Moe as he watched the hilarious events unfold, he laughed so hard, he fell backwards, right through a glass door. Moe kept note of this occurrence, and eventually made it a part of the comedy group’s onscreen performance. This move was later added to their long list of physical attacks on the show.
Football Players & Ballpoint Bullseyes
While the Stooges are infamous for their unique, physical sense of humor, little are aware of the amount of danger that the actors experienced on set. Little known to most fans, when creating the Stooges’ two-reeler, the director of the filming actually set a violence quota for every film. Stooges director Jules White was especially notorious for his complete disregard of the safety of his actors on set, often promoting unnecessary violence, as well as “many grotesque and overly cruel gags.” In fact, in order to maximize the amount of violence per scenes, at the insistence of White, dangerous objects like mallets, scissors, and even saws were frequently incorporated. As a result, these unnecessarily risky demands frequently lead to a number of physical injuries, including sprained ankles, cracked teeth, and—in the case of Moe Howard—even a broken nose.
Indeed, for the Stooges, who were extremely physical when it came to comedy, injuries were a common occurrence on set. While there were a few props and gags used to fake an injury, in order to avoid any real harm, injuries still were a common occurrence on the set. Most notable of these injuries was one involving a fountain pun stick in the back of Larry’s head, after another stooge threw it at him for one joke concerning a dartboard. One filming even left Curly with six stitches in his head! Despite his injuries, the show went on, and he finished the shoot with a wig on, in order to hide his comedic battle scars. To them, the hilarity of physical comedy was well worth the danger. For the show, they even went as far as to hire professional football players to attack them during their short film, Three Little Pigskins. For this particular scene, the Stooges allowed stunt doubles to take their place instead. A good move on their part, as the stunt doubles that replaced them suffered broken bones and cracked ribs.
The Potential Replacements for Curly
When Curly suffered from a severe stroke, which left him far too ill to return to work, the producers of the show were faced with the major challenge of finding a replacement to complete the now incomplete cast of The Three Stooges. According to the book ‘I Only Roast the Ones I Love’, written by comedian Jeffrey Ross, in the frantic search for Curly’s replacement, longtime Stooges’ Director Jules White made a call to notable comedian Buddy Hackett, who was best known for his roles in the films “The Music Man” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.
During the call, White asked Hackett to move to Hollywood to stand in for Curly while he was healing. However, to White’s dismay, Hackett turned down the offer, in order to support his pregnant wife and child. To him, it did not make sense to relocate his pregnant wife and child, and did not believe this opportunity would be conducive to creating high quality comedy. “I just didn’t want to wake up every morning and wonder how the other two guys were feeling,” said Hackett.
A Critic-Defying Oscar Nomination
Though the Stooges have appeared in as many as 220 much-adored films, as it goes for everyone in the entertainment industry, there will always be a critique: this was no exception for the work of the Stooges. Despite many critics disapproval of the Stooges’ unique style of comedy, all cynics were put to shame with the Stooges’ 1934 Oscar-worthy short film, Men In Black, which earned a nomination for Best Short Subject in Comedy.
While the Stooges were sadly beaten out by producer Kenneth Macgowan’s film, La Cucaracha, the Stooges would continue to change the world of comedy for generations to come. In 2004, a colorized version of the Stooges’ Oscar-worthy film was released, making the Three Stooges phenomenon in recent years just as widespread as it was at the height of their career.
Married To Magic
Contrary to the old saying that opposites attract, in the case of Moe Howard, it would be stagecraft that attracted stagecraft. On June 7, 1925, Stooge Moe Howard would marry Helen Schonberger, cousin of the world-renowned magician Harry Houdini, a man infamous for daring stunts like the 'Milk Can Escape' and the 'Chinese water torture cell' stunt. Though it was never clear if Moe ever actually met the legendary magician in person, given that they both performed vaudeville acts during the height of the American theater movement, it is quite possible that the two may have crossed paths a time or two.
It may also be possible that the two met during Houdini’s later attempt to begin a career in film, a mission he began upon seeing other vaudeville acts turning to the new technology of film. The couple would go on to have two kids: Joan and Paul. To this day, Joan is still among the attendees at “Three Stooges” conventions all across the country.
The Stooge Burger Barons
After the decline of “The Three Stooges” films, unable to find acting work and in an attempt to save the franchise, Larry Fine impulsively blew his fortune on a number of money-making schemes, one of which was the restaurant chain “Stoogeburgers”, a business venture managed by both Larry and Moe. The idea? To co-run a restaurant, selling Stoogeburgers, a burger said to be three times larger than the classic hamburger made by competitors.
Though this series of themed restaurants intended to open across the U.S., and eventually all over the world, sadly the franchise was short-lived. Later on, in 2014, C3 Entertainment Inc.—owner of “The Three Stooges” brand—announced the opening of the first Three Stooges Burger House: an attempt to relaunch the burger line, with better advertising, and varying menu options.
“How to Duck”: Lucille Ball’s First Role
Prior to her accolades as a five-time Emmy award-winning comedian, actress Lucille Ball—considered one of the most iconic television stars of all time—landed one of her first roles in the 1934 Stooges’ film, “Three Little Pigskins”, in which she played the role of Daisy Simms.
This film is later credited as the actresses’ big break in the Hollywood acting scene. When asked what she learned from the infamous comedy trio, Ball replied, “How to duck.”
Show Titles - ‘Moidering the King’s English’
Similar to many television shows of the present and past, several of the episode titles of “The Three Stooges” play on a number of commonly known phrases and expressions. Some of these episode titles include, Cactus Makes Perfect (Del Lord, 1942), and witty wordplay titles like G.I. Wanna Go Home (Jules White, 1946). Additionally, a number of other Stooge episode titles were based on movie titles from that era in cinema, such as “Jail Birds of Paradise,” “Disorder In The Court,” and “Yes, We Have No Bonanza.”
As verbal humor was one of the Stooges’ main comedic tools, like many of the clever Stooge episode titles, a majority of The Three Stooges shorts were also filled with endless puns and malapropisms. Parallel to their slapstick style of comedy, the Stooges’ trademark style of verbal humor was widely known to be extremely crude and edgy, and was hilariously accented with the trio’s noticeably strong Brooklyn accents.
Starting Salary - Splitting the Check
Though upon signing their first film contract at the beginning their career, the Stooges were overjoyed to hear they would earn a weekly salary of $1,000, this excitement quickly turned to dismay upon learning that this check would be split between the three actors.
Thankfully, as the Stooges gained popularity, they were eventually able to sign a 7-year contract, which guaranteed them $60,000 annually. However, after their Oscar nomination for “Men in Black” later on in their career, their salary would increase to $7,500 a week, which again had to be split between all of the Stooges.
It’s Batman! - Batman the Sheriff
In addition to A-list actress Lucille Ball, TV's Adam West, widely known for his role as Batman in the popular 1960s television series, also made his mark on the Three Stooges, appearing in their film, “The Outlaws Is Coming”. Released in 1965, during the movie, West played the role of a Boston-based magazine, Kenneth Cabot, who after researching a buffalo slaughter, with some help from the legendary Annie Oakley, became an editor-turned-sharpshooter/town sheriff.
With the help of the Three Stooges, West’s character is able to successfully force a rambunctious gang of outlaws to surrender. This film—the Stooges’ final feature-length film—would go on to earn a whipping $1 million in box office sales: a truly grand lump of money in that day and age. This was the first of the many successful, highly ranked movies West would take part in throughout his fruitful acting career.
Moe’s Later Years
Though extremely popular among Stooges fans in the height of their success, he wasn’t always as well liked. Especially as his acting career drew to a close, Howard became particularly worried over the state of his finances. In an attempt to stabilize his income, in an unexpected twist, Horwitz turned to the real estate industry as a means of supporting himself and his family. Though he never truly ended his acting career, frequently returning to acting time and time again, following his official retirement from acting, by the end of his life, most of his time was dedicated to his career as a real estate agent.
As he grew older, Moe’s primary source of income was surprisingly not acting, but in fact the world of real estate. In 1973, Moe would make his last and final movie appearance in the 1973 film, “Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls.” Soon after, following a long battle against lung cancer—a disease he was (not surprisingly) diagnosed with after a life of heavy smoking—Horwitz passed away on May 4, 1975, at the age of 77. Though he began writing his autobiography, “I Stooged to Conquer,” sadly this Stooge was never able to finish telling his story, and passed away before the book was completed.
A Romantic At Heart
While Moe revealed a highly detailed, compelling account of his professional life as a multi-talented comedian, it was his wife, Helen Schonberger, who revealed the uncharacteristically softer, loving side of her husband. According to Schonberger, this Stooge was a lifelong romantic, one who managed to go above and beyond to express his overwhelming love for Schonberger, even when they were oceans apart. The unconditional love the comedian had for his wife is perfectly illustrated in Schonberger’s account of a romantic surprise she once received from Moe, while he was away in London.
Despite being five thousand miles away from his wife on their anniversary, Moe still managed to express his love for her, hiring a professional singer to serenade Schonberger on their special day. A statement she backed up with the story of the couple’s 10 year wedding anniversary. This story is told by Schonberger in the book, “The Three Stooges Scapbook”: [T]he phone rang and a strange voice on the other end asked me if I would take Moe Horwitz for my lawful wedded husband. The voice then proceeded to perform the entire wedding ceremony, with me on one end and Moe (the mystery voice) on the other… at the end of the ceremony, in a beautiful baritone voice, he sang ‘Oh Promise Me,’ the song sung at our wedding.”
Two Brothers Get Their Start
In 1921, Ted Healy hired the first Stooge, Moe Howard, to work in a vaudeville act. Like his brother, Shemp Howard too aspired to make it as an entertainer. Alongside his brother Moe, the two brothers performed in a number of amateur and vaudeville acts.
In 1922, as fate would have it, the two ran into former schoolmate and vaudeville comedian Ted Healy, who required a replacement for his current act at the Brooklyn prospect theater. Soon after, Moe and Shemp joined Healy’s act.
In 1925, Shemp eventually made the decision to leave his dual-brother act with Moe. During a performance attended by Shemp, Moe and Healy, the group quickly found their replacement: Larry Fine. After being discovered by the group during his stage performance, confident he found Shemp’s replacement Stooge, Healy offered Larry Shemp’s position for a salary of $90 a week.
While Larry quickly accepted this offer, Shemp would later join Moe and his replacement, thus forming the original Three Stooges.
Larry Fine’s Commemorative Mural
Reflective of the work of the Three Stooges, Larry Fine’s commemorative mural in Philadelphia actually began as a joke. However, with the help of fellow Philadelphians, who petitioned to honor fellow native Larry Fine in his home city, the Larry Fine mural was born. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Fine grew up at 3rd and South Streets, located in South Philadelphia. As such, it was at the corner of 3rd and South Streets, above a restaurant called Jon’s Bar and Grill, that mural artist David McShane painted the mural celebrating and honoring the life and work of this talented stooge.
Started in 1999, the large mural depicts Fine with his trademark dazed expression on his face, violin in hand. This commemorative piece of art was dedicated to the late actor in a ceremony, on October 26, 1999, and was attended by Fine’s sister. Fine’s mural was not completed until October 19, 2005, decades after his death, in January of 1975.
The Many Phobias of Shemp Howard
Despite the jolly demeanor displayed on screen, in reality, Shemp’s life was actually heavily impacted by his many phobias. According to Shemp’s wife, Gertrude “Babe” Howard, her husband was “just a big old ‘fraidy cat.” Throughout his life, Shemp Howard suffered from a long list of phobias, some of which included being “afraid of his own shadow,” a fear of cars, planes, dogs and even water.
Much of these fears can be traced back to traumatic experiences in his childhood, such as his fear of automobiles, a phobia which first began following a terrifying car crash the comedian was in at a young age. As a result of this particular incident, Shemp never got his driver’s license. Additionally, during filming of the Three Stooges, in all scenes involving Shemp behind the wheel, the moving car being filmed was actually always towed, never once driven by Shemp.
An Ironic Death
Ironically reflecting his fear of cars, Shemp would actually die in a car, though not in a car crash. On November 22, 1955, while driving home from a Los Angeles boxing match with a friend, Shemp would tell his last and final joke.
Soon after lighting his cigar and telling his joke, Shemp suddenly slumped over, appearing dead. Though the friend first believed this to be another one of his pranks, this time, the actor was actually dead.
The Many Expressions Of Curly
As the most popular of the three stooges, Curly Howard was the brains behind the majority of the Stooges’ iconic catchphrases, the most well known being nyuk, nyuk, nyuk; nyahh-ahhh-ahhh; a WISE guy, eh?; say a few syllables; oh, look; I’ll moider you; and soitenly!
Even after his death, the Stooges continued to use many of Curly’s most-loved expressions during their performances.
In addition to his role as one of the Three Stooges, Curly almost cameo in a number of other on-screen performances, including “Hold That Lion” in 1947, during which he played a sleeping train passenger, almost unrecognizable due to the fact that his hair had grown a lot since shaving his head for the Stooges.
Notably, this film was the only film that included all three of the Howard brothers, plus Larry Fine, all in the same scene. Additionally, the Stooges also have a split-second cameo in the movie, “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” Curly also appeared in another cameo in 1940, but his part was later cut from the film.
An Unhappy Union
Regarded by fans as the most popular of the Stooges, there was a dark side to Curly’s popularity. This Stooge was notoriously known to drink in excess, and blew almost all of his fortune on wine, cars, dogs and houses. Above all of Curly’s weaknesses, his greatest by far was his weakness for women. Immensely insecure, unbeknownst to Curly, women often took great advantage of the actor, who carried his heart on his sleeve.
In the early ‘40s, concerned for Curly’s worsening health and heavy drinking, Moe encouraged his fellow Stooge to marry a woman by the name of Marion Buxbaum, believing that this union would help Curly change his unhealthy habits. Sadly, Moe was horribly wrong. This marriage was largely turbulent. By the end of the marriage, Curly had already squandered much of his income on jewelry and fur coats, in an attempt to please his wife. Just nine months after getting married, the couple filed for divorce, resulting in a highly public, and horribly bitter legal battle.
Curly’s Fatal Price of Fame
For many fans, Curly is notably the most favorite of the Stooges. “Personally, I thought Curly was the greatest because he was a natural comedian who had no formal training. Whatever he did, he made up on the spur of the moment. When we lost Curly, we took a hit,” said Fine in an interview. Curly’s spur of the moment comedic style lead to many of his signature moves, including his classic running-in-circles move, which was actually an improv move he commonly used when the Stooge forgot his line. Sadly, following his messy divorce, Curly’s health quickly declined as he succumbed to old, unhealthy habits. As his obesity worsened, so too did his health and hypertension.
It was not long before Curly’s body reached its breaking point. Eventually, hypertension lead to retinal hemorrhages, ultimately leading to a fatal stroke. At 47, Curly’s rapidly declining health and mental deterioration forced him into a nursing home, where he became increasingly problematic for staff. Though his family was advised to admit Curly to a mental hospital, Moe ignored the doctor’s recommendations. Despite Moe’s defiance, eventually Curly was sent to View Sanitarium in San Gabriel, California, where he “died bedridden and alone” at the age of 48. Curly was put to rest at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.
The Stooge Museum
Reflective of the Stooge craze of the 20th century, and their crucial artistic contributions to pop culture, in 2004, the “Stoogeum” museum was opened, finally giving the actors the recognition they deserved. Located in Ambler, PA, approximately 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, this museum is dedicated to all things Stooge. Opened only on Thursdays, it displays a large array of impressive Stooge artifacts. The museum’s founder, Gary Lassi, a huge Stooges fan, collected over 100,00 items pertaining to the Stooges longstanding career, and displays around 3,500 pieces in the museum at a time.
In addition to being a huge Stooges fan, interestingly enough, following his marriage to Larry Fine’s great niece in 1981, Lassi is also distantly related to one of the Stooges. Areas of the museum include a Hall of Shemp, a game area (complete with Whack-a-Moe: an interactive Stooge-themed arcade game, open for all visitors to play!), and a myriad of rooms filled with everything from Stooge artwork, rare Stooge photos, movie postures, costumes, novelties and props used by the Stooges during their performances.
Despite the Stooges’ fame and success, the three were not awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame until 1983. Unfortunately, none of the Three Stooges were alive to receive the honor. Today, anyone can visit the Stooges’ Hollywood star, located at 1560 Vine Street. This Hollywood Star unveiling drew the biggest crowd to a Hollywood star revealing to date.
In addition to being honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after the three stooges passed, their careers certainly did not die with them. Since their deaths, the Three Stooges Films were transferred and released to home video, thus immortalizing the Stooges popularity forever.
Pop Culture References & “Splatstick” Influences
Though none of the stooges are alive today, they have left a lasting impact on present and future generations, reaching not only those in the comedy world, but also many other areas of the movie industry. Today, myriads of films, television shows, songs and books have paid homage to the comedic trio and their work. The influence of The Three Stooges even managed to influence the horror movie industry, as seen in the work of horror filmmaker Sam Raimi, who’s love of the Stooges lead him to integrate Stooge influence in his classic horror series, The Evil Dead.
Here, Raimi used a combination of gore, horror and comedy, a concept which he called “splatstick.” Described as “uncharacteristically funny” and ahead of its time, Raimi has the Stooges to thank for much of his success in the movie business. In addition to The Evil Dead, some of the more notable titles included movies like This is Spinal Tap, Pulp Fiction, Ice Age and Grease. Additionally, musical artists like Chris Brown, Frank Black and even Toby Keith have also paid homage to the late comedians in their songs and lyrics.
A Band Of The Same Name
The Stooges’ legacy also remains today in the form of the iconic rock band, The Stooges. Formed in the ‘70s, though originally this popular Ann Arbor, Michigan-based band went by “The Psychedelic Stooges,” eventually, the rock group lead singer Iggy Pop, got the idea to name their band The Stooges after watching “The Three Stooges”: Moe, Larry, and Curly.
According to one interview published in Clash Magazine, Pop said the following about Ron Asheton, co-founder and guitarist of the band: “It was inevitable that anything creative that Ron did in his life was gonna come back to the Stooges, because he’d already spent probably seventeen thousand man hours watching The Three Stooges’ films when he was supposed to be doing something else since he was twelve.” Throughout the band’s career, this group of rock stars also went by “Iggy” and “The Stooges and Iggy Pop.”
No Female Fans?
Despite the comedy group’s historic popularity, which has seemed to always attract men to the show, it is a common notion that most women do not enjoy the work of “The Three Stooges.” Contrary to this popular belief, while there are plenty of female fans, some women still disregard the Stooges’ niche style of comedy as “silly”.
However, overall, the notion that women do not enjoy the comedy of the Stooges is a largely inaccurate generalization. The theory behind this idea is that most women tend not to favor physical or slapstick comedy. This phenomena is explained by one AMC writer: “Women respond to seeing someone they dislike suffering pain with empathy, and men with pleasure at another’s misfortune.”
“The Man of a Thousand Voices”
In addition to his voice role in the film “Snow White,” Mel Blanc, the late legendary voice artist, famously known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” also lent his vocal talents to the work of the Three Stooges, giving life to a puppet named Quinto the Jester, the Stooges’ ventriloquist dummy in their 1961 movie, Snow White and the Three Stooges.
In addition to Blanc, during the filming of this movie, the Stooges were also accompanied by co-stars Edson Stroll, Patricia Medina, and Guy Rolfe.
Though for years famed filmmakers Bobby and Peter Farrelly, most known for their work on the comedy “Dumb and Dumber”, first tried to replicate the Three Stooges’ in 2009—a reboot which would have involved actor Sean Penn, playing the role of Larry, Benicio del Toro as Moe, and Jim Carrey as Curly (a role which would lead Carrey to gain 40 pounds of extra weight for the part)—this attempt eventually fell apart.
Eventually, in 2012, the Farrelys were finally able to bring the Stooges back to life in “The Three Stooges: The Movie”, a film which was uniquely composed of three short, stand-along Stooge stories. The final movie starred Chris Diamantopolous as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly. “It’s by far the riskiest project we’ve ever done, without question, but it is also the one closest to our hearts,” said Farelly brothers Peter and Bobby, in one statement released about their movie.
The Evil Master Manipulator Behind The Stooges’ Success
Though Harry Cohn, president and chief of production at Columbia Pictures was widely praised and greatly talented in terms of his abilities to produce high quality films, ultimately building Columbia Pictures into one of the largest known movie enterprises in Hollywood, he is also infamously known as a largely unlikeable, manipulative, greedy man. His disagreeable nature is reflective of one remark made by Cohn, who once remarked that running his studio was “better than being a pimp.” Along his road to success, he quickly earned a highly unfavorable reputation in the Hollywood. For those in the movie business, he was known as a man who was highly combative, and an overall generally unpleasant individual; one who took pleasure in terrorizing his workers. While widely known as one of the leading figures in the Stooges’ rise to fame, the successful Stooge trio was not immune to the wrath of Cohn.
As an actor employed under Cohn, Curly witnessed the cruelty of the chief of Columbia production firsthand. Even after suffering from multiple, debilitating strokes, Cohn completely disregarded the physical and emotional well-being of the actor, and still forced the weakened actor to continue working in his highly weakened state. In addition to his notoriously unrealistic expectations for both his actors and his employees, Cohn was also regarded as a “master manipulator,” and was known to take advantage of the Stooges finances on multiple occasions. Despite the Stooges’ great success, still Cohn kept the stars largely underpaid for the entirety of their career. Even when the Stooges’ short films experienced a television resurgence, generating millions in profits, still Cohn gave little of these profits to any one of the Stooge trio.
Throwing Pies in the Face of Adversity
Many credit The Three Stooges' appeal largely to their ability to relate to the general public. For fans, the Stooges and their comedy served as an escape for many, providing them with comic relief during the harsh economic challenges so many Americans faced during the times of the Great Depression. Especially as tensions between social classes rose following the stock market’s crash, and as the country, as well as the world, fell deeper and deeper into a period of great sadness and despair, the Stooges emerged at a seemingly perfect time. With their whimsical antics, ability to relate to the working class and the common man, and their unwillingness to quit despite economic adversity, made them the perfect act for this point in US history.
As opposed stories of glamorous and lavish on-screen lifestyles, the Stooges were greatly successful in there ability to relate to those of the working class, and often mocked the wealthy, “hoity-toity” social elitists. During the Stooges’ on screen performances, the elite, upper class society was victimized and mocked, often times with a pie thrown in their faces. Of the main recurring themes in the The Three Stooges’ acts, ideas of anti-aristocracy and anti-wealth were prevalent, and thus appealed to the general masses, as these ideas were widely popular among the common classes during this era of the Depression. The stooges silly antics and references to the socio-economical issues of that time provided much needed distraction for those experiencing great losses and debt. The comedic acts of the Stooges significantly uplifted the moral of the majorly disheartened population of Depression-ridden America.
Cinema Killed The Vaudeville Star… But Not The Stooges
Despite the decrease in Vaudeville comedy with the rise of Cinema, because the Three Stooges transitioned their live Vaudeville act over to film, the arrival of the movie only made The Stooges and their work stronger. Though Ted Healy & His Stooges made their first film debut in Soup to Nuts (1930)—a Fox Studios feature film—the movie was considered a huge flop.
Though Healy’s act, which relied largely on ad libs and improvisation, was popular on stage, unfortunately this style of performance did not translate well onto the big screen. Despite Healy’s failed attempt at film, Fox Studios was largely impressed by the performance of the Stooges, and offered the three Stooges a contract. Healy was not included in this film contract; a decision which created tension and hostility between the furious Healy, and the three Stooges (Larry, Moe and Shep).
Hey There, Boo-Boo
As the Three Stooges gained more and more popularity in television and the movies, they soon turned to music as a new platform to display their multi-faceted talents. In 1959, with the rising popularity of the Stooges among children, the three Stooges would embark on their career as recording artists. Though many different rival record companies fought over the rights to release the Stooges’ first record, after much negotiation, it was the record division of Columbia Pictures that emerged victorious, thus earning the right to publish the Stooges’ first music record. And so, in 1959, the Stooges’ first musical record was released. Titled, Have Rocket, Will Travel, the trio’s first recorded song was taken from one of their musical numbers involving the Three Stooges entering the Space Race.
While this record, originally titled Race for the Moon, did not in fact make the nation’s Top 40 songs that year, despite the songs ranking, the Stooges’ first album still sold remarkably well. While not among the top songs, as a result of the record’s positive record sales, the Stooges gained much needed exposure within the music industry. Thus, the Stooges’ image as profitable, talented emerging vocal artists became increasingly know among many other top record companies in the music business. Following Columbia Pictures’ release of their first record, many others would follow. The Stooges’ next record would be released under Golden Records, who distributed three more singles, plus the groups’ first album. Of the many musical albums recorded and released by the Stooges, perhaps the most notable is the release of a comedy collaboration record featuring the voice of Yogi Bear, titled “Yogi Bear and The Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No.”
Who Doesn’t Scooby-Doo Know? - And Other Stooge Cameos
Throughout the Stooges’ career, in addition to their own television work, the trio was also featured in several television show cameos. Most notable of the Stooges’ television cameos, was their guest appearance on ABC’s Off to See the Wizard. This television cameo led to many others, including their role as “Three Men in a Tub” during the television episode, Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose?—another ABC show—which was broadcast on October 13, 1967.
Though the names and likeness of the Three Stooges were used in Scooby-Doo movies, “Ghastly Ghost Town” and “The Ghost of the Red Baron,” the voices of the Stooges were actually played by skilled voice imitators, and not the original Stooges themselves.
The Official Three Stooges Fan Club
In addition to existing as the home of The Stoogeum museum, Ambler, PA is also home to The original Three Stooges Fan Club. With consent from Moe Howard and Larry Fine, the official Three Stooges fan Club was formed in 1974.
Today, The Three Stooges Fan Club is recognized as one of the nation’s oldest fan clubs, and holds a total of over 2,000 fan club members worldwide.
The Three Stooges Video Games
Later on in their career, after conquering the areas of performance, film, television and music, the Stooge brand would next enter a fairly new realm of technology: the world of video games. In 1984, Mylstar Electronics released the Three Stooges very first video game, an arcade game titled, The Three Stooges in Brides is Brides, also known by its shortened name, The Three Stooges.
Based on the Stooges’ comedy act of the same name, this game allowed the Stooges to expand their fan base further than ever before. In 1987, they received their second Three Stooges Game, this one available on a number of home gaming systems, including the Nintendo Entertainment System. The goal of the game? To prevent the closure of an orphanage.
Stooges Lost in Foreign Translation
Interestingly enough, The Three Stooges, when directly translated into different languages around the world, holds some very different, often strange meanings. For instance, in China, the Stooge trio is idiomatically known as either Sānge Chòu Píjiàng or Huóbǎo Sānrénzǔ. The direct translation of The Three Stooges? The ‘Three Smelly Shoemakers.’
Equally as strange, when translated into Japanese, the Three Stooges are known as San Baka Taishō, otherwise known as ‘Three Idiot Generals.’ Even stranger is the Spanish translation: ‘Los tres chiflados’, which roughly translates to, ‘The Three Crackpots.’
And The Award Goes To…
Although the Stooges were nominated for an Oscar, unfortunately they did not win the honor of receiving this honored title. However, in 1993, The Three Stooges did go on to earn a different award: the MTV lifetime achievement award. An award created in order to honor those who have greatly impacted pop culture over the years, this award was announced by Mel Gibson, who, upon presenting the Stooges with the award, as a nod to the Stooges’ notoriously physical, slapstick style of comedy, preceded to hit himself on the head with an over-sized wrench.
Though this award was discontinued after 1998, the legacy of The Three Stooges, their prestige, and their overwhelming influence over society, still remains to this day.
In The Name Of Science Or Comedy?
Over the years, there has been much debate regarding whether or not Jerome Horwitz Elementary School—the school attended by the main characters of the widely loved children book, “Captain Underpants”—was named after Jerome Horwitz, the famed scientist, or Jerome ‘Curly Howard’ Horwitz, the birth name of the popular Stooge.
However, the truth is revealed within the very pages of the book itself. Upon reading the ‘Fun Facts’ section of “The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants #1),” one will readily discover ‘Fun Fact #4,’ which gives the answer to the mystery behind the school’s name: “Jerome Horwitz Elementary School was named after “Curly,” one of the Three Stooges (another show Dav Pilkey watched every day as a child). Curly’s real name was Jerome Horwitz.”
Here Come The Men in Black
Though they are long gone, in addition to the original Stooge arcade game, The Three Stooges continue to live on in the form of several other, newer video games. Names of more recent Stooge games include “Dead Space” and “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”
In these games, players can hear the line “Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.” This is a subtle nod to “Men in Black,” the Academy-Award nominated, widely recognized Three Stooges short.
Committed To More Than Just The Craft
Despite Curly’s three short-lived marriages, most of the Three Stooges actors lead long, happily married lives. Joe Besser was married to Erna Kay for 56 years, Moe Howard to Helen Schonberger—cousin of the late Harry Houdini—for fifty years, Larry Fine, for forty-one loving years, with wife Mable, Shemp for close to 30 years, and Joe DeRita for 30 happy years to wife Bonnie Brooks; a marriage which lasted up until her passing.
Following her death, he went on to marry Jean Sullivan DeRita in 1966. The couple was married for 25 years, up until Joe’s death on July 3, 1993.
Hitler vs. The Stooges: Making Hitler’s Death List
In addition to their success as comedians, the Stooges also doubled as political, social activists, ultimately shaping the outcome of the political and social environment of the US. Despite Adolf Hitler’s powerful influence over Hollywood executives and movie makers in the 1930s, which led to the censorship of much of the US cinema released at this point in time, the Stooges were not impacted by this dictator’s foreboding presence. Despite the Nazi’s efforts, The Stooges remained true to their movies, and became the very first in cinematic history to defy Hitler.
Following the January 1940 release of the Three Stooges short, two-reeler film, “You Nazi Spy!” which satirized Hitler and the Third Reich, the Three Stooges unintentionally made history as the first US production to openly mock the regime of the German dictator and his fascist regime. Released a whole year before the United States officially entered World War II, the overwhelming popularity of these comedians eventually lead Hitler to add them to his own personal death list. To this day, this Stooges film is still noted as a key piece in presenting the threat of Nazis to United States' citizens.
The Origins of Slapstick
Though many are aware of The Three Stooges’ specific style of comedy, known as ‘slapstick comedy,’ few are aware of the true origins of this term. Fitting to this infamously violent form of comedy, the name origins of slapstick comedy can be traced back to a wooden paddle made up of two pieces of wood. When slapped together, this wooden object would create a noise made to sound as if the paddle were striking someone.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, this form of comedy was named after a small wooden device, used by actors back in the day to imitate the sound of an exaggerated slapping noise. This noise was recreated by striking the parts of the wooden device together. The first recorded use of the slapstick dates back to the Harlequin of 16th century Italian theater. Considered a key character in the Italian commedia dell’arte, the Harlequin would slap the wooden instrument on the posteriors of his victims.
A Second Three Stooges Film
Die-hard fans will be ecstatic to hear that a sequel to the 2012 Three Stooges film is scheduled to start in 2018. Even though it's going to take some time to even get the news of an exact release date, people are sure to start crowding theaters for this one.
What's more, all of the actors from the 2012 film are making a comeback and will reprise their old roles. But the most exciting surprise still remains... what will the Three Stooges get up to this time?! We have no idea what the plot will be, but we're sure it'll be a barrel of laughs.
The Legacy Goes On
But their film debut doesn't end there. As it turns out, C3 entertainment, the owners of the Three Stooges Brand, just announced their plan of releasing a Three Stooges family film, which would feature your favorite Stooges as children.
In July of 2017, the company announced the name of the actors that would play the famous three main characters. These were Gordy De St Jeor, Liam Dow and Luke Clark.
Moe’s 120th Birthday
On June 19, 2017—the day that would’ve been Stooges actor Moe Howard’s 120th birthday—Joan Howard Mauerer, Moe’s daughter, paid tribute to her late father, in the form of a love poem Moe had written for his wife, shared on the Stooges official website.
Along with the poem itself, the poem was also accompanied by the following commentary: “In addition to his love, Moe had a drive to share his good luck with others. His poem “My Wish,” written to my mother in the 1920’s, is a perfect example of the lesser known side of my father.”
Joan Howard Maurer
Today, Joan Howard Maurer, now 91 years of age, is still very active in the preservation of the Stooges’ legacy. Author of several books about the Stooges, including “The Three Stooges Book of Scripts,” as well as, “Curly: An Illustrated Biography of the Superstooge”. She was also notably the co-writer of the book, “Moe Howard and the Three Stooges”, a novel she wrote alongside her father. In addition to her books on the Stooges, Maurer is also a fairly active member of the Stooge fan community, and is a regular attendee in Stooge conventions across the nation.
Contrary to Moe’s typical chaotic demeanor illustrated on set, Maurer painted a very different picture of her father, describing him as a loving family man; a man who worked hard to maintain a strong bond with his family, even while on the road. According to Mauer, even when thousands of miles away from his loved ones, Moe made sure to maintain his relationship with his family, and often wrote them letters filled with loving thoughts when they were apart. To Moe, family was everything.
The Three Stooges Con
Even today, the Stooges continue to be memorialized and honored by fans young and old. In 2016, there was even a three-day Stooges convention, which took place in Trevose, PA, on April 1 (April Fool’s Day), up until April 3. Here, Stooge fans of every variety joined together to celebrate The Three Stooges. Along with the Stooge fans, Stooge descendants, including children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, were also in attendance during the multi-day festivities. As a part of the three day Stooge event, Joan Howard Maurer, daughter of Moe Howard, celebrated her 89th birthday. As a part of her birthday celebration, she divulged many of her happiest memories of Moe, divulging that her Stooge Dad was “a devoted father, spoiling me like I was a princess, always bringing a present when he returned from a road trip.”
Another notable figure in the crowd was the event’s guest of honor, none other than Batman actor and television’s Adam West, who co-starred along the Stooges in the film, “The Outlaws is Coming”. Throughout the rest of the three days, fans were able to listen in on panels, presentations, and non-stop film screenings, and were even given the special opportunity to view a wide array of rare Stooge memorabilia and collectives, one of the most exciting being Larry’s iconic violin. According to Richard Cohen of Baron Conventions L.L.C., the convention was a huge success, and was overjoyed with the “great turnout”. This gathering was the first large Three Stooge fan gathering in more than 18 years.
The Stooges’ long-lasting legacy is reflected in the large demand for Stooge-related merchandise, many of these items are available for purchase in a wide array of websites today.
On the Stooges’ official website, fans can purchase anything from t-shirts, to hoodies, coffee cups, watches, puzzles, calendars, posters, comic books, golfing gear, to a number of other collectible Stooge items. Here, there seems to be a product for every kind of Stooges fan.