The Three Stooges: Classic Comedy Icons

The Three Stooges

Oh, the beloved Three Stooges. Who hasn’t watched a classic film short starring the Three Stooges? Slapstick humor in its purest form and an American institution. But who exactly were these men who brought their acerbic style of physical comedy into our living rooms and theatres?

We all know them as Curly, Larry, and Moe, but when they began their careers in vaudeville in 1922, Ted Healy and his Stooges was the name of the group they were a part of (which was originally called Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen).

Larry Fine, Ted Healy, and the Howard brothers Harry Moses Howard (also known as Moe) and Samuel Howard (also known as Shemp) comprised the ensemble (Larry). At the time, the Three Stooges needed a third member, so Moe suggested that Jerome, his brother, fill the role. In 1931, Shemp departed the group to pursue a career in feature films.

Ted, who did not find his long hair and facial hair attractive, claimed that Jerome was not a character like Moe and Larry, although he had facial and head hair. When Jerome left the room, he came back in a short amount of time with his head and face shaved, and that’s when Curly, as we know him, was born.

In his memoirs, Moe Howard and The Three Stooges, Moe Howard recounts that the Stooges and Ted Healy went their separate ways in 1934. According to Moe, this was due to Healy’s abrasiveness and drinking.

The Three Stooges, or the Three Stooges as most know them, began their cinematic career at Columbia Pictures, marking the beginning of a long and illustrious trip into the annals of comedic history.

The Three Stooges starred in 190 short films between 1934 and 1959, making their series the longest-running in cinema history. They also had roles in a dozen films and thrilled millions worldwide with their catchphrases, physical routines, and expert comedic timing.

In 1946, Curly suffered a stroke, and the group invited Shemp to return after recovering. Although he was well aware that Moe and Larry’s careers and the Stooges’ were ending, he grudgingly consented to reunite with the Stooges, but temporarily only. Curly could never fully recover from his injuries and passed away in January 1952.

Shemp eventually took over for Curly as the third member of The Three Stooges, and the group went on to star in 77 other short films as well as the feature film Gold Raiders (1951). In addition, the Three Stooges filmed the pilot episode of their television show “Jerks of All Trades” in 1949.
Although the show was never picked up for production, the pilot episode is now in the public domain and can be purchased as a home video.

The Three Stooges dynasty suffered another setback in November of 1955 when Shemp Howard, age 60, passed away from an unexpected heart attack. During 1956-1957, Joe Besser took the position of Shemp and appeared in 16 short films.

Joe’s contract originally had a condition that prohibited him from being hit too severely; nevertheless, this restriction was eventually loosened as more time passed. Regrettably, the market for short films and for the Three Stooges had already died out.

Television, a relatively new form of media, had become dominant. In 1957, Columbia Pictures, the only major studio still making short films, dismissed the Three Stooges. (Due to contractual obligations and backlogs, the final Stooge shorts were distributed to theatres in 1959.)

“Rebirth” happened quickly for the Stooges. The entire film library of The Three Stooges was distributed to television in 1959 by Columbia Pictures. This led to the baby boomer generation rediscovering The Three Stooges.

Stoogemania swiftly spread across the country, and before long, Moe and Larry were once more front and center in the public eye. Moe swiftly signed Joe DeRita as Joe Besser’s successor after the latter’s wife suffered a heart attack, which caused Joe Besser to withdraw from the act. Because DeRita thought he resembled the first Curly, he shaved his head and adopted the alias Curly-Joe.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, this particular iteration of the Three Stooges created a total of 39 short films in addition to a few feature-length motion pictures. In 1969, they recorded a pilot for a new television series that was going to be called “Kook’s Tour.” The show was going to be about the Three Stooges traversing the world after they had “retired,” and episodes were going to be filmed on location.

Unfortunately, while production was underway, Larry had a stroke, which put an end not only to his acting career but also to the TV series. Larry had another stroke in December of 1974, and then a month later, he suffered a stroke that ultimately proved deadly. Larry passed away in January 1975.

It was believed that they could continue, and various movie concepts were contemplated; however, Moe Howard passed away in May of 1975, and these plans were never realized. Although Curly-Joe (Joe DeRita) did some live work with a new group of “Stooges” in the early 1970s, the Three Stooges, as we previously knew them, are no longer active.

The extensive careers of the Three Stooges and the phenomenon that was and still is the Three Stooges have now been summarised. The Three Stooges still make people laugh, and they will keep doing so for a long time to come, thanks to the rise of cable TV, home video, and DVDs, as well as an army of fans.

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