Before comedic talent like Jim Carrey and Melissa McCarthy took over Hollywood, “The Three Stooges” were the pioneers of using slapstick comedy to make people laugh around the world. In 2012, all of their shorts were released on DVD, and fans found themselves falling in love again with their antics.
Newer fans got their first chance to catch this group in action fully. And with some new content involving “The Three Stooges” coming soon, including an action/adventure film series, the franchise will continue to live on for decades to come. Here, we take a look at the members of this beloved group, and we discuss some little-known tidbits about the show.
Moses Harry Horwitz
Moses Harry Horwitz, who is better known as Moe Howard, was the leader of the pack. Moe got started in acting by working as an errand boy for Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn, New York. The studio started giving him work and he eventually joined a Mississippi River showboat’s acting troupe.
Louis Feinberg, who is known as Larry Fine, was a part of “The Three Stooges” for its entire run. While filming their comeback series “Kook’s Tour” in 1970, he would suffer a stroke and become paralyzed on the left side of his body. The TV show was scrapped, and the taped footage was turned into a film. On January 24, 1975, he died from a stroke at the age of 72.
Born as Samuel Horwitz, Shemp Howard was a member of “The Three Stooges” from 1930 to 1932 and from 1946 to 1955. Aside from being a part of the Stooges, the New York City native also had a career in film with roles in Pittsburgh, Strictly in the Groove, and Moonlight and Cactus.
Jerome Lester Horwitz
From 1932 to 1946, Jerome Lester Horwitz played Curly Howard, who was the most popular out of the Stooges. While filming the movie Half-Wits Holiday, the New York City native suffered a stroke that prematurely ended his time with “The Three Stooges.” Horwitz died young, of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 48.
From 1956 to 1958, Joe Besser was a member of the Stooges. The St. Louis native was best known for playing Mr. Jillson on “The Joey Bishop Show.” He also landed several voice roles in “Shirt Tales,” “Yogi’s Space Race,” and “The Houndcats.” Besser died from heart failure at the age of 80, in 1988.
Joe DeRita is known by many as Curly Joe, and was on the show from 1958 to 1969. Before becoming a part of the iconic group, the Philadelphia native landed roles in “People Are Funny,” “The Sailor Takes a Wife,” and “High School Hero.” DeRita died from pneumonia at the age of 83.
Moe’s Bowl Cut
One of Moe’s most noticeable features was his bowl cut hairstyle. As a kid, his hair was shoulder length because his mother wouldn’t allow him to cut it. After consistently being teased from classmates, Moe hid in a shed in the back and cut his own hair.
One of the most memorable things about Curly Howard was his walk. Unfortunately, that wasn’t something he taught himself in acting school. When he was 12 years old, he was cleaning a rifle and accidentally shot himself in the left ankle. Since he didn’t want to get surgery, he was left with a limp. His on-screen walk was designed to hide the injury.
Larry Fine’s Violin
Larry Fine’s musical instrument of choice was the violin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that he decided to get into on his own. When he was a kid, he grabbed a bottle of what he thought was a tasty beverage. In reality, it was a bottle of acid. His father smacked the bottle out of his hand, and the acid landed on his arm. In order to strengthen his muscles, he decided to take violin lessons.
Before becoming a part of “The Three Stooges,” Curly Howard had a great head of hair. Unfortunately, Ted Healy, who was the mastermind behind the group’s success, thought that he wasn’t funny enough with all of that hair. Minutes later, Curly went to the back and had his head shaved for the part.
Ted Healy’s Death
The death of “The Three Stooges” founder Ted Healy confused a lot of people. A spokesperson at MGM stated that he died from a heart attack, but some wounds on his face indicated that he died from an altercation at the Trocadero. After an autopsy, it was confirmed that he had died from acute toxic nephritis.
The Eye Poke
One of the most memorable things about “The Three Stooges” is the eye poke gag. The origin of this move stems from a bridge game between Larry and Shemp. The two argued about Larry’s supposed cheating. Angered by it, Shemp gave Larry two pokes in his eye. They added this move to their arsenal of physical attacks.
A Ton Of Physicality
It’s safe to say that “The Three Stooges” have seen their fair share of injuries on set. For the short film Three Little Pigskins, there is a scene where they have to get attacked by some professional football players. The three men wanted nothing to do with the scene, so they allowed stuntmen to take their place.
When Curly Howard suffered a stroke, the producers behind the show went on a search for a replacement. One of the people asked to come on the show was comedian Buddy Hackett, who is best known for his work in the films “The Music Man” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” He turned down the role due to his family commitments.
Sole Oscar Nomination
“The Three Stooges” have appeared in 220 films, but they only received an Oscar nomination for one. Their 1934 short film Men In Black gained a nomination for Best Short Subject – Comedy. It lost to the film La Cucaracha, which was produced by Kenneth Macgowan. A colorized version of the film was released in 2004.
Married To Magic
Moe Howard married Helen Schonberger on June 7, 1925. Helen Schonberger was the cousin of iconic magician Harry Houdini, who is known for stunts such as the milk can escape and the Chinese water torture cell stunt. The couple had two kids: Joan and Paul Howard. Joan still attends “Three Stooges” conventions in the country.
After the decline of films in “The Three Stooges” catalog, Larry Fine blew his money on various things. One of the things he poured money into was Stoogeburgers, which was a chain of themed restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. In 2014, C3 Entertainment Inc., which owns “The Three Stooges” brand, announced the Three Stooges Burger House.
Lucille Ball Got Her Big Break Thanks To The Three Stooges
Lucille Ball is one of the most iconic TV stars of all time. Before becoming a five-time Emmy winner, the actress had one of her first roles in the 1934 film Three Little Pigskins. In the short film, she played the role of Daisy Simms. The Three Stooges are often credited for giving the actress her big break.
Like most TV shows, some of the titles of “The Three Stooges” episodes are a play on various phrases. Some episode titles include “Jail Birds of Paradise,” “Disorder In The Court,” and “Yes, We Have No Bonanza.” Some titles (“3 Dumb Clucks” and “Beer and Pretzels”) were based on movie titles from that era.
During the start of their career, “The Three Stooges” had to split a weekly $1,000 check between the three of them. After their Oscar-nominated film Men In Black was released, their pay was increased to $7,500 a week, but they still had to split it among themselves.
Adam West, who famously went on to play Batman in the iconic 1960s television series, appeared in a Three Stooges film. The Outlaws Is Coming, which was the Stooges’ final feature-length film, as released in 1965. West played an editor-turned-town sheriff named Kenneth Cabot in the movie.
Moe’s Later Years
After retiring from acting, Moe turned to selling real estate to make money. On May 4, 1975, he died from lung cancer at the age of 77. His last movie appearance was in the 1973 film “Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls.” Moe’s wife died of a heart attack just a few months after he passed away.
A Romantic At Heart
Moe’s wife Helen Schonberger said that he was a lifelong romantic, and recounted this story about their 10th wedding anniversary, reprinted in a book titled The Three Stooges Scrapbook. “[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
Moe was hired by Ted Healy to work in a vaudeville act in 1921. While on stage during a performance two years later, he spotted his brother Shemp in the audience. Moe cried out to Shemp from the stage, and their interaction was an instant hit. Healy hired Shemp on the spot.
Larry Fine was initially brought into the vaudeville mix in 1925, when Shemp decided to leave the act he’d been doing with Moe. Larry gave a performance that Shemp, Moe and Ted Healy attended, when Shemp announced his departure. Healy offered Larry the position, for $90 a week. Larry accepted, and of course, Shemp returned later.
An Important Site
Larry Fine was born in Philadelphia. A commemorative mural was painted near his birthplace, at the corner of 3rd and South Streets and above a restaurant called Jon’s Bar and Grill. Fine’s sister attended the dedication ceremony. The painting depicts fine playing his violin, with a silly expression on his face.
Scaredy Cat Shemp
Shemp Howard suffered from a number of phobias. The comedian was terrified of cars, planes, dogs, and even water. He was in a car accident when he was young, which explains the automobile phobia. In scenes where he’s behind the wheel, the cars are being towed rather than driven by him.
An Ironic Death
Shemp ended up dying in a car, but not in a collision. On November 22, 1955, he attended a boxing match with a friend. After the bout, they were riding home together. As Shemp told a joke and lit a cigar, he suddenly slumped over, dead. The friend thought it was a prank but unfortunately, it wasn’t.
The Many Expressions Of Curly
Curly Howard was responsible for coining many of the Stooges’ trademark phrases. These included nyuk, nyuk, nyuk; nyahh-ahhh-ahhh; a WISE guy, eh?; say a few syllables; oh, look; I’ll moider you; and soitenly! The other Stooges continued to use Curly’s favorite expressions after his death.
In 1947’s Hold That Lion! Curly appeared as a sleeping train passenger. His hair had regrown by this time. This was the only film to include all three of the Howard brothers and Larry Fine in the same scene. Curly also shot another cameo appearance in 1949 but that part was cut.
An Unhappy Union
In the early 1940s, Moe was concerned for Curly’s worsening health and heavy drinking. Moe encouraged him to marry a woman named Marion Buxbaum, thinking this would help Curly to change his hard-living ways. The marriage ended up being a disaster, with Curly squandering a fortune on Marion. The two were divorced only months later.
Many fans cite Curly as their favorite Stooge. In an interview, Larry Fine said “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.” Curly is buried at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.
There is a museum dedicated to all things Stooge. The “Stoogeum,” located in Ambler, Pennsylvania, is open only on Thursdays and displays an impressive collection of Stooge artifacts. Exhibits include artwork, movie posters, costumes, novelties, props, rare photos and more. There are even interactive Stooge-themed arcade games!
Walk Of Fame
The Stooges always felt slighted by the fact that they didn’t have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame despite their success. In 1983, they were finally awarded with their star. Sadly, Moe, Curly and Larry were already dead when they received the honor. The Stooges’ star can be found at 1560 Vine Street.
Pop Culture References
“The Three Stooges” certainly made a huge impact on future generations. Numerous films, television shows, songs, and books have referenced the comedic trio. Movies ranging from This Is Spinal Tap, Pulp Fiction, Ice Age, and Grease all pay homage to the Stooges, as do songs from artists as varied as Chris Brown, Frank Black, and Toby Keith.
A Band Of The Same Name
Rock icons The Stooges borrowed their name from Moe, Larry, and Curly. The band, formed in the 1960s and headed by lead singer Iggy Pop, got its moniker from watching “The Three Stooges.” In an interview with Clash Magazine, Pop said of co-founder and guitarist Ron Asheton, “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.”
No Female Fans?
It’s frequently said that women don’t enjoy “The Three Stooges.” This is a huge overgeneralization – many females do like the Stooges – but the primary theory behind this is that women tend not to prefer physical or slapstick comedy. One AMC writer attempted to explain the phenomena this way: “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”
Mel Blanc, known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” lent his special talent to the film Snow White and the Three Stooges. In the 1961 movie, a puppet named Quinto is voiced by Blanc. Edson Stroll, Patricia Medina, and Guy Rolfe co-star alongside the Stooges.
In 2012, the Stooges were reinvented in the form of a brand-new movie starring Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Will Sasso (Curly). Produced by the Farrelly brothers, the film is divided into three shorter stand-alone stories. In a statement, Peter and Bobby Farrelly said of The Three Stooges: The Movie, “It’s by far the riskiest project we’ve ever done, without question, but it is also the one closest to our hearts.”
Forced To Work After His Stroke
Harry Cohn, who is the president and chief of production at Columbia Pictures and is widely acknowledged to be the main man who helped get them to the level they finally achieved. However, he is also known as an unliked person. After Curly had strokes, Cohn made the weakened comedian continue working.
In many ways, The Three Stooges appealed to the spirit of the common man. They provided an escape from the harsh economic challenges that many Americans were facing during the Great Depression and as tensions between social classes were rising, The Three Stooges’ ongoing antics provided commentary to this as well.
Cinema Killed The Vaudeville Star
The Three Stooges entered the entertainment industry at a key historic moment in history. As Cinema began to grow, Vaudeville began its decline. The Three Stooges initially began as a live Vaudeville act before eventually transitioning to film.
Hey There, Boo-Boo
Throughout their career, the Three Stooges recorded and released several albums. One of their final releases was a comedy collaboration album that featured the dapper smooth-talking Yogi Bear. It was titled, “Yogi Bear and The Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No.”
Who Doesn’t Scooby-Doo Know?
Although the names and likeness of the final cast of the Three Stooges were used in the new Scooby-Doo movies, “Ghastly Ghost Town” and “The Ghost of the Red Baron,” the Stooges were in fact played by skilled voice imitators.
You’ve Come To The Right Place
The Stoogeum in Ambler Pennsylvania is also home to The Three Stooges Fan Club. Formed in 1974 with the permission of Moe Howard and Larry Fine, The Three Stooges fan Club recognizes itself as one of America’s oldest fan clubs and boast a network of over 2,000 members worldwide.
All Bases Covered
In 1984 The Three Stooges brand received its first video game in the form of an arcade game. In 1987 they received a second game available on a variety of home games systems, including the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game tasks players with preventing the closure of an orphanage.
Around The World In Three Days
When translated to Chinese, the name of The Three Stooges becomes “Three Smelly Shoemakers” and in Japanese the name for the Three Stooges translates into “Three Idiot Generals.” Furthermore, their Spanish name translates into “The Three Crackpots,” and in Turkish they are “The Three Cronies.”
And The Award Goes To…
Although they didn’t win the Oscar, in 1993, The Three Stooges earned the MTV lifetime achievement award. The lifetime achievement award was created to honor those who have made an impact on pop culture. It was discontinued following 1998.
In The Name Of Science Or Comedy?
The main characters in the children’s book “Captain Underpants” attend “Jerome Horwitz Elementary School.” Jerome Horwitz is both a famous scientist and Curly Howard’s real name.
Here Come The Men in Black
In the video games “Dead Space” and “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” the line “Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard,” can be heard. This is a nod to the Academy-Award nominated short by The Three Stooges, “Men in Black.”
Committed To More Than Just The Craft
Other than Curly, the Three Stooges actors were in some pretty extensive marriages. Joe Besser was married for 56 years, Moe Howard was married fifty years, Larry Fine was married forty-one years, Shemp was married for close to 30 years, and Joe DeRita was married to Bonnie Brooks for 30 years until she passed, and then to Jean Sullivan for 26 years until he passed.
Three On Two
In 1940, the Three Stooges released the short film “You Nazty Spy!” which satirized Hitler and Third Reich. This short film is widely regarded as the first open spoof of Hitler and is attributed as a key piece in helping publicize the Nazi threat to Americans.
Who Got The Slaps?
The Three Stooges is typically defined as slapstick comedy. Ever wonder where the term slapstick comes from? The name comes from the use of a small wooden device that actors use to create an exaggerated slapping sound when they strike its parts together.
Ready For Round Two?
The sequel to the 2012 Three Stooges film is set to begin filming in 2018. All the original actors from the 2012 film are expected to reprise their roles and as of now, it remains to be seen what the film’s plot will entail.
The Legacy Continues
C3 entertainment (owners of the Three Stooges brand) recently announced plans to release a family-friendly Three Stooges film starring the Larry, Curly, and Moe as preteens. As of July 2017, it appears that the film is well on its way, as it announced the casting of the three lead characters as Gordy De St Jeor, Liam Dow and Luke Clark.
Moe’s 120th Birthday
On June 19, 2017, Moe’s daughter Joan Howard Maurer paid tribute to the actor on what would have been his 120th birthday. On the Stooges’ official website, Maurer shared a love poem he had written to his wife along with this 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
Moe’s daughter Joan Howard Maurer is quite active in keeping the Stooges’ legacy alive. She has authored several books about the Stooges and regularly attends Stooge conventions. Maurer’s books include The Three Stooges Book of Scripts, Curly: An Illustrated Biography of the Superstooge. She also co-wrote Moe Howard and the Three Stooges with her father.
The Three Stooges Con
In 2016 there was a 3-day Stooges convention held in Trevose, Pennsylvania. The now-deceased Batman actor Adam West (who co-starred with the Stooges in “The Outlaws is Coming”) was a guest of honor at the event. Many of the Stooges descendants also attended the event.
It’s no surprise that there’s a bunch of merchandise for sale online – the Stooges are still extremely popular today. From clothing such as t-shirts and hoodies, to coffee cups, to posters, comic books, and golfing gear, there is a product out there for every Stooges fan. Merchandise can be purchased on the Stooges’ official website.