The Three Stooges

American comedy team active from 1922 until 1970 / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy team active from 1922 until 1970, best remembered for their 190 short subject films by Columbia Pictures. Their hallmark styles were physical farce and slapstick. Six Stooges appeared over the act's run (with only three active at any given time): Moe Howard (born Moses Horwitz) and Larry Fine (born Louis Feinberg) were mainstays throughout the ensemble's nearly 50-year run; the pivotal "third stooge" was played by (in order of appearance) Shemp Howard (born Samuel Horwitz), Curly Howard (born Jerome Horwitz), Shemp Howard again, Joe Besser, and "Curly Joe" DeRita.

Quick facts: The Three Stooges, Medium, Nationality, Years...
The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges in 1937:
(clockwise from left) Larry Fine, Curly Howard, and Moe Howard
MediumVaudeville, film, television
Years active1922–1970
GenresFarce, slapstick, musical comedy
Former members

The act began in the early 1920s as part of a vaudeville comedy act billed as "Ted Healy and His Stooges", consisting originally of Ted Healy and Moe Howard. Over time, they were joined by Moe's brother, Shemp Howard, and then Larry Fine. The four appeared in one feature film, Soup to Nuts, before Shemp left to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by his and Moe's younger brother, Jerome "Curly" Howard, in 1932. Two years later, after appearing in several movies, the trio left Healy and signed on to appear in their own short-subject comedies for Columbia Pictures, now billed as "The Three Stooges". From 1934 to 1946, Moe, Larry and Curly produced over 90 short films for Columbia, bringing them their peak popularity.

Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946. Shemp returned, reconstituting the original lineup, until his death of a heart attack on November 22, 1955, three years and ten months after Curly's death of a cerebral hemorrhage on January 18, 1952. Film actor Joe Palma stood in (shot from behind to obscure his face) to complete four Shemp-era shorts under contract. This proceduredisguising one actor as another, outside of stunt shotsbecame known as the "fake Shemp". Columbia contract player Joe Besser joined as the third Stooge for two years (1956–1957), departing in 1958 to nurse his ill wife after Columbia terminated its shorts division. The studio then released all the shorts via Screen Gems, Columbia's television studio and distribution unit. Screen Gems then syndicated the shorts to television, whereupon the Stooges became one of the most popular comedy acts of the early 1960s.

Comic actor Joe DeRita became "Curly Joe" in 1958, replacing Besser for a new series of full-length theatrical films. With intense television exposure in the United States, the act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kids' fare, until Larry's paralyzing stroke in the midst of filming a pilot for a Three Stooges TV series in January 1970. He died in January 1975, after a further series of strokes. Unsuccessful attempts were made in 1970 and 1975 to revive the act with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka in Fine's role, but they were cut short by Moe Howard's death on May 4, 1975.