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The Three Stooges and Their Triumphant Return

Updated on March 31, 2013

Moe, Larry and Curly in the 1930's

The Stooges in their prime
The Stooges in their prime

A Stooges History

One of my earliest memories of watching television is of The Three Stooges. In the early 1970's, the stooges were being played daily with several short, back to back episodes. It was like watching a cartoon come to life. Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Moe and Shemp, Harry Howard were familiar characters to me at age 4.

Moe was a bit player in silent films, performing on a riverboat, and even acted in Shakespeare, imagine that! He joined a vaudeville headliner with Ted Healy in the early 1920's. Moe's brother Shemp (Sam) heckled Moe and Healy from the audience, until Healy hired him a few years later, when Shemp walked on stage during a performance, mashed a pear in Healy's face, and brought the house down. Larry, who was part of a dance act in vaudeville, made it a threesome in 1925. They were billed variously as "Ted Healy and His Three Southern Gentlemen," "Ted Healy and his Gang," and "Ted Healy and His Racketeers." Healy went on as a single when the Stooges began making pictures.

They made their movie debut in a 1930 Goldberg feature, Soup to Nuts, and then went to M-G-M, where they made a brief appearance in several features, including Dancing Lady, and five shorts. By this time Shemp had decided to work as a single, and was replaced by the third and youngest brother, Jerry, whom the family called Babe. He's the one movie fans know as Curly, and he was without a doubt the star of the act until illness caused his departure in 1946.He was diagnosed with hypertension and suffered several strokes. Shemp returned to replace Curly, who died in 1952 at the age of 48.

The Stooges looked funny. Grown men: Curly, who was fat, dumb, and completely bald; Moe bossing everyone around while wearing a Buster Brown haircut; and Larry, a bozo the clown hairstyle, tufts of fussy hair all over adding to his look of annoyance and confusion. Children loved the Stooges, and on matinee day in low-income neighborhoods in the thirties and forties their shorts were advertised on the marquees right along with the features. The Stooges made over 200 shorts finishing their last in 1957. Shemp had died suddenly in 1955, suffering a heart attack in a taxi on his way home from a boxing match. Joe Besser stepped in to replace Shemp, when Besser left, two years later, Joe De Rita took over, but the chemistry was not the same, and although the trio continued to make personal appearances and an occasional feature, including Snow White and the Three Stooges in 1961. The humor seemed stiff and forced.

Larry Fine had been living at the Motion Picture Country House for four years when he died in 1975. Moe Howard survived him by four months. He lived with his wife, whose cousin was the legendary Harry Houdini, above the Sunset Strip. Larry and Moe were pleased that their pictures become even more popular on television than they had been when they were made, imagine how thrilled they would be to learn that more than 80 years later, they have returned to the big screen.

The Three Stooges' shorts play in many countries around the world, and before Ronald Reagan had his way with Russia, the Soviet Union requested their films be shown in schools to show how brutal Americans are.

The Stooges make their 2012 return, with Sean Hayes as Larry fine, Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe Howard and Will Sasso as Curly Howard. Their physical appearances and impersonations are very well done, however, most of the film is juvenile and not up to original Stooges standards.

A brief summary of the movie is after being left on a nun's doorstep, Larry, Curly and Moe grow up wise-cracking, poking and tormenting each other. Out to save their childhood home, The Three Stooges become embroiled in a murder plot, they are also starring in a successful TV reality show.

The Return of Shemp

Shemp Howard (1895-1955) returned to the Stooges after Curly became ill, suffering from extreme hypertension and suffering numerous strokes. He appeared in numerous full length films and shorts. Shemp can be seen in almost 80 episodes of The Three Stooges.

Shemp passed away suddenly in 1955 in a taxi while returning home from Legion Stadium in Hollywood where he had been watching a prize fight. It is said that Shemp light a cigar and slumped over, instantly from cadiac arrest.

Joe Besser

By the time Joe Besser was with the Stooges, they were well past their prime, and the chemistry was not the same. Understandably, after the tragic deaths of brothers Curly and Shemp, Moe was showing signs of tension, and Joe Besser was fresh to the act, while the other two Stooges were veterans. Joe Besser did , however appear the the feature length film, Snow White and The Three Stooges


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