Moe, Larry and Curly, do the names ring a bell? If you ever watched Saturday morning television, you probably know who I am talking about. I owe these guys big time. If it wasn’t for them, I never would have had such a good time when I went to those cheap movies in Brooklyn as a kid. They always featured 3 movies and 21 cartoons, including the Three Stooges, every Saturday. You can imagine how long we spent in the theatre on that day. We would be there for about six hours. But the highlight of the day was always those three zany guys. The theatre would show old movies so the price of admission was cheap There was usually one cowboy movie, one mystery movie and then a random type movie. Somehow they always managed to show movies that kids would like.
They weren’t always The Three Stooges and there wasn’t always the same three people. When they first broke into vaudeville, their act was called Ted Healy and his Stooges. Moe was Harry Moses Howard but he had formerly been named Horwitz. He started out with his brother Shemp, I’m sure you all remember him, his name was Samuel Howard. As the act progressed another person joined. He was Larry Fine. Remember the guy with the bushy hair that Moe kept pulling out? Larry Fine was really Louis Feinberg. Shemp got his name because his mother had a thick accent and that was the best she could do while trying to pronounce Samuel.
The act didn’t stay together this way for too long because Shemp decided he wanted to leave and pursue a career in the movies. Shemp was replaced by his brother Curly Howard. Sometimes you will see it spelled Curley. Curly’s name was Jerome Howard. People called him Babe. The Stooges were not happy. They didn’t like the way Ted Healy treated them. They got lucky and signed with Colombia Pictures and were paid the salary of a few hundred dollars per week. Little did they know at the time that they would be starring in the incredible amount of over 190 movies. No wonder there are so many Three Stooges movies on tv.
Things were going pretty well for them until 1945 when Curly suffered a stroke. Because of his stroke, Curly appears in only 97 of the movies. Most of these movies were shorts, but we used to look forward to seeing them more than the features. When a Three Stooges movie would come on, everyone would clap, it was something to see. Shemp returned and he appeared in a total of 73 movies. But Shemp didn’t stay and in 1956 Joe Besser replaced him. I have nothing against Joe Besser, its just that I thought he wasn’t funny. I felt he sort of lowered the fun factor of the films. Joe had to leave when his wife became ill and he was replaced by another unfunny guy named Joe DeRita, who tried to imitate the original Curly, without success.
In 1970 Larry Fine suffered a stroke while filming Kook’s Tour which was never finished. He died in 1975. Emil Sitka was to replace Larry but then Moe died and that was the end of the Three Stooges as an act.
The Stooges were very popular and in 1959 the entire Stooge’s library of films were syndicated by Columbia for television. Now a new generation of people would get to enjoy the antics of those three crazy guys. Many people have criticized the violence in the Three Stooges Movies, but it is so bizarre that even little children know it isn’t real. It is sort of a form of cartoon violence but with real actors. Fifty nine percent of all Americans who are at least 30 years old can name the Three Stooges but hardly anyone can name all the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Interestingly, there are four of the Stooges’ movies in the public domain. They are:
Disorder in the Court (1936)
Malice in the Palace (1949)
Sing A Song of Six Pants (1947)
Brideless Groom (1947)
It is amazing how a professional film company can let some movies fall into this category. It is sad that The Three Stooges never made it in tv. They had made a pilot for a show called Jerks Of All Trades in 1949. You would have thought with all the Milton Berle type humor at the time that they would have been a shoo-in.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the Stooges made only film shorts, they also made 19 full length films, the first one was Soup To Nuts in 1930 and the last was The Outlaws Is Coming in 1965. The Three Stooges were loved by many people, including me. They are gone now, but the memory of them lives on in their films. Maybe some day, even a hundred years from now or longer, children will still be laughing as Moe keeps hitting his thumb with a hammer and turning and slapping Larry every time.