Moe Howard began in vaudeville with “Ted Healy and his Stooges,” along with brother Shemp. Soon Healy hired violinist Larry Fine and the Three Stooges were born, more or less, even tho’ they weren’t called that yet. Shemp made one ‘Stooge’ movie with Healy and quit the Stooges to start a solo career. Moe suggested younger brother Jerome/Curly and, after they managed to get rid of Healy, this was the trio that starting making all those Columbia shorts over the years, starting in 1934, and eventually running to 190 with a few cast changes.
In 1946 Curly had a stroke and was replaced by Shemp, who returned to the act where he started. According to the WikiWackyWoo the three Howard brothers made one movie together: 1949’s Hold That Lion. However, further strokes led to Curly’s death in 1952, the year of my birth. Yet, he was very much alive for my childhood.
Shemp died in 1955, yet appeared in four more Three Stooges movies after that, since there was enough footage in the can, but was eventually replaced by Joe Besser. Columbia sold off the Stooge film library to tee vee through the company Screen Gems and that’s when and where subsequent generations learned how to poke people’s eyes out and hit each other over the head with hammers.
Their tee vee poularity led to Moe forming a new Three Stooge ensemble, replacing Joe Besser with Joe DeRita, or Curly-Joe. This trio made several feature length movies and a few guest appearances until they were reduced to a cartoon with filmed live segments bookending the whole dealie.
When he died Moe Howard left behind an unfinished autobiography that was tentatively entitled I Stooge To Conquer, which I would have loved to have been able to read. For many years I belonged to The Official Three Stooges Fan Club [and recently came across all the newsletters in my file cabinet] and read a great deal about their history. The Three Stooges occupy a very narrow niche in Show Biz: Vaudevillians who transitioned to movies who transitioned to tee vee. There were many comedians, none of them slapstick comics for obvious reasons, who transitioned to radio before taking on tee vee.
Yet, despite my love for all things Stooge, this was the worst idea for a remake ever:
A dishonour. Watch a real Three Stooges classic. Moe Howard was imitating Adolph Hitler before Charlie Chaplin.
What’s really crazy is how much of this I knew by heart, only using Der Googlizer to make sure I had the dates right. I did. I’m such a dork.