From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Three Stooges was an American comedy act in the 20th century. Commonly known by their first names, Larry, Moe, & Curly (sometimes spelled “Curley”); Larry, Moe & Shemp; and other lineups became famous for their work in movies and starred in many short features that consisted of masterful ways of showcasing their extremely physical and sometimes controversial brand of slapstick comedy.
- “Hey, Moe! Hey, Moe!” (Curly)
- “Soitenly!” (certainly) (Curly)
- “Oh, wise guy, eh?” (Curly)
- “You’re a smart imbecile!” (Moe)
- “Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!” (Curly)
- “I’m a victim of circumstance” (Curly)
- “Whoop whoop whoop whoop” (Curly)
- “Hey Porcupine!” (Moe, to Larry)
- “I’ll moider you!” (Moe)
- “What’s the big idea?!?” (Larry)
- “Hey knucklehead! Wake up and go to sleep!” (Moe)
- “Meep meep meep meep!” (Shemp, frightened or surprised)
- “Spread out!” (Moe to the others)
- “Quiet numbskulls I’m broadcasting.” (Moe)
- “Ow, that hurts!” (Joe Besser)
Examples of Archetypical Stooge slapstick:
One Stooge pokes the other in the eyes with the first and second fingers of one hand. After a while, the other Stooge catches on and holds his palm perpendicular to the edge of his nose to block this. The first stooge then uses the index finger of each hand to jab both eyes at once.
One Stooge strikes his own outstretched fist with his other fist. After being struck, the hand revolves downward, back and onto another Stooge’s head.
The triple slap: a straight man slaps the faces of all three Stooges in one energetic sweep.
The Stooges got their name and their start in a vaudeville act called Ted Healy and his Stooges. Brothers Harry Moses Howard (Moe) and Samuel Howard (Shemp) (original last name Horwitz) were later joined by Larry Fine (real name Louis Feinberg). Shemp left for a career in feature movies (notably as trainer Knobby Walsh in the “Joe Palooka” movies), and brother Curly Howard (real name Jerome, called “Babe” by family members) took his place. Moe was throughout their career the heart and soul of the troupe, acting as both their main creative force and business manager. Comedy III Productions, Inc., formed by Moe, Larry and Curly Joe DeRita in 1959, is the owner of all of the Three Stooges trademarks, copyrights, and merchandising.
The original Three Stooges split from Healy over his drinking and maltreatment of them, signing on with Columbia Pictures for just a few hundred dollars a week. They went on to star in nearly two hundred theatrical short movies in the 30s, 40s and 50s, the longest such series in history. They also made a TV pilot called Jerks Of All Trades in 1949, but the project was canceled. (It is available on video today.) Curly suffered a stroke in 1946 and Shemp returned to the trio. Shemp died of a heart attack in 1955. Outtakes and Stooge short regular Joe Palma (filmed from behind) were used to finish Shemp’s contract.
Joe Besser was the fifth (third) Stooge from 1956-1958. Besser had a clause in his contract specifically prohibiting him from being hit too hard. (He sometimes socked Moe though!) But the “shorts” genre had become unprofitable over the years, partly due to television, so Columbia, the last studio still doing shorts, gave up and ended the series in 1958. When his wife had a heart attack, Besser was unwilling to travel, and withdrew from the act. Moe signed Joe DeRita as the sixth (third) Stooge. DeRita quickly shaved his head and became “Curly Joe”. But without a film contract, and with vaudeville pretty much dead, they tried night clubs, but with little success.
At this point it seemed that the career of the Three Stooges was over. However, television was now to become their savior. Columbia Pictures started releasing the series to TV syndication that year and suddenly a whole new generation of children discovered them, becoming instant fans. The Stooges performed live on stage, they appeared at supermarket openings, and they were hot television guest stars on various variety shows. They went on to make a number of successful full-length feature movies over the next decade and a short lived TV series that was part live action and part animation before age finally caught up with them. Their last project, Kook’s Tour (1970), was a sort of travelogue made for TV, but Larry Fine suffered a stroke during the production, and was unable to complete the project. Kook’s Tour was never released, though it is available today on video. Moe also had a minor career as a non-Stooge, appearing in a few movies during the 1960s.
Larry died in early 1975. After his death, it was decided that long time Stooge short actor Emil Sitka would replace him, and be dubbed “The Middle Stooge”. Several movie ideas were considered, including one called “Blazing Stewardesses” according to Leonard Maltin, who also uncovered a pre-production photo. However, Moe passed on a few months later, and it was inconceivable that the Three Stooges continue without a Howard, although Curly Joe did do some live performances with a new group of Stooges in the early 1970s.
Del Lord directed more than thirty-seven of the “Three Stooges” movies. Jules White directed many others.
In Spring of 2000, a TV movie aired on ABC. This movie was based on Michael Fleming’s authorized biography on the Stooges: The Three Stooges: From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons.