Friday, June 19, 2009

"Spread out!...Come Here!"

First of all, let's get some 3 stooges history/lineage straight. This will be covering trampled ground for some of you, but I'm always surprised when I meet someone who "loves the stooges" but doesn't really know basic Stooge breakdown. First there was Moe. In 1925, Vaudeville comic Ted Healy hired Harry Moses Horwitz (you know him as Moe Howard) to act as a stooge in his act. A foil to volley banter and comic bits with, a "stooge" is usually masquerading as an audience member who gets involved in the act.

Moe Howard

The act was progressing well for a time, then Ted decided they could use one more "stooge". Moe suggested his older brother Sam "Shemp" Howard and soon Ted, Moe and Shemp were a team. One night they were appearing on the bill with an act with a comic violinist, who they invited to join the team, and Andrew Louis Feinburg became Larry Fine and the comic science of 3 began. Very soon Shemp became tired of Ted's abusive behavior toward his (now called) 3 Southern Gentlemen (among other things) and broke away from the act. In the lurch needing a third "stooge", Moe suggested his baby brother Jerry Howard, who shaved his head to find a comic hairstyle to keep up with Moe's bowl cut and Larry's Jew-fro and Curly entered the picture.

Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Moe Howard

After making a slight foray into motion pictures from the vaudeville stage, Moe, Larry and Curly found that, they too found working with Healy wasn't something they wanted to continue so they broke away on their own. They soon signed a contract with Columbia Pictures and officially became "The Three Stooges" in 1934, and these are the beginnings of the shorts most of us can recite entire bits from.

Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Moe Howard

In 1946 after literally dozens of 2-reel comedies, Curly suffered a stroke which debilitated him physically and kept him from any more Stoogieness. Brother Shemp returned to the fold to keep the team going until Curly could get his moves back, but he was never able to. Shemp remained with the group until 1955, then one night while coming from a night out at a boxing match, Shemp suffered a fatal heart attack.

Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Moe Howard

Then came the dark ages. In 1957 Joe Besser became the third stooge and sissyfied and lameified and basically made the stooges boring. In 1959 their Columbia contract was cancelled and the stooges retired and went their separate ways. A few years later, after their films had been re-discovered by droves of baby boomers, The 3 Stooges reformed and made a series of feature length films, this time with Joe DeRita as stooge #3 under the name "Curly Joe".

Let's review: There were actually 6 stooges in the 3 stooges. Moe, Larry and Shemp; Moe, Larry and Curly; Moe Larry and Shemp; Moe, Larry and Joe; and Moe, Larry and Curly Joe were the line-ups. Sometime I'll lay out who Emil Sitka, Fred Sanborn, Mousie Garner and a few other unofficial stooges were and how they play into this magnificent opus, but believe it or don't, this isn't a post about The 3's all about...
Today would have been Moe's 112th birthday. Happy birthday to the "anchor" stooge and one who was there from the beginning in 1925 right up to the bitter end in 1970. Moe, You've been mortalized!
Oh, and happy birthday Dave. Hope Disneyland with your girls was great!

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