Love 'em or hate 'em. Most children and men love The Three Stooges for
all the slapstick, violence and mayhem they created while most women
couldn't see anything to laugh at ("they are just so stupid"), though mind
you I know of two women who actually find them quite funny.
The original Three Stooges.
Pictured from the left: Moe, Curly, Larry.
The Three Stooges (actually four counting Shemp and six counting Joe
Besser who replaced Shemp and finally Joe DeRita who replaced Besser).
Harry (Moe), Sam (Shemp) and Jerome (Curly) Horwitz were all brothers.
Shemp was one of the first Three Stooges with Moe and Larry. Shemp
eventually dropped out of the act in 1932 to pursue a solo career and was
replaced by Curly. Larry Fine real name Louis Feinberg started out in
vaudeville playing a violin for a singing act "Hanley and Fine."
The Three Stooges began life not as The Three Stooges but as "stooges"
in an act with Ted Healy in vaudeville in 1925.
Ted named the act "Ted Healy and His Three Southern Gentlemen".
Ted was the straight man and Moe, Larry and Shemp were his "stooges".
Larry, Moe, Shemp and Ted Healy
Ted Healy already had a vaudeville act and Shemp was one of his stooges,
when the other two stooges decided to "go out on their own". Shemp
suggest his brother Moe and Larry Fine as replacements.
In 1930 they were offered a feature film appearance in "Soup To Nuts."
As a result of this the Three Stooges were offered a separate film contract
and decided to leave Ted Healy. Ted hired some new stooges and both
acts went their separate ways. As would have it Healy offered the stooges
back into his act and they accepted although Shemp didn't want to rejoin.
Shemp suggested to Ted to hire his other brother Jerome (Curly) but Ted
didn't think Jerome would "fit into the act". Shemp devised a scheme to
get Jerome into the act by shaving his head and running barefoot onto the
stage. This brought down tremendous laughter from the audience so Curly
was "born". Healy and his stooges went back into vaudeville in 1932.
Finally in 1934 the Three Stooges and Ted Healy decided to agree to go
their separate ways.
At this time Jules White had been put in charge of developing Columbia's
two-reel comedy department and he had known the Stooges from Healy's
act so he hired them. The two-reelers were churned out in three days and
ran for twenty minutes. These were shown in theatres prior to the main
film. Columbia paid the Three Stooges a yearly total salary of $60,000,
which was split between them and through all this they never received a
pay increase despite the fact they were with Columbia for nearly 25 years.
I had seen some of The Three Stooges two-reelers on Saturday matinees at
the local theatre, but it was not until the earlier 60's when The Three Stooges
began on TV that I became a dedicated fan. In 1962 I wrote away to America
to join The Three Stooges Fan Club. Above is the envelope I received along
with a certificate and Official Membership Card both shown below.
Altogether the Three Stooges starred in 190 two-reelers at Columbia Studio.
The first film was made in 1934 and the last in 1959. In 1956 Joe Besser
became the next stooge after Shemp had died. Then in 1958 Joe Besser
left the act and he was replaced with Joe DeRita. Harry Cohn who was
head of Columbia Pictures passed away in 1958 and the Three Stooges
were fired from Columbia as they were the only remaining act in the shorts
department where the two-reelers were made.
By the late 1950's the future seemed bleak for the Three Stooges, then
something happened to change everything which would make the Three
Stooges one of the hottest acts in show business.
STAY TUNED FOR PART II.