As far as the comedy institution in Hollywood is concerned, the Three Stooges have earned their place as probably the most influential group. The comedy team was active for five decades running from the 1920s to the early 1970s, although its real fame was mostly in the 1940s and 1950s. Popular for its many short films, the group somehow eluded the fame it really deserved. Learn more about the comedy troupe below.
History of The Three Stooges
As stated, the Three Stooges became known from the 1920s until the 1970s as a comedy team that released hundreds of videos of diverse themes. When it first began in the 1920s, it was known as Ted Healy and His Stooges. At the time, it consisted of Moe Howard and Healy.
The group would continue to evolve until 1934 when Healy left and then the act became known as the Three Stooges. The act had signed contracts with MGM and Columbia Pictures at various points, but it was under Columbia that it came to be very popular. That said, it was believed that though the Three Stooges helped Columbia thrive, they were short-changed and never got any pay rise.
They became very popular in 1940 to a point that the act was deemed a threat by Adolf Hitler who had them on his personal death list after their You Nazsty Spy! two-reeler.
Meet The Men Behind The Three Stooges
Because of the name of the group, it is easy for one to believe that it had only three members, but it actually had six members – although there were only three stooges at a particular time. The names of the Three Stooges are Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine who are considered as the main cast. Others who are less known are Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita.
Born Moses Harry Horwitz in 1897, Moe was the leader of the comedy group and he was the older brother of Curly Howard and the younger brother of Shemp Howard all of whom later became a part of the group.
Curly Howard was born in 1903 as Jerome Lester Horwitz. Although he was also important as a member of the Three Stooges, he was not a member of the act for a very long time as he was forced off in 1946 following a massive stroke that brought his showbiz career to an end.
Louis Feinberg, better known as Larry Fine, was born in 1902. Also a violinist and a boxer, the comedian joined the two Howard brothers to form the Three Stooges.
Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz) was born in 1895. With his own career as an actor and comedian, he became a member of the act to fill in for his brother who had suffered a stroke. Although he never wanted to join at first, he realized that unless he did, the career of Moe and Larry might be on the line and so he decided to fill in temporarily until Curly got better, but he never did.
The final two members are Joe Besser, who was born in 1907, and then Joe DeRita who was born Joseph Wardell in 1909. DeRita was the last surviving member of the act until his death in 1993.
The Later Life of The Three Stooges
Following their successful careers that spanned decades, the Three Stooges have left a lasting legacy. The first member to die was Curly Howard who died at the age of 48 in 1952. A few years before then, he suffered a massive stroke and other health challenges before further suffering more strokes that would later lead to his death.
1975 was a bad year for the comedy troupe as the year saw the death of Larry Fine who died in January only to be followed by Moe Howard three months later. In January 1970 Larry suffered a stroke that took him out of showbiz. He later suffered some more strokes before he died on January 24, 1975, at the age of 72. On the other hand, Moe died on May 4, the same year as Fine at the age of 77 from lung cancer.
Unfortunately, the next member of the group to lose his life was Shemp Howard who joined the Three Stooges as a replacement for his brother, Curly. He died at the age of 60 on November 22, 1955, from a sudden massive heart attack just moments after telling jokes.
On his part, Joe Besser outlived most of the Three Stooges as he died at the age of 80 on March 1, 1988. Finally, Joe DeRita was the only member of the act to make it into the 1990s; he died on July 3, 1993, at the age of 83 from pneumonia.