The Three Stooges: Pain Was Never So Funny!
'All Gummed Up' (directed by Jules White), 1947. Pictured are, from left, actors Larry Fine (1902 - 1975) and brothers Shemp (1895 - 1955) and Moe Howard (1897 - 1975). (Photo by Vintage Images/Getty Images)
The Three Stooges were definitely not a new act in the 1960s but they had their place there all the same. The wacky trio was a spinoff of a vaudeville comedy act that began back in the 1920s. The original act was billed as, “Ted Healy and His Stooges”. The act ran from 1922 to 1934 and was so well received that it soon took on a life of its own.
In 1934, The Stooges regrouped to set out on their own and that is when they first became known as The Three Stooges. The group was an instant success. The Stooges soon became so well known that they began being regularly seen on television as well as the big screen.
Over the years, the Stooges had their ups and downs, mainly with keeping character members. There were actually 6 Stooges in all (7 if you count “fake Shemp”); of course, only 3 at any given time. Health concerns and family issues were the major cause of the Stooges filtering in and out of the act. The original 3 that performed with Healy were Moe, Shemp and Larry. At one point, Shemp left the group to pursue his own solo comedy gig. Following is the lineup of the rest of their career:
• 1934 – 1946: Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard.
• 1946 – 1955: Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard. Shemp returned when Curly suffered a debilitating stroke. He agreed to step in to keep the act going but only wanted to commit temporary. Curly was never able to return and Shemp remained a Stooge until his unexpected death in 1955.
• 1956 – 1958: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, “fake Shemp” (Shemp was replaced temporarily by Joe Palma and was commonly referred to as “fake Shemp” when he stepped in after Howard died suddenly of a heart attack. Ultimately, Joe Besser was Shemp’s replacement during this time.
• 1958 – 1970: Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Joe (DeRita).
By 1970, the Stooges were slowing down and were more loosely gathered. They began working on some smaller projects and touring. In the process, Larry suffered a stroke, which ended his career. There was talk about replacing him for a movie project they had been working on but instead, the footage they already had was edited and released as somewhat of a last hurrah in 1973.
The Stooges specialized in short sitcom films with a focus on their own unique brand of slapstick comedy. They were well known for their over exaggerated and punishing physical antics. It was funny to watch them play off each other for the big laughs. Unfortunately for him, Curly usually got the worst of it!
At the height of their success, The Three Stooges were making films that became instant hits and eventually classics. They were ahead of their time poking fun at current social topics. This was especially true during the World War II era. They were able to creatively address the issues weighing so heavily on people’s minds with their crazy brand of comedy. It was a welcome distraction.
The Three Stooges' brand of comedy was deliberately absurd. Truth be told, most if not all of the skits would have been borderline life-threatening and illegal in the real world. Nevertheless, we laughed uncontrollably. There is just something so appealing about someone else "getting theirs”. They poked each other in the eyes and beat each other over the head. Nothing was off limits! And guess what? No disclaimer was necessary (don’t try this at home) … we were trusted to rely on common sense.
Tags: Movies In The 1950s | The 1950s | The Three Stooges
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