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The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges, circa 1938:
Moe Howard, Curly Howard and Larry Fine
Medium vaudeville, film, television
Nationality American
Years active 1925–1970
Genres slapstick, musical comedy
Former members Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Joe DeRita

The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century (1930–1975) best known for their numerous short subject films, still syndicated to television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick. In films, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names: "Moe, Larry, and Curly" or "Moe, Larry, and Shemp", among other lineups depending on the films; there were six active stooges, five of which performed in the shorts. Moe and Larry were always present until the very last years of the ensemble's forty-plus-year run.

The act began as part of a late-twenties vaudeville comedy act, billed as Ted Healy and his Stooges, consisting of Healy, Moe Howard, his brother Shemp Howard, and Larry Fine. The four made one feature film entitled Soup to Nuts before Shemp left to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by his younger brother Jerome (Curly Howard), and the trio eventually left Healy to launch their own act, billed as The Three Stooges.

Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946, and Shemp returned, reinstating the original lineup until Shemp's death in November 1955. Film actor Joe Palma was used as a temporary stand-in; the maneuver thereafter became known as the term of art Fake Shemp—to complete four Shemp-era shorts under contract. The coining of the term took place before a new contract from Columbia but after comic Joe Besser joined as the third Stooge in a run in '56–57—but he left in 1958 to nurse his ailing spouse. Columbia terminated its shorts division and released its Stooges contractual rights to the Screen Gems production studio. When Screen Gems syndicated the shorts to television, the Stooges became stars. They also made a cameo appearance in the 1963 comedy classic It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Comic actor Joe DeRita became "Curly Joe" in 1958, replacing Besser. With the television exposure, the act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kiddie fare until Larry Fine's paralyzing stroke in January 1970. Fine died in 1975 after a further series of strokes. Moe tried one final time to revive the Stooges with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka in Larry's role, the proposed lineup sometimes referred to as The Three Stooges, Mark V, but this attempt was cut short with Moe's death in May 1975.


  • History 1
    • Ted Healy and his Stooges 1.1
    • The Columbia years 1.2
      • Moe, Larry and Curly 1.2.1
      • Shemp's return 1.2.2
      • Joe Besser takes Shemp's place 1.2.3
    • Comeback: Moe, Larry and Curly Joe 1.3
    • Last years 1.4
  • Legacy and perspective 2
  • Lineups on film 3
  • Shorts 4
  • C3 Entertainment, Inc. 5
  • Television 6
  • Home video 7
    • The Three Stooges Collection 7.1
  • Music 8
  • Feature motion pictures 9
  • Museum 10
  • In other media 11
    • Comic books 11.1
    • Music 11.2
    • Radio 11.3
    • Sports 11.4
    • Television 11.5
      • 2000 television film 11.5.1
    • Feature film revival 11.6
    • Video games 11.7
    • VCR game 11.8
  • In foreign languages 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16


Ted Healy and his Stooges

The Three Stooges started in 1925 as part of a raucous vaudeville act called "Ted Healy and His Stooges" (also known as "Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen", "Ted Healy and His Three Lost Souls", and "Ted Healy and His Racketeers"). The moniker "Three Stooges" was never used during their tenure with Healy. Moe (Moses Harry Horwitz) joined Healy's act in 1921, and his brother Shemp came aboard in 1923.[1] In 1925 violinist-comedian Larry Fine and xylophonist-comedian Fred Sanborn, also joined the group.[2] In the act, lead comedian Healy would attempt to sing or tell jokes while his noisy assistants would keep "interrupting" him, causing Healy to retaliate with verbal and physical abuse.

The original Three Stooges in their film debut, Soup to Nuts. Shemp Howard (far left) was the original third Stooge before his youngest brother Curly Howard assumed the role.

In 1930, Ted Healy and His Stooges (including Sanborn) appeared in their first Hollywood feature film, Soup to Nuts, released by Fox Film Corporation. The film was not a critical success, but the Stooges' performances were singled out as memorable, leading Fox to offer the trio a contract minus Healy.[2] This enraged Healy, who told studio executives that the Stooges were his employees. The offer was withdrawn, and after Howard, Fine and Howard learned of the reason, they left Healy to form their own act, which quickly took off with a tour of the theater circuit.[2] Healy attempted to stop the new act with legal action, claiming they were using his copyrighted material. There are accounts of Healy threatening to bomb theaters if Howard, Fine and Howard ever performed there, which worried Shemp so much that he almost left the act; reportedly, only a pay raise kept him on board.[3] Healy tried to save his act by hiring replacement stooges, but they were inexperienced and not as well-received as their predecessors.[3] In 1932, with Moe now acting as business manager, Healy reached a new agreement with his former Stooges, and they were booked in a production of Jacob J. Shubert's The Passing Show of 1932.[2] During rehearsals, Healy received a more lucrative offer and found a loophole in his contract allowing him to leave the production.[3] Shemp, fed up with Healy's abrasiveness,[3] decided to quit the act and found work almost immediately, in Vitaphone movie comedies produced in Brooklyn, New York.[2]

With Shemp gone, Healy and the two remaining stooges (Moe and Larry) needed a replacement, so Moe suggested his younger brother Jerry Howard. Healy reportedly took one look at Jerry, who had long chestnut red locks and a handlebar mustache, and remarked that he did not look like he was funny.[3] Jerry left the room and returned a few moments later with his head shaved (though his mustache remained for a time), and then quipped "Boy, do I look girly." Healy heard "Curly", and the name stuck.[2] (There are varying accounts as to how the Curly character actually came about.[2])

In 1933, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) signed Healy and his Stooges to a movie contract. They appeared in feature films and short subjects, either together, individually, or with various combinations of actors. The trio was featured in a series of musical comedy shorts, beginning with Nertsery Rhymes. The short was one of a few shorts to be made with an early two-strip Technicolor process, including one featuring Curly without Healy or the other Stooges, Roast Beef and Movies (1934). The shorts themselves were built around recycled film footage of production numbers cut from MGM musicals, such as Children of Pleasure, Lord Byron of Broadway, and the unfinished March of Time (all 1930), which had been filmed in early Technicolor. Soon, additional shorts followed (sans the experimental Technicolor), including Beer and Pretzels (1933), Plane Nuts (1933), Jail Birds of Paradise (1934) and The Big Idea (1934).[2]

Healy and company also appeared in several MGM feature films as comic relief, such as Turn Back the Clock (1933), Meet the Baron (1933), Dancing Lady (1933), Fugitive Lovers (1934), and Hollywood Party (1934). Healy and the Stooges also appeared together in Myrt and Marge for Universal Pictures.[2]

In 1934, the team's contract with MGM expired, and the Stooges parted professional company with Healy. According to Moe Howard's autobiography,[4] the Stooges split with Ted Healy in 1934 once and for all because of Healy's alcoholism and abrasiveness. Their final film with Healy was MGM's 1934 film, Hollywood Party. Both Healy and the Stooges went on to separate successes, with Healy dying under mysterious circumstances in 1937.[2]

The Columbia years

Moe, Larry and Curly

Curly, Larry and Moe

In 1934, the trio – now officially named "The Three Stooges" – signed on to appear in two-reel comedy short subjects for Columbia Pictures. In Moe's autobiography, he said they each got $600 per week on a one-year contract with a renewable option;[4] in the Ted Okuda–Edward Watz book The Columbia Comedy Shorts, the Stooges are said to have received $1,000 among them for their first Columbia effort, Woman Haters, and then signed a term contract for $7,500 per film (equal to $132,220 today), to be divided among the trio.[5]

Within their first year at Columbia, the Stooges became wildly popular. Realizing this, Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn used the Stooges as leverage, as the demand for their films was so great that he eventually refused to supply exhibitors with the trio's shorts unless they also agreed to book some of the studio's mediocre B movies.[5] Cohn also saw to it that the Stooges remained ignorant of their popularity.[5] During their 23 years at Columbia, the Stooges were never completely aware of their amazing drawing power at the box office.[5] As their contracts with the studio included an open option that had to be renewed yearly, Cohn would tell the boys that the short subjects were in decline, which was not a complete fabrication (Cohn's yearly mantra was "the market for comedy shorts is dying out, fellas"). Thinking their days were numbered, the Stooges would cruelly sweat it out each and every year, with Cohn renewing their contract at the eleventh hour. This deception kept the insecure Stooges unaware of their true value, resulting in them having second thoughts about asking for a better contract without a yearly option. Cohn's scare tactics worked for all 23 years the Stooges were at Columbia; the team never once asked for – nor were they ever given – a salary increase.[5] It was not until after they stopped making the shorts in December 1957 did Moe learn of Cohn's underhanded tactics, what a valuable commodity the Stooges had been for the ailing studio, and how many millions more the act could have earned.[5] While Columbia offered theater owners an entire program of two-reel comedies (15 to 25 titles annually) featuring such stars as Buster Keaton, Andy Clyde, Charley Chase, and Hugh Herbert, the Stooge shorts were the most popular of all.[3]

Larry, Moe and Curly in Disorder in the Court (1936).

The Stooges were required to release up to eight short films per year within a 40-week period; for the remaining 12 or so weeks, they were free to pursue other employment, time which was either spent with their families or touring the country to promote their live act.[6] The Stooges appeared in 190 film shorts and five features while at Columbia, outlasting every one of their contemporaries employed in the short film genre. Del Lord directed more than three dozen Stooge films; Jules White directed dozens more, and his brother Jack White directed several under the pseudonym "Preston Black". Silent film star Charley Chase also shared directorial responsibilities with Lord and White.[5]

The Stooge films made between 1935 and 1941 captured the team at the peak, according to film historians Ted Okuda and Edward Watz, authors of The Columbia Comedy Shorts. Nearly every film produced became a classic in its own right. 1935's Hoi Polloi adapted the premise of Pygmalion, with a stuffy professor waging a bet that he can transform the uncultured trio into refined gentlemen; the plotline worked so well that it was reused twice, as Half-Wits Holiday and Pies and Guys. Three Little Beers featured the team employed at a brewery who then run amuck on a local golf course to win prize money. 1936's Disorder in the Court features the team as star witnesses in a murder trial. 1938's Violent is the Word for Curly was a quality Chase-directed short that featured the musical interlude, "Swingin' the Alphabet". In the 1940 film A Plumbing We Will Go – one of the team's quintessential comedies – the Stooges are cast as plumbers who nearly destroy a socialite's mansion, causing water to exit every appliance in the home.[5] Other entries of the era, like Uncivil Warriors, A Pain in the Pullman, False Alarms, Grips, Grunts and Groans, The Sitter Downers, Dizzy Doctors, Tassels in the Air, We Want Our Mummy, Nutty but Nice, An Ache in Every Stake and In the Sweet Pie and Pie are considered among the team's finest work.[5]

The Stooges during their prime years with Curly Howard on board, as seen in 1938's Wee Wee Monsieur.

With the onset of World War II, the Stooges released several entries that poked fun at the rising Axis powers. You Nazty Spy! and its sequel I'll Never Heil Again burlesqued Hitler and the Nazis at a time when America was still neutral and resolutely isolationist. Moe is cast as "Moe Hailstone", an Adolf Hitler-like character, with Curly playing a Hermann Göring character (replete with medals), and Larry a Ribbentrop-type ambassador. Though revered by Stooge fans, as well as the Stooges themselves (Moe, Larry and director Jules White considered You Nazty Spy! their best film),[7] the efforts indulged in a deliberately formless, non-sequitur style of verbal humor that was not the Stooges' forte, according to Okuda and Watz.

Other wartime entries, like They Stooge to Conga, Higher Than a Kite, Back From the Front, Gents Without Cents and the controversial The Yoke's on Me have their moments, but taken in bulk, the wartime films are decidedly substandard.[5] No Dough Boys ranks as the best of these farces. The team, made up as Japanese soldiers for a photo shoot, is mistaken for genuine saboteurs by a Nazi ringleader (Vernon Dent). The highlight of the film features the Stooges engaging in nonsensical gymnastics (the real spies are renowned acrobats) for a skeptical group of enemy agents.[5]

The World War II era also brought on rising production costs that resulted in a reduced number of elaborate gags and outdoor sequences, Del Lord's stock and trade; as such, the quality of the teams' films (particularly those directed by Lord) began to slip after 1942. According to Okuda and Watz, entries like Loco Boy Makes Good, What's the Matador?, Sock-A-Bye Baby, I Can Hardly Wait and A Gem of a Jam are considered to be less quality work than previous efforts, and in a different class than their earlier films.[5] The 1943 film Spook Louder, a remake of Mack Sennett's The Great Pie Mystery, is often cited as their worst film. The story of a phantom pie-thrower (later revealed to be the detective on the case) is repetitious and relying on the same jokes, which many Stooge fans consider to be far less humorous than their past work.[5] Three Smart Saps, a film considered to be an improvement, features a reworking of a routine from Harold Lloyd's The Freshman, in which Curly's loosely basted suit begins to come apart at the seams while he is on the dance floor.[5]

The Stooges made occasional guest appearances in feature films, though generally they were restricted to their short subjects. Even though most of the Stooges' peers had either made the transition from shorts to features films (Laurel and Hardy, The Ritz Brothers) or had been starring their own feature films from the onset (The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello), Moe believed the team's firebrand style of humor worked better in short form. In 1935, when Columbia proposed to star them in their own full-length feature, Moe rejected the idea, saying "It's a hard job inventing, rewriting or stealing gags for our two-reel comedies for Columbia Pictures without having to make a seven-reeler (feature film). We can make short films out of material needed for a starring feature and then we wouldn't know whether it would be funny enough to click."[8]

Film critics and stooge fans alike have cited Curly as the most popular member of the team.[3] His childlike mannerisms and natural comedic charm (he had no previous acting experience) made him a hit with audiences, particularly children and women (the latter usually finding the trio's humor juvenile and uncouth). The fact that Curly had to shave his head for the act led him to feel unappealing to women. To mask his insecurities, he ate and drank to excess and caroused whenever the Stooges made personal appearances, which was approximately seven months out of the year. His weight ballooned in the 1940s, and his blood pressure became dangerously high.[2] His wild lifestyle and constant drinking eventually caught up with him in 1945, and his performances suffered. In his last dozen shorts (ranging from 1945's If a Body Meets a Body through 1947's Half-Wits Holiday) he was seriously ill, struggling to get through even the most basic scenes.[3]

During the final day of filming Half-Wits Holiday on May 6, 1946, he suffered a debilitating stroke on the set, ending his 14-year career and temporarily forcing the Stooges into retirement. While they hoped for a full recovery, Curly never appeared in a film again except for a single cameo appearance in the third film after Shemp returned to the trio, Hold That Lion! It was the only film that contained all four of the original Stooges (the three Howard brothers and Larry) on screen simultaneously. According to Jules White, this anomaly came about when Curly visited the set one day, and White had him do this bit for fun. (Curly's cameo appearance was recycled in the 1953 remake Booty and the Beast.)[4] In 1948, Curly was supposed to play a cameo role in Malice in the Palace, but beyond posing in costume for a lobby card photo, there is no evidence of his contribution; it appears he was healthy enough to do the short scene. His Chef role was not to be so the scene carried through with Larry as Chef and Waiter.[2] The movie itself came out about one year later.

Shemp's return

Moe then asked his older brother Shemp to take Curly's place but Shemp was hesitant to rejoin the Stooges, as he was enjoying a successful solo career at the time of Curly's stroke. He realized, however, that not reviving the Stooges would mean the end of Moe's and Larry's film careers. Shemp wanted some kind of assurance that rejoining them would be only temporary, and that he could leave the Stooges once Curly recovered. But Curly remained gravely ill until his death of a cerebral hemorrhage from additional strokes on January 18, 1952.[2]

Shemp appeared with the Stooges in 76 shorts and a low-budget Out West, Squareheads of the Round Table, and Punchy Cowpunchers proved that there was life after Curly, and that Shemp could easily hold his own. This was due in part to the presence of new director Edward Bernds, who joined the team in 1945 when Curly was failing. Bernds sensed that routines and plotlines that worked well with Curly as the comic focus did not fit Shemp's persona, and decidedly allowed the comedian to develop his own Stooge characterization. Jules White, however, persisted in employing the "living cartoon" style of comedy that reigned during the Curly era. White would force either Shemp or Moe to perform similar gags and mannerisms originated by Curly, resulting in what appeared to be lackluster imitation.[9] Most acutely, it created the "Curly vs. Shemp" debate that overshadowed the act upon the former's departure[10][11][12]). Though the Stooges lost some of their charm and inherent appeal to children after Curly retired, some of the finest films were produced with Shemp, a gifted, professional and naturally funny comedian who often performed best when allowed to improvise on his own.[9] More often than not, his astute gift of comedic timing buoys weak material.[5]

Unlike the Curly era, the films from the Shemp era contrast sharply, due to the individual directing styles of Bernds and White. The incongruous, noisy cartoonish nonesense of White's films were no match for the structured plotlines and contextual gags that laced the Bernds efforts.[9] From 1947 to 1952, Bernds hit a string of successes, including Fright Night, The Hot Scots, Mummy's Dummies, Crime on Their Hands, A Snitch in Time, Three Arabian Nuts and Gents in a Jam. Two of the teams finest efforts, Brideless Groom and Who Done It?, were directed by Bernds. White also contributed a few par entries, such as Hold That Lion!, Hokus Pokus, Scrambled Brains, A Missed Fortune and Corny Casanovas.

Another interesting plus from the Shemp era was that Larry was given more time on screen. Throughout most of the Curly era, Larry was relegated to a background role, only being called upon to break up a potential scuffle between Moe and Curly. By the time Shemp rejoined the Stooges, Larry was allotted equal footage, even becoming the focus of several films (Fuelin' Around, He Cooked His Goose).[5]

The Shemp years also marked a major milestone: the Stooges' first appearance on television. In 1948, they guest starred on Milton Berle's popular Texaco Star Theater and Morey Amsterdam's The Morey Amsterdam Show. By 1949, the team filmed a pilot for ABC-TV for their own weekly television series, titled Jerks of All Trades. Though it never sold, their slapstick humor was in great demand on television programs looking to fill air space. The team went on to appear on Camel Comedy Caravan (also known as The Ed Wynn Show), The Kate Smith Hour, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Frank Sinatra Show and The Eddie Cantor Comedy Theatre, among others.[8]

The Three Stooges during the Shemp years (1947–1956), as represented in Malice in the Palace

In 1952, however, the Stooges lost some key players at Columbia. The studio decided to downsize its short subject division, resulting in producer Hugh McCollum being discharged and director Edward Bernds resigning out of loyalty to McCollum. Bernds had been contemplating his resignation for some time, as he and Jules White were often at odds. Screenwriter Elwood Ullman followed suit, leaving only White to both produce and direct the Stooges' remaining Columbia comedies.[8] Almost overnight, the quality of the Stooge shorts declined with White now assuming complete control over Stooge films. Production was significantly faster, with the former four-day filming schedules now tightened to two or three days. In another cost-cutting measure, White would create a "new" Stooge short by borrowing footage from old ones, setting it in a slightly different storyline, and filming a few new scenes often with the same actors in the same costumes. White was initially very subtle when recycling older footage: he would reuse only a single sequence of old film, re-edited so cleverly that it was not easy to detect. The later shorts were cheaper and the recycling more obvious, with as much as 75% of the running time consisting of old footage. White came to rely so much on older material that he could film the "new" shorts in a single day. Plus, any new footage filmed in order to link older material suffered from White's wooden directing and his penchant for telling his actors how to act. Shemp in particular disliked working with White.[5]

Three years after Curly's death, Shemp died of a sudden heart attack at age 60 on November 22, 1955 during a taxi ride with a friend (who thought he was just playing dead at first). Recycled footage of Shemp, combined with new footage utilizing Columbia supporting player Joe Palma as Shemp's double (only filmed from the back), were used to complete the last four films originally planned with Shemp: Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers, and Commotion on the Ocean.[2]

Joe Besser takes Shemp's place

Joe Besser replaced Shemp in 1956, appearing in 16 Stooges shorts. Besser had earlier starred in his own short-subject comedies for Columbia from 1949 to 1956 and appeared in supporting roles in a variety of movies, making his persona sufficiently well known that he was frequently caricatured in Looney Tunes animated shorts of the era before joining the Stooges. Besser, noting how one side of Larry Fine's face appeared "calloused",[13] had a clause in his contract specifically prohibiting him from being smacked beyond an infrequent tap (though this restriction was later lifted). Besser was the only "third" Stooge that dared to hit Moe back in retaliation and get away with it; Larry Fine was also known to hit Moe on occasion, but always with serious repercussions. "I usually played the kind of character who would hit others back", Besser recalled.[9]
Larry and Joe Besser, as "The Original Two-Man Quartet", serenade Moe in the 1957 short Guns a Poppin

Despite Besser's prolific film and stage career, his Stooge entries have been sometimes tagged as the trio's weak link.[5] During his time with the act, the team's shorts were being assailed for being questionable models for youth, and in response began to resemble family-based TV sitcoms which were now ho-hum, routine fare.[8] Sitcoms, now available for free on the new and popular medium of television, made shorts a throwback to a bygone era.

Though Besser was a very funny comic (he was very popular, especially as spoiled-brat "Stinky", on The Abbott and Costello Show and as a hyper fix-it man on Joey Bishop Show), his whining mannerisms ("Not so ha-r-r-d!", "You're m-e-a-n!") did not quite jell with the eye-gouging, hand-biting, belly-punching Stooge antics of the past,[5] though it did create the verbal friction between Moe and Larry that succeeded in making put-down banter.[8] Times had changed, and Besser was not solely to blame for the lackluster quality of these final entries: the scripts were tired rehashes of earlier efforts (seven of the 16 films were edited remakes), the budgets were much lower than they had been, and Moe's and Larry's performances were deemed anemic. They were growing older, and could no longer perform pratfalls and physical comedy as they once had.[5] Since the team members were getting on in years, Besser suggested that Moe and Larry comb their hair back and discard their trademark hairstyles to give them a more gentlemanly appearance. Surprisingly, Moe and Jules White approved of the idea, but used it sparingly in order to match the old footage in films that were remakes.[8]

Despite their longstanding reputation, the final Stooge shorts did have their moments. In general, the remakes had the traditional Stooges knockabout look and feel, like Pies and Guys (a scene-for-scene remake of both Hoi Polloi and Half-Wits Holiday), Guns a Poppin, Rusty Romeos and Triple Crossed.[8] In contrast, Hoofs and Goofs, Horsing Around and Muscle Up a Little Closer and most resembled the sitcoms of the era. A Merry Mix Up and Oil's Well That Ends Well are also amusing, while the musical Sweet and Hot (long detested by fans) deserves some credit for straying from the norm. The space craze also took hold of the American public at the time, resulting in three entries focusing on space travel: Space Ship Sappy, Outer Space Jitters and Flying Saucer Daffy.[5]

The inevitable occurred soon enough. Columbia was the last studio still producing shorts, and the market for such films had all but dried up. As a result, the studio opted not to renew the Stooges' contract when it expired in late December 1957. The final comedy produced was Flying Saucer Daffy, filmed on December 19–20, 1957.[6] Several days later, the Stooges were unceremoniously fired from Columbia Pictures after 24 years of making low-budget shorts. Joan Howard Maurer, Moe's daughter, wrote the following in 1982:

The boys' careers had suddenly come to an end. They were at Columbia one day and gone the next – no "Thank yous," no farewell party for their 24 years of dedication and service and the dollars their comedies had reaped for the studio. Moe recalled that a few weeks after their exit from Columbia, when he drove to the studio to say goodbye to several studio executives, he was stopped by a guard at the gate (obviously not a Stooges fan) and since he didn't have the current year's studio pass was refused entry. It felt like a crushing blow to him, however temporary.[2]

Although the Stooges were no longer working for Columbia, the studio had enough completed films on the shelf to keep releasing new comedies for another 18 months, though not in the order in which they were produced. The final Stooge release, Sappy Bull Fighters, did not reach theaters until June 4, 1959. With no active contract in place, Moe and Larry discussed plans for a personal appearance tour. In the meantime, Besser's wife suffered a minor heart attack and he preferred to stay local, leading him to withdraw from the act. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Stooges were at a dead end.[2]

Comeback: Moe, Larry and Curly Joe

Seeing the success of how television, in its early years, allowed movie studios to unload a backlog of short films thought unmarketable, the Stooge films seemed perfect for the burgeoning genre. ABC had even expressed interest as far back as 1949, purchasing exclusive rights to 30 of the trio's shorts.[14] However, the success of television revivals for such names as Laurel and Hardy, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry and the Our Gang series in the late 1950s led Columbia to cash in again on the Stooges. In January 1958, Columbia's television subsidiary Screen Gems offered a package consisting of 78 Stooge shorts (mainly from the Curly era), which were well received.[15] Almost immediately, an additional 40 shorts hit the market, and by 1959, all 190 Stooge shorts were airing regularly. Due to the massive quantity of Stooge product available for broadcast, the films were broadcast Monday through Friday, leading to heavy exposure aimed squarely at children. This led parents to watch alongside of their offspring, and before long, Howard and Fine found themselves in high demand.[5] Moe quickly signed movie and burlesque comic Joe DeRita, who had starred in four of his own slapstick comedy Columbia shorts a decade earlier: Slappily Married (1946), The Good Bad Egg (1947), Wedlock Deadlock (1947), and Jitter Bughouse (1948), for the "third Stooge" role. DeRita, whose hairstyle while working solo had vaguely resembled Shemp's, adopted first a crew cut and then a completely shaven hairstyle to accentuate his slight resemblance to Curly Howard and became "Curly Joe" (also to make it easier to distinguish him from Joe Besser, the earlier Stooge called Joe).
The Three Stooges with Curly Joe DeRita filling the role of the third stooge. From the 1961 feature film Snow White and the Three Stooges.

This Three Stooges lineup went on to make six popular full-length Stooges movies from 1959 to 1965: Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959), Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961), The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962), The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze (1963), and The Outlaws Is Coming (1965). The films were aimed at the kiddie-matinee market, and most were black and white farce outings in the Stooge tradition, with the exception of Snow White and the Three Stooges, a children's fantasy in Technicolor. They also appeared in an extremely brief cameo as firemen (the role that helped make an earlier Stooges lineup famous in Soup to Nuts) in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963, and in a larger capacity that same year in 4 for Texas starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Throughout the 1960s, The Three Stooges were one of the most popular and highest-paid live acts in America.[9]

The Stooges also tried their hand at another weekly television series in 1960 titled The Three Stooges Scrapbook. Filmed in color and with a laugh track, the first episode, "Home Cooking", featured the boys rehearsing for a new television show. Like Jerks of All Trades, the pilot did not sell. However, Norman Maurer was able to reuse the footage (reprocessed in black and white) for the first 20 minutes of the feature film The Three Stooges in Orbit.[2]

The trio also filmed 41 short comedy skits for The New Three Stooges, which features a series of 156 animated cartoons produced for television. The Stooges appeared in live-action color footage, which preceded and followed each animated adventure in which they voiced their respective characters.[2]

Last years

In 1969, the Stooges filmed a pilot episode for a new TV series entitled Kook's Tour, a combination travelogue-sitcom that had the "retired" Stooges traveling around the world, with the episodes filmed on location.[2]

On January 9, 1970, during production of the pilot, Larry suffered a paralyzing stroke, ending his acting career along with plans for the television series.[2]

Plans were in the works for long-time foil Emil Sitka to replace Larry as the "middle Stooge" in 1971, but nothing ever came of that idea other than the proposed publicity still reproduced here.[2] Three years later, in mid-December 1974, Larry suffered yet another stroke at the age of 72 and four weeks later an even more massive one. Slipping into a coma, he died a week later of a stroke-induced cerebral hemorrhage on January 24, 1975.[2]

Devastated by his friend's death, Moe nevertheless decided that the Three Stooges should continue. Several movie ideas were considered, one of which, according to critic and movie historian Leonard Maltin (who also uncovered a pre-production photo), was entitled Blazing Stewardesses. Before pre-production could begin, Moe fell ill from lung cancer, and died three months later on May 4, 1975.[4] However, Blazing Stewardesses was eventually made, starring the last of the surviving Ritz Brothers comedy troupe and released to moderate acclaim later that year.[2]

Joe DeRita continued to perform live into the mid-1970s with Mousie Garner and Frank Mitchell as "The New Three Stooges", enjoying recognition well into old age, before retiring by 1979.

Of the remaining "original-replacement" Stooges, Joe Besser died of heart failure on March 1, 1988, followed by Joe DeRita of pneumonia on July 3, 1993. Emil Sitka, who was announced as a Stooge but never performed as such, died on January 16, 1998.

Legacy and perspective

Over half a century since their last short film was released, the Three Stooges remain wildly popular with audiences. Their films have never left the television airwaves since first appearing in 1958, and they continue to delight old fans while attracting new legions of fervent admirers. A hard-working group of working-class comedians who were never the critics' darlings, the durable act endured several personnel changes in their careers which would have permanently sidelined a less-persistent act.[5] The Stooges would not have lasted as long as they did as a unit without Moe Howard's guiding hand.[2]

The Ted Okuda/Edward Watz-penned book The Columbia Comedy Shorts puts the Stooges' legacy in critical perspective:

Many scholarly studies of motion picture comedy have overlooked the Three Stooges entirely – and not without valid reasoning. Aesthetically, the Stooges violated every rule that constitutes "good" comedic style. Their characters lacked the emotional depth of Charlie Chaplin and Harry Langdon; they were never as witty or subtle as Buster Keaton. They were not disciplined enough to sustain lengthy comic sequences; far too often, they were willing to suspend what little narrative structure their pictures possessed in order to insert a number of gratuitous jokes. Nearly every premise they have employed (spoofs of westerns, horror films, costume melodramas) has been done to better effect by other comedians. And yet, in spite of the overwhelming artistic odds against them, they were responsible for some of the finest comedies ever made. Their humor was the most undistilled form of low comedy; they were not great innovators, but as quick laugh practitioners, they place second to none. If public taste is any criterion, the Stooges have been the reigning kings of comedy for over fifty years.[5]

Beginning in the 1980s, the Stooges finally began to receive critical recognition. The release of nearly all their films on DVD by 2010 has allowed critics of Joe Besser and Joe DeRita – often the recipients of significant fan backlash – to appreciate the unique style of comedy both men brought to the Stooges. In addition, the DVD market in particular has allowed fans to view the entire Stooge film corpus as distinct periods in their long, distinguished career instead of comparing one Stooge to the other (the Curly vs. Shemp debate continues to this day[10][11][12]).

The team appeared in 220 films. In the end, it is the durability of the 190 timeless short films the Stooges made at Columbia Pictures that acts as an enduring tribute to the comedy team. Their continued popularity worldwide has proven to even the most skeptical critics that their films are funny.[5] American television personality Steve Allen went on record in the mid-1980s saying "though they never achieved widespread critical acclaim, they achieved exactly what they had always intended to do: they made people laugh."[16]

Lineups on film

Years Moe Shemp Larry Curly Joe Curly-Joe
1930–1932 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
1932–1946 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
1946–1955 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
1956–1957 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
1958–1969 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY

Moe Howard
Real Name: Moses Harry Horwitz
Born: (1897-06-19)June 19, 1897
Died: May 4, 1975(1975-05-04) (aged 77)
Cause of death: Lung cancer
Stooge years: 1921–1969

Shemp Howard
Real Name: Samuel Horwitz
Born: (1895-03-11)March 11, 1895
Died: November 22, 1955(1955-11-22) (aged 60)
Cause of death: Heart attack
Stooge years: 1923–1932, 1946–1955

Larry Fine
Real Name: Louis Feinberg
Born: (1902-10-05)October 5, 1902
Died: January 24, 1975(1975-01-24) (aged 72)
Cause of death: Stroke
Stooge years: 1925–1969

Curly Howard
Real Name: Jerome Lester Horwitz
Born: (1903-10-22)October 22, 1903
Died: January 18, 1952(1952-01-18) (aged 48)
Cause of death: Cerebral hemorrhage
Stooge years: 1932–1946

Joe Besser
Born: (1907-08-12)August 12, 1907
Died: March 1, 1988(1988-03-01) (aged 80)
Cause of death: Heart failure
Stooge years: 1956–1957

Joe DeRita ("Curly Joe")
Real Name: Joseph Wardell
Born: (1909-07-12)July 12, 1909
Died: July 3, 1993(1993-07-03) (aged 83)
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Stooge years: 1958–1969


The Three Stooges appeared in 220 films throughout their career. Of those 220, 190 short films were made for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959, for which the trio are best known. Their contract was extended each year from 1934 until the final one expired on December 31, 1957. The last 8 of the 16 shorts with Joe Besser were released soon afterward.

C3 Entertainment, Inc.

Throughout their career, Moe acted as both their main creative force and business manager. Comedy III (C3) was formed by Moe, Larry and Joe DeRita in 1959 to manage all business and merchandise transactions for the team. C3 was basically in the background, with Moe's son-in-law Norman Maurer managing the comedy teams' film interests under Normandy Productions, and merchandising affairs under Norman Maurer Productions (NMP). Norman Maurer died of cancer in 1986.

In 1994, the heirs of Larry Fine and Joe DeRita filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Moe's family, particularly Joan Howard Maurer and her son Jeffrey, who had inherited the NMP/Normandy business. The lawsuit alleged that the Howards had cheated the DeRita and Fine families out of their share of royalties. Howard was ordered to pay $2.6 million in damages; $1.6 million was for compensatory damages to Jean DeRita, while the remaining $1 million was divided between four of Fine's grandchildren. The Fine and DeRita families were represented by California attorney Bela G. Lugosi. Jr.[17]

The resulting 1994 lawsuit led to the reestablishment of C3 as a three-way interest of Fine/[Moe]Howard/DeRita. The DeRita heirs received the proxy to the Howard share, giving them majority control on the company's management. Joe DeRita's stepsons, Robert and Earl Benjamin, became the senior management of C3, with Lugosi, Jr. serving as an executive board member for several years. The Benjamins later incorporated the company, and C3 is currently the owner of all Three Stooges trademarks and merchandising. Larry's grandson Eric Lamond is the representative of the Fines' one-third interest in the company.[18]

Since 1995, C3 has authorized and provided the services of veteran actors Jim Skousen, Alan Semok, and Dave Knight (as Moe, Larry, and Curly respectively) for numerous "personal appearances" by the Stooge characters for a variety of merchandising and promotional events. This latter day trio has also provided voices for the characters in a variety of radio spots, merchandising tie-ins, and most recently for the first new Three Stooges short in 50 years. A CGI animation by Famous Frames Mobile Interactive, a first-wave "new media" company, entitled The Grate Debate, has Moe, Larry and Curly running for President.


A handful of Three Stooges shorts first aired on television in 1949, on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network. It was not until 1958 that Screen Gems packaged 78 shorts for national syndication; the package was gradually enlarged to encompass the entire library of 190 shorts. In 1959, KTTV in Los Angeles purchased the Three Stooges films for air, but by the early 1970s, rival station KTLA began airing the Stooges films, keeping them in the schedule until early 1994. The Family Channel ran the shorts as part of their Stooge TV block from February 19, 1996, to January 2, 1998. In the late 1990s, AMC had held the rights to the Three Stooges shorts, originally airing them under the Stooges Playhouse block, but replacing it in 1999 with N.Y.U.K. (New Yuk University of Knuckleheads). Featuring actor/comedian Leslie Nielsen, who hosts the show in the form of a college instructor, the block aired several shorts often grouped by a theme, such as similar schtick used in different films. Although the block was discontinued after AMC revamped their format in 2002, the network still ran Stooges shorts occasionally. The AMC run ended when Spike TV picked them up in 2004, airing them in their Stooges Slap-Happy Hour. By 2007, the network had discontinued the block. Although Spike did air Stooges shorts for a brief period of time after the block was canceled, as of late April 2008, Three Stooges has disappeared from the network's schedule entirely. The Three Stooges returned on December 31, 2009, on AMC, starting with the "Countdown with the Stooges" New Year's Eve marathon. AMC planned to put several episodes on their website in 2010. The "Stooges" shorts were best known in Chicago as a part of a half hour late afternoon show on WGN-TV hosted by Bob Bell as "Andy Starr" in the 1960s.

Since the 1990s Columbia and its television division's successor, Sony Pictures Television, has preferred to license the Stooges shorts to cable networks, precluding the films from being shown on local broadcast TV. Two stations in Chicago and Boston, however, signed long-term syndication contracts with Columbia years ago and have declined to terminate them. Thus, WMEU-CD in Chicago currently airs all 190 Three Stooges shorts on Saturday afternoons from 1-3 pm and Sunday evenings from 9–11 pm. WSBK-TV in Boston airs Stooge shorts and feature films, including an annual New Year's Eve marathon. KTLA in Los Angeles dropped the shorts in 1994, but brought them back in 2007 as part of a special retro-marathon commemorating the station's 60th anniversary. Since that time, the station's original 16mm Stooges film prints have aired occasionally as part of mini-marathons on holidays. Antenna TV, a network broadcasting on the digital subchannels of local broadcast stations (owned by Tribune Broadcasting, who also owns KTLA), began airing the Stooges shorts upon the network's January 1, 2011 launch, which ran in multi-hour blocks on weekends through December 29, 2012; most of the Three Stooges feature films are also broadcast on the network, through Antenna TV's distribution agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment (whose Columbia Pictures subsidiary released most of the films). Although the network no longer airs Stooges shorts regularly, they are occasionally shown as filler if a movie runs short, as well as in holiday marathons.

Some of the Stooge films have been colorized by two separate companies. The first colorized DVD releases, distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, were prepared by West Wing Studios in 2004. The following year, Legend Films colorized the public domain shorts Malice in the Palace, Sing a Song of Six Pants, Disorder in the Court and Brideless Groom. Disorder in the Court and Brideless Groom also appears on two of West Wing's colorized releases. In any event, the Columbia-produced shorts (aside from the public domain films) are handled by Sony Pictures Entertainment, while the MGM Stooges shorts are owned by Warner Bros. via their Turner Entertainment division. Sony offers 21 of the shorts on their web platform Crackle, along with eleven Minisodes. Meanwhile, the rights to the Stooges' feature films rests with the studios that originally produced them (Columbia/Sony for the Columbia films, and 20th Century Fox for the Fox films).

Home video

Between 1980 and 1985, Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment and RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video released a total of thirteen Three Stooges volumes on VHS, Beta and Laserdisc, each containing three shorts. These titles were later reissued on VHS by its successor, Columbia TriStar Home Video, between 1993 and 1996, with a DVD reissue between 2000 and 2004.

The Three Stooges Collection

On October 30, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released a two-disc DVD set entitled The Three Stooges Collection, Volume One: 1934–1936. The set contains shorts from the first three years the Stooges worked at Columbia Pictures, marking the first time ever that all 19 shorts were released in their original theatrical order to DVD. Additionally, every short was remastered in high definition, a first for the Stooge films. Previous DVD releases were based on themes (wartime, history, work, etc.), and sold poorly. Fans and critics alike praised Sony for finally giving the Stooges the proper DVD treatment. One critic states "the Three Stooges on DVD has been a real mix'n match hodgepodge of un-restored titles and illogical entries. This new...boxset...seems to be the first concerted effort to categorize their huge body of work chronologically with many shorts seeing the digital light for the first time."[19] critic added "finally, the studio knuckleheads got it right! The way that the Three Stooges have been presented on home video has been a real slap in the face and poke in the eye to fans. They've been anthologized, colorized, and public domain-ed, as their shorts have been released and re-released in varying degrees of quality. Highly recommended."[20] Critic James Plath of added, "Thank you, Sony, for finally giving these Columbia Pictures icons the kind of DVD retrospective that they deserve. Remastered in High Definition and presented in chronological order, these short films now give fans the chance to appreciate the development of one of the most successful comedy teams in history."[21]

The chronological series proved very successful and wildly popular, and Sony wasted little time preparing the next set for release. Volume Two: 1937–1939 was released on May 27, 2008, followed by Volume Three: 1940–1942 three months later on August 26, 2008. Demand exceeded supply, proving to Sony that they had a hit on their hands. In response, Volume Four: 1943–1945 was released on October 7, 2008, a mere two months after its predecessor.[22] The global economic crisis slowed down the release schedule after Volume Four, and Volume Five: 1946–1948 was belatedly released on March 17, 2009. Volume Five is the first in the series to feature Shemp Howard with the Stooges.[23] Volume Six: 1949–1951 was released June 16, 2009,[24] and Volume Seven: 1952–1954 was released on November 10, 2009.[25] The eighth and final volume was released on June 1, 2010, bringing the series to a close. For the first time in history, all 190 Three Stooges short subjects became available to the public, uncut and unedited.

A 20-disc DVD boxed set entitled The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection, including all 190 shorts from volumes 1–8 and additional bonus material, was released in June 2012.[26]


  • Several instrumental tunes were played over the opening credits at different times in the production of the short features. The most commonly used themes were:
    • The verse portion of the Civil War era song "Listen to the Mockingbird", played in a comical way, complete with sounds of birds and such. This was first used in Pardon My Scotch, their ninth short film, in 1935. (Prior to that comedic short, the opening theme varied and was typically connected to the storyline in some fashion.)
    • "Three Blind Mice", beginning in 1939 as a slow but straightforward presentation (dubbed the "sliding strings" version), often breaking into a "jazzy" style before ending. In mid-1942, another more driving version, complete with accordion was played fast all the way through.
  • The Columbia short subject Woman Haters was done completely in rhyme, mostly recited (not sung), in rhythm with a Jazz-Age underscore running throughout the film, but with some key lines sung. It was sixth in a Musical Novelties short subject series, and appropriated its musical score from the first five films. The memorable "My Life, My Love, My All", was originally "At Last!" from the film Um-Pa.
  • "Swinging the Alphabet" (a.k.a. B-A-bay, B-E-be, B-I-bicky-bi ...) from Violent Is the Word for Curly is perhaps the best-known song performed by the Stooges on film.
  • The Stooges broke into a three-part harmonized version of "Tears" ("You'll Never Know Just What Tears Are") in Horses' Collars, A Ducking They Did Go (in which the melody was sung by Bud Jamison) and Half Shot Shooters. The song, which was written by Moe, Larry, Shemp, and one-time Ted Healy Stooge Fred Sanborn, first appeared in the 1930 feature film Soup to Nuts.
  • The "Lucia Sextet" (Chi mi frena in tal momento?), from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (announced by Larry as "the Sextet from Lucy"), is played on a record player and lip-synched by the Stooges in Micro-Phonies. The same melody re-appears in Squareheads of the Round Table as the tune of "Oh, Elaine, can you come out tonight?". Micro-Phonies also includes the Johann Strauss II waltz "Voices of Spring" ("Frühlingsstimmen") Op. 410. Another Strauss waltz, "The Blue Danube", is featured in Ants in the Pantry and Punch Drunks.
  • The song "Fredric March" (named after the actor) was a favorite of director Jules White; it appeared in at least seven different Columbia shorts:
    • Termites of 1938 – The Stooges "play" this song on a violin, flute, and string bass at a dinner party in an attempt to attract mice.
    • Dutiful But Dumb – Curly is hidden inside a floor-standing radio, and plays the song on a modified harmonica.
    • Three Little Twirps – Heard as background music at the circus while Moe and Curly sell tickets.
    • Idle Roomers – Curly plays the song on a trombone to calm a wolf man.
    • Gents Without Cents – Three girls perform acrobatics on stage while this song is playing.
    • Gents in a Jam – Shemp and Moe have a problem with a radio that will not stop playing this song.
    • Pardon My Backfire – The song plays on a car radio.
  • The Moe–Larry–Curly Joe lineup of the Stooges recorded several musical record albums in the early 1960s. Most of their songs were adaptations of nursery rhymes. Among their more popular recordings were "Making a Record" (a surreal trip to a recording studio built around the song "Go Tell Aunt Mary"), "Three Little Fishes", "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth", "Wreck the Halls with Boughs of Holly", "Mairzy Doats" and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas".
  • In 1983, a group called the Jump 'N the Saddle Band recorded a track called "The Curly Shuffle", which featured the narrator singing about his love of the Stooges mixed with a chorus of many of Curly's catchphrases and sound effects. In the mid-1980s, the song became a popular mid-game hit for New York Mets fans in the Shea Stadium bleachers, who would dance in small groups to the tune whenever the song was played between innings. The music video, which featured clips of the classic Stooges shorts, was also included as a bonus feature on one of the 1984 VHS releases.

Feature motion pictures

The Three Stooges also made appearances in many feature length movies in the course of their careers:

Film Year Moe Larry Curly Shemp Joe Curly Joe
Soup to Nuts 1930 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Turn Back the Clock (cameos) 1933 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Meet the Baron 1933 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Dancing Lady 1933 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Broadway to Hollywood 1933 Green tickY Green tickY
Myrt and Marge 1933 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Fugitive Lovers 1934 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Hollywood Party (cameos) 1934 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Captain Hates the Sea (cameos) 1934 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Start Cheering 1938 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Time Out for Rhythm 1941 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
My Sister Eileen (cameos) 1942 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Rockin' in the Rockies 1945 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Swing Parade of 1946 1946 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Gold Raiders 1951 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Have Rocket, Will Travel 1959 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Stop! Look! and Laugh! (compilation) 1960 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Snow White and the Three Stooges 1961 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules 1962 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Three Stooges in Orbit 1962 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze 1963 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (cameos) 1963 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
4 for Texas (cameos) 1963 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Outlaws Is Coming 1965 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Kook's Tour (TV pilot) 1970 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY

Joe Besser never appeared with the Stooges in a feature film.

Three feature-length Columbia releases were actually packages of older Columbia shorts. Columbia Laff Hour (introduced in 1956) was a random assortment that included the Stooges among other Columbia comedians like Andy Clyde, Hugh Herbert, and Vera Vague; the content and length varied from one theater to the next. Three Stooges Fun-o-Rama (introduced in 1959) was an all-Stooges show capitalizing on their TV fame, again with shorts chosen at random for individual theaters. The Three Stooges Follies (1974) was similar to Laff Hour, with a trio of Stooge comedies augmented by Buster Keaton and Vera Vague shorts, a Batman serial chapter, and a Kate Smith musical.


Gary Lassin, grandnephew-in-law of Larry Fine, opened the Stoogeum in 2004, in a renovated architect's office in Spring House, Pennsylvania, 25 miles (40 km) north of Philadelphia. The museum-quality exhibits fill three stories 10,000 square feet (930 m2), including an 85-seat theater.[27] Peter Seely, editor of the book Stoogeology: Essays on the Three Stooges said that the Stoogeum has "more stuff than I even imagined existed." 2,500 people visit it yearly, many during the annual Three Stooges Fan Club gathering in April.

In other media

Comic books

Over the years, several Three Stooges comics were produced.

  • St. John Publications published the first Three Stooges comics in 1949 with 2 issues, then again in 1953–54 with 7 issues.
  • Dell Comics published a Three Stooges series first as one-shots in their Four Color Comics line for five issues, then gave them a numbered series for four more issues (#6–9). With #10, the title would be published by Gold Key Comics. Under Gold Key, the series lasted through issue #55 in 1972.
  • Gold Key Comics then published the Little Stooges series (7 issues, 1972–74) with story and art by Norman Maurer, Moe's son-in-law. This series featured the adventures of three fictional sons of the Three Stooges, as sort of modern-day teen-age versions of the characters.
  • Eclipse Comics published the Three-D Three Stooges series (3 issues, 1986–1987) which reprinted stories from the St. John Publications series.[28]
  • Malibu Comics did a couple of one-shot comics, reprinting stories from the Gold Key Comics in 1989 and 1991.
  • Bluewater Comics issued a biographical comic in 2011 which followed the lives and careers of the group.


Beginning in 1959, the Three Stooges began to appear in a series of novelty records. Their first recording was a 45 rpm single of the title song from Have Rocket, Will Travel. The trio released additional singles and LPs on the Golden and Coral labels, mixing comedy adventure albums and off-beat renditions of children's songs. Their final recording was the 1966 Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No, which incorporated the Three Stooges into the cast of the Yogi Bear cartoons.[2]


Sirius XM Radio aired a special about the Stooges hosted by Tom Bergeron on Friday, July 31, 2009, at 2:00PM on the Sirius Howard 101 channel. Bergeron had conducted the interviews at the age of 16 back when he was still in high school in 1971. The television host had the tapes in storage for many years and was convinced on-air during an interview with Howard Stern to bring them in and turn it into a special.

After finding "the lost tapes", Bergeron brought them into Stern's production studio. He stated that the tapes were so old that the tapes with the Larry Fine interviews began to shred as Stern's radio engineers ran them through their cart players. They only really had one shot, but fortunately for Stooges fans the tapes were saved.

"The Lost Stooges Tapes" was hosted by Tom Bergeron, with modern commentary on the almost 40-year-old interviews that he had conducted with Larry Fine and Moe Howard. At the times of these interviews, Moe was still living at home and Larry had suffered a stroke and was living in a Senior Citizen's home.


Canadian-American professional wrestler Curly Moe, whose "gimmick" was based on Curly Howard, was a popular fan favorite in International World Class Championship Wrestling during the early-1990s. The promotion billed Curly Moe as the real-life nephew of Curly and Moe Howard which attracted some attention from the media.[29]


In addition to the unsuccessful television series pilots Jerks of All Trades, The Three Stooges Scrapbook, and the incomplete Kook's Tour, the Stooges appeared in a show called The New Three Stooges which ran from 1965 to 1966. This series featured a mix of forty-one live-action segments which were used as wraparounds to 156 animated Stooges shorts. The New Three Stooges became the only regularly scheduled television show in history for the Stooges.[2] Unlike other films shorts that aired on television, like the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye, the film shorts of the Stooges never had a regularly scheduled national television program to air in. When Columbia/Screen Gems licensed the film library to television, the shorts aired in any fashion the local stations chose (examples: late-night "filler" material between the end of the late movie and the channel's sign-off time; in "marathon" sessions running shorts back-to-back for one, one-and-a-half, or two hours; etc.) By the 1970s, some local stations showed a Columbia short and a New Three Stooges cartoon in the same broadcast.

In the October 13, 1967 "Who's Afraid of Mother Goose?" episode of ABC's "World-of-Disney"-like anthology series Off to See the Wizard, the Three Stooges made a short appearance as "the three men in a tub".

Two episodes of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies aired on CBS featuring animated Stooges as guest stars: the premiere, "Ghastly Ghost Town" (September 9, 1972) and "The Ghost of the Red Baron" (November 18, 1972). There also was a short-lived animated series, also produced by Hanna-Barbera, titled The Robonic Stooges, originally seen as a featured segment on The Skatebirds (CBS, 1977–1978), featuring Moe, Larry, and Curly (voiced by Paul Winchell, Joe Baker and Frank Welker, respectively) as bionic cartoon superheroes with extendable limbs, similar to the later Inspector Gadget. The Robonic Stooges later aired as a separate half-hour series, retitled The Three Robonic Stooges (each half-hour featured two segments of The Three Robonic Stooges and one segment of Woofer And Whimper, Dog Detectives, the latter re-edited from episodes of Clue Club, an earlier Hanna-Barbera cartoon series). There are also many Stooges references in the sitcom ALF.

In a 1980 episode of M*A*S*H, Charles Winchester shows disrespect for three Korean doctors by calling them "Moe, Larry and Curly", and says that they are "highly-respected individuals in the States". After Winchester throws out his back and is unable to relieve the pain through conventional methods (in real life, Winchester would've received an automatic medical discharge from the United States Army), Colonel Potter has the Korean doctors try acupuncture (much to Winchester's dismay), which cures Winchester. After the treatment, one of the doctors tells Winchester "Not bad for Three Stooges, huh?", having caught on to his mistreatment of them.

In the episode "Beware the Creeper" of The New Batman Adventures, the Joker retreats to his hide-out after a quick fight with Batman. He yells out for his three henchmen "Moe? Larr? Cur?" only to find that they are not there. Shortly after that, Batman comes across these three goons in a pool hall; they have distinctive accents and hairstyles similar to those of Moe, Larry and Curly. These henchmen are briefly seen throughout the rest of the season.

2000 television film

In spring of 2000, long-time Stooge fan Mel Gibson executive-produced a TV film (The Three Stooges[30]) about the lives and careers of the comedians. Playing Moe was Paul Ben-Victor, Evan Handler was Larry, John Kassir was Shemp and Michael Chiklis was Curly. It was filmed in Australia and was produced for and broadcast on ABC. It was based on Michael Fleming's authorized biography of the Stooges, The Three Stooges: From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons. Its unflattering portrayal of Ted Healy led Healy's son to give media interviews calling the film inaccurate. Additional error of fact included the hint that Moe Howard was down on his luck later in life and worked as a gofer at the studio, where he, his brothers and Larry had formerly worked as actors. In reality, Moe was the most careful with his money, which he invested well. He and his wife Helen owned a comfortable house in Toluca Lake, in which they raised their children.

The film regularly runs on the American Movie Classics (AMC) channel.

Feature film revival

A film about the Three Stooges, titled The Three Stooges, started production on March 14, 2011, with 20th Century Fox[31] and was directed by the Farrelly brothers. The film had been in what one critic has dubbed "development hell".[32] The Farrellys, who wanted to make the film since 1996, said that they were not going to do a biopic or remake, but instead new Three Stooges episodes set in the present day. The film is broken up into three continuous episodes that revolves around the Stooges characters.[33]

Casting the title characters proved difficult for the studio. Originally slated were Sean Penn to play Larry, Benicio del Toro to play Moe and Jim Carrey to play Curly. Both Penn and del Toro left the project but returned while no official confirmation had been made about Jim Carrey. When del Toro was interviewed on MTV News for The Wolfman, he spoke about playing Moe. He was later asked who was going to play Larry and Curly in the film and commented that he still thought that Sean Penn and Jim Carrey were going to play them, though he added, "Nothing is for sure yet."[34][35] A story in The Hollywood Reporter stated that Will Sasso would play Curly in the upcoming comedy and that Hank Azaria was the front runner to play Moe.[36] Sasso was ultimately cast as Curly; Sean Hayes of Will & Grace was cast as Larry Fine,[37] while Chris Diamantopoulos was cast as Moe.[38] Jane Lynch later joined the cast, playing a nun.[39] The film was released on April 13, 2012, and grossed over $54 million worldwide.[40]

Video games

In 1984 Gottlieb released an arcade game featuring the Stooges trying to find three kidnapped brides.

Later in 1987, game developers Cinemaware released a successful Three Stooges computer game, available for Apple IIGS, Amiga, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Based on the Stooges earning money by doing odd jobs to prevent the foreclosure of an orphanage, it incorporated audio from the original films and was popular enough to be reissued for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, as well as for PlayStation in 2004.[41] The 2012 film used a similar plot.

VCR game

A VCR game was released by Pressman Toy Corporation in 1986, which utilized a number of classic Stooges clips.

In foreign languages

In most other languages, the Three Stooges are known by their English name. In Chinese, however, the trio is known as Sānge Chòu Píjiàng (三個臭皮匠)[42] or Huóbǎo Sānrénzǔ (活寶三人組). Sānge Chòu Píjiàng, literally "Three Smelly Shoemakers", which derives from a saying in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Sāngè chòu píjiàng shèngguò yīgè Zhūgě Liàng (三個臭皮匠,勝過一個諸葛亮) or "Three smelly shoemakers (are enough to) overcome one Zhuge Liang [a hero of the story]", i.e. three inferior people can overpower a superior person when they combine their strength. Huóbǎo Sānrénzǔ translates as "Trio of Buffoons".[43]

In Japanese they are known as San Baka Taishō (三ばか大将)[44] meaning "Three Idiot Generals" or "Three Baka Generals". The Japanese term baka (馬鹿, "fool" or "idiot", lit. "horse deer") is associated with the Chinese idiom zhǐlù wéimǎ (指鹿為馬; lit. "point at a deer and call it a horse", in Japanese shika o sashite uma to nasu [鹿を指して馬と為す]) meaning "deliberate misrepresentation for ulterior purposes". In Spanish they are known as Los tres chiflados[45] or, roughly, "The Three Crackpots". In French and German usage, the name of the trio is partially translated as Les Trois Stooges (though the French version of the movie adaptation used a fully translated name, "Les Trois Corniauds") and Die drei Stooges respectively. In Thai, the trio is known as 3 สมุนจอมป่วน (3 Samunčhǭmpūan; IPA: ) or 3 พี่น้องจอมยุ่ง (Phīnǭngčhǭmyung; IPA: ). In Portuguese, they are known as Os Três Patetas in Brazil, and Os Três Estarolas in Portugal, estarola being a direct translation of "stooge", while pateta being more related to "goofy". In Persian the trio are dubbed as "سه نخاله". In Turkish, they are dubbed as Üç Ahbap Çavuş ("The Three Cronies").

See also


  1. ^ The Three Stooges Extreme Rarities
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Fleming, Michael (2002) [1999]. The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons. New York: Broadway Publishing. pp. 22, 21, 23, 25, 33, 49, 50.  
  4. ^ a b c d  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y  
  6. ^ a b Solomon, Jon. (2002) The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion, pp. 318, 510; Comedy III Productions, Inc., ISBN 0-9711868-0-4
  7. ^ "You Nazty Spy"Newspaper article about the anti-fascist short . 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g  
  9. ^ a b c d e Forrester, Jeff (2004). The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time. Donaldson Books. pp. 121, 135.  
  10. ^ a b "Curly vs Shemp". Democratic Underground. Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "The Canteen". The Canteen. November 23, 1955. Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Pop Culture Addict". Pop Culture Addict. Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ archival audio – "E Entertainment", May 2002
  14. ^ Grossman, Gary H. Saturday Morning TV, Dell Publishing, 1981
  15. ^ Liberty – Google Books. 1976. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  16. ^ The Making of the Stooges VHS Documentary, narrated by Steve Allen (1984)
  17. ^ "A Stooge's Heirs Ordered to Pay Heirs of Others".  
  18. ^ "C3 website". 
  19. ^ " review". 
  20. ^ "review". Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  21. ^ " review". 
  22. ^ The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 4 Press Release
  23. ^ "". December 30, 2008. Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  24. ^ "The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6 (1949–1951)". June 16, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  25. ^ " Blog: The Three Stooges, Vol. 7 in November". August 25, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Online review of Ultimate Collection". 
  27. ^ "Get your nyuks, nyuks at the Stoogeum". 
  28. ^ Three-D Three Stooges at the Grand Comics Database
  29. ^ O'Brien, Jack (September 25, 1990). "Three Stooges' nephew stuns the wrestling world!".  
  30. ^ (2000)The Three Stooges at the Internet Movie Database
  31. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'"Fox Sets March 14 Start For 'The Three Stooges. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  32. ^ Eric Ditzian. "Farrelly Brothers' Three Stooges Saga: The 13-Year Backstory". Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  33. ^ Arya Ponto. "Three Stooges Movie Not a Biopic, But New Episodes". Retrieved October 1, 2007. 
  34. ^ Mark Shanahan;  
  35. ^ Krystal Clark. "Sean Penn Returns to The Three Stooges". Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  36. ^ Brendan Bettinger. "Will Sasso Is Curly in THE THREE STOOGES; Hank Azaria and James Marsden the Frontrunners to Play Moe, and Larry will be played by Sean Hayes". Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  37. ^ Hitfix Staff. "'"Former 'Will and Grace' star Sean Hayes will play Larry in 'The Three Stooges. 
  38. ^ Christine (May 24, 2011). "First look at Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Will Sasso as 'The Three Stooges'!". On Location Vacations. Retrieved June 11, 2014. 
  39. ^ Jane Lynch Joins The Three Stooges
  40. ^ The Three Stooges (2012) - Box Office Mojo
  41. ^ Craig Harris (April 10, 2002). "IGN: The Three Stooges Review". Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  42. ^ 約翰尼•德普西恩•潘擬出演《三個臭皮匠》. (Chinese)
  43. ^ 活宝 entry at the Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary; 三人 entry at the Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary; 组 entry at the Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary
  44. ^ 「三ばか大将」にポール・ジアマッティ決定、ジム・キャリーは降板. (Japanese)
  45. ^ Los Tres Chiflados: unos golpes más allá (Spanish)

Further reading

  • Besser, Joe (with Lenburg, Jeff, and Lenburg, Greg), Not Just a Stooge (1984) Excelsior Books, Inc. (reissued 1987 as Once a Stooge, Always a Stooge) Roundtable Publications (Autobiography of Joe Besser, including anecdotes about Abbott and Costello and Olsen and Johnson)
  • Bruskin, David N., Behind the Three Stooges: The White Brothers: Conversations with David N. Bruskin (1993) Directors Guild of America (In-depth interviews with producer-directors Jules White, Jack White, and Sam White)
  • Comedy III Productions, Inc., Pop, You're "Poifect!": A Three Stooges Salute to Dad (2002) Andrews McMeel
  • Cox, Steve and Terry, Jim, One Fine Stooge: Larry Fine's Frizzy Life in Pictures (2005) Cumberland House Publishing
  • Davis, Lon and Davis, Debra (eds.), Stooges Among Us (2008) BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-300-2
  • Feinberg, Morris, Larry: The Stooge in the Middle (1984) Last Gasp of San Francisco (Biography of Larry Fine, attributed to his brother but actually ghostwritten by Bob Davis)
  • Fericano, Paul, Stoogism Anthology (1977) Poor Souls Printing
  • Fine, Larry (with Carone, James), Stroke of Luck (1973) Siena Publishing Co. (Larry Fine's autobiography, transcribed from interviews toward the end of his life)
  • Flanagan, Bill, Last of the Moe Haircuts (1986) McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, Inc.
  • Fleming, Michael, The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, from Amalgamated Morons to American Icons (2002) Broadway Publishing
  • Forrester, Jeffrey, The Stoogephile Trivia Book (1982) Contemporary Books, Inc.
  • Forrester, Jeffrey, The Stooge Chronicles (1981) Contemporary Books, Inc. (Comprehensive overview of the team's career; also discusses the various Ted Healy stooges)
  • Forrester, Tom, with Forrester, Jeff, The Stooges' Lost Episodes (1988) Contemporary Books, Inc. (Discussion of obscure Stooges appearances, including solo films by individual Stooges)
  • Forrester, Jeff, with Forrester, Tom, and Wallison, Joe, The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time (2001) Donaldson Books
  • Garner, Paul, Mousie Garner: Autobiography of a Vaudeville Stooge (1999) McFarland & Co.
  • Hansen, Tom and Forrester, Jeffrey, Stoogemania: An Extravaganza of Stooge Photos, Puzzles, Trivia, Collectibles and More (1984) Contemporary Books, Inc. (Overview of Three Stooges memorabilia)
  • Howard, Moe, Moe Howard and the Three Stooges (1977) Citadel Press (Moe Howard's autobiography, completed and released posthumously by his daughter)
  • Koceimba, Bill, with Kaufman, Eric A., and Sack, Steve, The Three Stooges Golf Spoof and Trivia Book (1999) Gazelle, Inc.
  • Kurson, Robert, The Official Three Stooges Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Knucklehead's Guide to Stoogedom, from Amalgamated Association of Morons to Ziller, Zeller, and Zoller (1999) McGraw-Hill
  • Kurson, Robert, The Official Three Stooges Cookbook (1998) Contemporary Books, Inc.
  • Lenburg, Jeff, with Maurer, Joan Howard, and Lenburg, Greg, The Three Stooges Scrapbook (1982, revised 1994, 2000) Citadel Press
  • Longley, Maximillian, The Conservative In Spite of Himself: A Reluctant Right-Winger's Thoughts on Life, Law and the Three Stooges (2007) Monograph Publishers
  • Maltin, Leonard, The Great Movie Comedians (1978) Crown Books
  • Maltin, Leonard, Movie Comedy Teams (1970, revised 1985) New American Library
  • Maltin, Leonard, Selected Short Subjects (first published as The Great Movie Shorts, 1972) Crown Books, (revised 1983) Da Capo Press
  • McGarry, Annie, The Wacky World of the Three Stooges (1992) Crescent Books
  • Maurer, Joan Howard, Curly: An Illustrated Biography of the Superstooge (1985, revised 1988) Citadel Press
  • Maurer, Joan Howard (ed.), The Three Stooges Book of Scripts (1984) Citadel Press
  • Maurer, Joan Howard and Maurer, Norman (eds.), The Three Stooges Book of Scripts, Volume II (1987) Citadel Press
  • Okuda, Ted and Watz, Edward, The Columbia Comedy Shorts (1998) McFarland & Co. (Comprehensive history of the Columbia short subject department; Stooge colleagues Edward Bernds and Emil Sitka are quoted extensively)
  • Pauley, Jim, "The Three Stooges Hollywood Filming Locations" (2012) Santa Monica Press (documents the outdoor filming locations of the Stooges' most famous Columbia Pictures short films made in and around Hollywood between 1934 and 1958
  • Seely, Peter and Pieper, Gail W., Stoogeology: Essays on the Three Stooges (2007) McFarland & Co.
  • Smith, Ronald L., The Stooge Fans' I.Q. Test (1988) Contemporary Books, Inc.
  • Solomon, Jon, The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion (2000) Comedy III Productions

External links

  • Three Stooges Online Filmography
  • The Three Stooges Official Website (sanctioned by C3 Entertainment, Inc.)
  • The Stoogeum (Three Stooges Museum)
  • The Three Stooges is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • Portrait (2009) of The Three Stooges (with Shemp) by noted illustrator Drew Friedman
  • Interview with Moe Howard on new success with the younger generation from the Ocala Star-Banner – February 22, 1959 accessed via Google News
  • The Three Stooges (2012) at the Internet Movie Database
  • Dan Barry (April 13, 2012). "Even the Three Stooges Needed Second Fiddles".  
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