THE THREE STOOGES. American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to mid–20th century, best known for their numerous Columbia short subject films which are still syndicated on television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick. In films, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names of "Moe, Larry, and Curly" or "Moe, Larry, and Shemp" (among other lineups, depending on the particular film). There were a total of six stooges over the act's run, with only three active at any given time. Moe and Larry were always present during the film era throughout the ensemble's run of more than forty years.The act began as part of a mid-1920s 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, Soup to Nuts, before Shemp left to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by his younger brother, Jerome "Curly" Howard in 1932. Two years later, the trio left Healy and signed on to appear in their own comedies for Columbia Pictures now billed as "The Three Stooges". From 1934-1946, Moe, Larry and Curly produced over ninety short films for Columbia. It was during this period that they were at their peak popularity.Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946 and Shemp returned (reinstating the original lineup) until his death from a heart attack aged 60 in November 1955. Curly Howard died aged just 48 of a celebral hemorrhage in January 1952. Film actor Joe Palma was used as a temporary stand-in to complete four Shemp-era shorts under contract (the maneuver thereafter became known as the term of art "Fake Shemp". Columbia contract player Joe Besser joined as the third Stooge for two years (1956–57), departing in 1958 to nurse his ailing wife. Columbia terminated its shorts division and released its Stooges contractual rights to the Screen Gems production studio. Screen Gems then syndicated the shorts to television, whereupon the Stooges became one of the most popular comedy acts of the early 1960s. Comic actor Joe Derita became "Curly Joe" in 1958 (replacing Besser) for a new series of full-length theatrical films. With intense television exposure, the act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kiddie fare, until Larry Fine's paralyzing stroke in January 1970. He later died in 1975 aged 72 after a further series of strokes. Attempts were made to revive the Stooges with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka (in Larry's role in 1970) and again in 1975, but this attempt was cut short by Moe's death from lung cancer aged 77 in May 1975.
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