*Includes the Stooges' quotes about their lives and career.
*Includes a bibliography for further reading.
"Oh, a wise guy, eh?" - Moe Howard
"I'm a victim of soicumstance." - Curly Howard
"I'm sorry, Moe, it was an accident!" - Larry Fine
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
There has been no shortage of comedy acts in American history, but the most famous and popular of them all is The Three Stooges, an act that has become synonymous with slapstick. Bring up their name to any American or even ask about slapstick comedy, and invariably, certain images will come to mind, most of which came from the comedy shorts featuring three bumbling but likeable fools getting into all sorts of trouble due to their inability to think or behave properly.
The Three Stooges had several lineups over the decades, but two of them are most closely associated with the act. Two of the Howard brothers, Moe and Shemp, had their origins in 1920s vaudeville along with Larry Fine, but after Shemp quit, he was replaced by his younger brother Curly. Moe, Larry and Curly quickly became a hit in comedy shorts on screen, and even as other similar acts like Abbot & Costello went on to make full length films, the Stooges continued to star in shorts, producing the iconic scenes that everyone associates with them, from Larry asking what he did wrong to Moe trying to hit Curly and Curly's efforts to block him. Whether the boys were inept plumbers in A Plumbing We Will Go or unable to become gentlemen in The Hoi Polloi, the routine usually revolved around their humorously incompetent performances in every conceivable walk of life, with each setting making the act feel fresh even though viewers knew what was likely to happen in each circumstance.
Although the Stooges were at their peak in the 1930s and early 1940s, the act continued almost right up until the death of Moe, the last one left. Curly, widely considered the most popular Stooge, had suffered a debilitating stroke that left him unable to perform after 1946, and Shemp returned until his death in 1955. Moe and Larry carried on with other teammates, including a "Fake Shemp" and Curly Joe, but no matter how often they tried to recapture the magic of the old lineups, the Stooges' heyday was over, at least when it came to original material. All told, their career spanned over 200 films, a heavy majority of which were shorts.
However, with their older stuff constantly being televised, they have remained popular with new generations, and they are still watched and remembered fondly by people of all ages. As author Ted Okuda put it, "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."
American Legends: The Three Stooges examines the lives and careers of America's most famous comedy team. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Stooges like never before, in no time at all.