The Three Stooges: The Later Years

 

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In 1934, the Three Stooges inked a deal at Columbia Pictures where they went on to make 190 classic comedy shorts and six features. A second, even greater burst of fame occurred when the shorts began to be shown regularly on television in the 1950s, after Curly and Shemp had already passed away.

An animated Saturday morning cartoon came out in the 1960s, as did a 1970s Hannah-Barbara cartoon called Jabberjaw, the characterization of which was clearly based on Curly. Moe was still trying to get a new feature film off the ground when he and then Larry, both passed away in 1975. In the 1980s, a song called “The Curly Shuffle” with Curly’s sampled voice calling “Hey, Moe! Hey, Moe! Hey, Moe!” was at the top of the Billboard charts. And in 2000, their lives were the subject of an ABC TV movie executive produced by Mel Gibson. And the Farrelly brothers releases this tribute in 2012. 

The evergreen success of the 3 Stooges is a testament above all to the power of television. The man who brought them together and originally presided over them Ted Healy was no slouch in his day. He was as well known as anyone in vaudeville in his salad days. He was a familiar face in films. He was there along with Ken Murray to give encouragement to the neophyte Bob Hope when he made his Palace debut. Billy Rose considered him his favorite comedian. Yet today he is a footnote.

His fate is analogous that of Brian Jones, who founded the Rolling Stones only to have the group stolen out from under him by the more aggressive and charismatic team of Jagger and Richards, and then taken to heights of phenomenal success. What is there to do but self-destruct at that point?

Despite their phenomenal success, I’ve always felt there is a missing ingredient in the act known as Three Stooges. One suspects that it is the presence of Ted Healy–a link to reality.

 

For more on the Three Stooges and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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