The Three Stooges I Can Hardly Wait (1943)

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The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century best known for their numerousColumbia short subject films, still syndicated on 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 whom performed in the shorts. Moe and Larry were always present until the last years of 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 titled 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 short subjects for Columbia, now billed as The Three Stooges.

Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946, and Shemp returned, reinstating the original lineup, until his death of a heart attack in November 1955. 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 Besserjoined 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, and the Stooges became one of the most popular comedy acts of the early 1960s.

 

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