Caught in the middle: Author Steve Cox salutes lovable Three Stooges porcupine Larry Fine
You nitwit you! Larry Fine, best known as the frizzy haired lightning rod of the Three Stooge, was the eldest of four kids born on October 5, 1902, to Russian Jewish middle class parents in South Philadelphia. Fine’s dad Joseph Feinberg owned a watch repair and jewelry shop.
In an all-encompassing exclusive interview, Stooge historian Stephen [Steve] Cox, author of the well-received One Fine Stooge: Larry Fine’s Frizzy Life in Pictures, pulls no punches as he recalls the under-valued middle Stooge who never lost his zany streak of humor, even when a devastating series of strokes partially paralyzed his left side in January 1970.
Taking up residence at the Motion Picture Country Home, Larry maintained an active schedule, whether painting, doing the occasional personal appearance at local schools, encouraging fellow retirees with spirited gin rummy card games, or inviting fans to his room where they often got to screen a classic Columbia short and hear a spirited running commentary. Larry’s accessibility, down to earth nature, and kindheartedness resonates to this day. No question about it, Larry was one fine Stooge.
A shady character named James Carone convinced Larry to pen his memoirs in 1971. Unfortunately, Stroke of Luck was a shambolic, error-ridden affair. Carone claimed he was the book’s sole author on the cover, going so far as to secure copyright. Larry never received any profits.
Still, the happy-go-lucky, flaky comedian didn’t wallow in self-pity, befriending a gentleman named Jim Terry shortly before his death. Terry had co-written a lavish hardback entitled The Busby Berkeley Book documenting the renowned stage and film choreographer. Larry gave his personal archive of extensive photos and first-hand correspondence to Terry. The research materials inexplicably collected dust for over 30 years until a chance encounter with Cox one sunny afternoon in Los Angeles.
A lifelong Stooge aficionado and ardent researcher, Cox can still recall where he was when group leader Moe Howard succumbed to lung cancer — at a friend’s house eating a snow cone. Before Cox entered the eighth grade, he had already tracked down both Curly and Shemp Howard’s respective widows.
But it was Larry’s brother, Morris “Moe” Feinberg, who really got Cox active in the Three Stooges’ world. After many long-distance phone calls to Feinberg’s home in Philadelphia, Cox helped relaunch the original Three Stooges fan club. Feinberg dubbed the wiz kid his “teen vice president.”
Cox’s impressive resume includes 22 pop culture tomes, exploring such retro-tinged subjects as the Munchkins, Barbara Eden, Abbott and Costello, Don Knotts, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, Gilligan’s Island, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The freelance journalist doesn’t seek the limelight and grants few interviews…until now.
Why are the Three Stooges still a chunk of the 21st century pop culture zeitgeist? How did the Farrelly Brothers’ love letter to the team, released over 40 years since their final project, open at number one at the box office? Cox offers a sound theory: “There’s a raw comedy that those guys tune into and touch upon…I love the timing and originality they illustrate. They’ve outlasted, surpassed, and transcended all other vintage comedy teams in the history of film. Amazing, isn’t it?”
The Steve Cox / Larry Fine Interview
Do you recall the first time you saw the Three Stooges?
Yes. Well, at least a flash of the memory. I was just a kid, and my brother and I were watching TV after school. I was in maybe third grade or so.
The station in St. Louis — then an independent KPLR-TV — ran a promo for the upcoming shorts. I remember my brother saying, “Oh man, these guys are great…they’re hilarious!” He really prepped me for some good stuff to watch on TV. I fell in love with the Stooges.
When Moe’s book — Moe Howard and the Three Stooges — was published in 1977, I couldn’t wait to read it. That book changed my perception of the team. They became human beings at that point. I do remember that. So, my brother really introduced me to those guys and I thanked him for that in the book as well in the dedication.
What were Larry’s contributions to the Stooges?
It would be ridiculous to say Larry was the glue that held those guys together. That’s so cliché, so I won’t lean on that kind of thing. I think Larry contributed talent — musically and otherwise — timing, a really peculiar personality, and some fantastically funny moments.
He and Moe really didn’t change much over the decades, so as the mainstays in the team, they truly held the trio together. Larry was a loveable flake, you might say, perhaps as flakey as Kramer on Seinfeld.
Why did you decide to write a bio on Larry, and not Curly, Shemp, or Moe?
I must say that Larry might not be my absolute “favorite” Stooge if I had to choose. That would probably be Shemp because of his peculiarities and timing. I loved Shemp’s graceful comedy and Curly’s, too. Curly, of course, was an amazing talent and sorely underrated by historians.
The Larry project fell from heaven, and I couldn’t pass it up. It was a gift of an opportunity. Plus, it was a book about Larry, but also ended up being a book about the Stooges. Reading it, you’ll discover much you hadn’t heard about the team and how they operated.
As I mentioned in the book, Larry was a Stooge for most of his adult life and you can’t take one out of the other. You can’t take Larry out of the Stooges and the Stooge out of Larry’s life.
How exactly did the project fall from heaven?
Co-written with Jim Terry, we utilized Larry’s own personal scrapbooks and memories to build it. Jim knew Larry and began the project working with Larry in his last years.
Larry died in 1975, and the book’s materials remained in a box for decades until, by chance, I met Jim, and we decided to resurrect the project. To me, it was like a gift from Larry himself — from above, I hope.
The project turned out beautifully as a hardback coffee-table book with many never-before-seen color and b/w images. Our publisher, Cumberland House, was perfectly supportive.
Many fans have told me — and reviewed it — that it’s the best book written on the Stooges. That makes me feel great, especially as the Stooges were a passion of mine since my adolescence. I knew two of the Stooges, and it was a nice way to come full circle with my fascination of the legendary team.
What was your reason[s] for picking the gorgeous color image of Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe as the cover?
We chose that particular circa 1960 cover shot of the Stooges for several reasons: It was a beautiful “in your face” image, a true color Kodachrome portrait of the team. No other book had featured an actual color shot of the team on the cover of a book about them. It’s a rare shot and was part of Larry’s collection.
In addition, it features Larry front and center. The book is about him, so that worked. Had he been in the background, I think it probably wouldn’t have worked as well. Besides that, it’s a really striking image. It stands out from far away. Stick that thing on a book shelf, and it jumps out.
Believe it or not, we took some grief for that choice of book cover image from some hardcore fans who felt either Larry alone deserved to be on the cover, or Larry with Moe and Curly — of course, the most popular of the groupings of Stooges.
I understand that. But to us, there was no question about using it. In the publishing industry, you’d better have a powerful and memorable cover.
Opening the book with the behind-the-scenes story of Larry’s first book fiasco was a revelatory move.
It’s funny how things you do in previous years affect projects much later on. This is one example. When I was a teenager and doing some Stooges research, I located an older man named James Carone, who had published with Larry a book of his Stooges memories.
It was supposed to be Larry’s autobiography but ended up being a book about Larry written by Carone. All in all, it was a mess. It was a disastrous little book called Stroke of Luck. Larry was really pinned to the ground with the project and embarrassed by the book when it was published. It does remain, however, the first book published on the team.
Partnering with Larry’s brother Morris “Moe” Feinberg, I’d purchased the last surviving copies of this book from Carone’s collection and got to know Carone in his last years. He was an old guy and liked to talk about the old days, not just about Larry Fine.
Carone was kind of a blowhard, so I didn’t take everything he said as fact. I knew Carone had really ripped Larry off, but he proclaimed to have made no profits from the book. If he did make any profits, they were minimal. The book was a small-time effort.
Regardless, he produced a sub-par book for Larry and because of that, Larry wished to write another book to clean things up. It took decades, but that project, which Larry began in 1973, came to fruition with One Fine Stooge. Larry came up with that title, by the way.
I had no idea that Larry participated in a 1973 commercial for Stroke of Luck.
Larry videotaped a commercial for some local markets, one being Philadelphia — his home town. In it, he mussed up his hair — possibly for the last time to appear like a “Stooge” — and advertised his book.
I’ve never seen the actual commercial. I have audio of it and a terrific Stooges collector and friend of mine, Scott Reboul, was responsible for actually taking a picture of the television set in Philadelphia when it aired years ago live. Scott allowed us to reprint that unique photo.
Scott provided some truly wonderful things for this book, including some photography of Moe and Larry which he took in the ’70s when he met them. I wonder if videotape of Larry’s commercial exists. I’d love to see it.
Can you discuss how Larry met the other Stooges?
Larry worked in several different “double acts” during his early days, even performing with his wife, Mabel, and her sister for a time. He worked in Chicago at the Rainbo Gardens in 1927 when Ted Healy was starring in a show in Chicago called A Night in Spain with Shemp Howard.
Larry met Healy and Shemp at that time. Shemp wanted out of the show and recommended Larry as a replacement. Larry then joined Moe Howard with Healy in a new show called A Night in Venice which played on Broadway and toured for a couple of years.
Shemp then rejoined the show. So, the original Stooges were actually Shemp, Larry, and Moe, a few years before the guys made their film debut at Fox in Soup to Nuts in 1930. The Stooges made their own debut on film just about the time talkies were making their nation-wide emergence.
Let’s assume you’re talking to someone who’s new to the team. What is their definitive work?
I would consider the Stooges work from 1939 to 1943 to be the ultimate in their comedy invention, the quintessential shorts starring Moe, Larry, and Curly at the top of their form. Short subject comedies such as Yes, We Have No Bonanza, Tassels in the Air, All the World’s a Stooge, and others in that era remain probably my favorites.
[Author’s Note: In the months after Curly suffered an incapacitating stroke in May 1946, elder brother Shemp Howard was persuaded to rejoin the team. The Three Stooges experienced one final, unbeatable burst of classic shorts lasting until about 1952 when massive budget cuts curtailed their creative genius. Who Done It?, Baby Sitters Jitters, Three Hams on Rye, and Scrambled Brains, incidentally one of Larry’s all-time favorites, are the cream of the Shemp crop].
Larry would suggest ideas while making the Columbia shorts, but Moe would often rebuff him.
Many people, especially co-star Emil Sitka and director Ed Bernds, mentioned this factor. I think they rather felt sorry for Larry in that he earnestly tried to contribute some of his wacky ideas, but Moe would cancel him out swiftly and dismiss his ideas.
Perhaps rightfully so. And Moe, being a good story editor, probably did so knowing that many of Larry’s ideas were too off the wall. But, that was their relationship.
Were the Stooges un-credited writers on their shorts?
I think the Stooges were un-credited writers on a lot of their shorts, but they added what they could when they could. You may be surprised, however, how much they stuck to the script, sometimes verbatim.
What I found surprising is how much rehearsal and set-up actually went into those shorts. As Moe put it in an interview, the comedy “didn’t just happen.”
Did you enjoy the Stooge shorts where the team was purposely split up?
Not really. I much preferred them as a cohesive team, interacting as “friends” or “brothers” as they mostly did. Individually, the comedy just didn’t quite flow. That’s my opinion, anyway.
Granted, they each had moments of solo hilarity in the shorts. Curly, left to his own devices, could produce comedic gems on film ranging from shaving the ice, stuffing the turkey, or combating a bowl of clam chowder.
Did Curly appear in any other projects after his debilitating stroke?
I’ve never heard of any footage of Curly following his stroke, outside of the cameo with the Stooges in the classic 1947 short, Hold That Lion! It’s amazing that there exists no interview footage of Curly or Shemp, which is too bad for all of us. I would have had a thousand questions for both of those guys.
Cuckoo on a Choo Choo, a 1952 short directed by Jules White, has divided Stooge fans. Why was Larry so fond of it?
That short was one of Larry’s favorites because he had a lot to do in it. He plays a T-shirted thug living on a stolen train car, showering himself with a bottle of beer and barking out orders. Supposedly, this is Larry’s nod to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.
I think you might need to be stoned or have several blasts of scotch to get the most out of that short. Really, it is a bizarre piece of work.
How did the premature deaths of Curly and Shemp affect Larry and Moe?
Larry never much reflected on the occurrence of his partners’ deaths as much as Moe did in his own book. Not with much sentiment, anyway. Moe seemed much more distraught, mainly because they were brothers.
Larry simply glazed over the topics. I would have liked to have explored that more with him in-person. Larry did note the financial stress it placed on the rest of the team each time they had to find a new partner. In my opinion, Moe and Larry remained much like brothers in their life.
Larry remarked in an interview that he felt that since they were both married men from the beginning of their teaming, there was no rivalry regarding women involved and that was an important factor in their feelings for each other. I really do think Larry and Moe loved each other as brothers with a sincere and honest respect for each other.
Did Larry ever consider going solo?
I don’t believe so. I never learned of any indication towards that. However, he did some work directing a small production at a Hollywood playhouse in the late 1960s, and evidentially he loved it. It was a comedy play called If Men Played Cards as Women Do by George Kaufman. I don’t have much more details about it, unfortunately.
I think Larry was comfortable in his coexistence with the other guys as a Stooge. The work nearly never stopped. There was a time, after the Stooges’ 24-year contract with Columbia ended in 1958, when they called it quits.
Larry briefly contemplated moving back to Philadelphia, but television was reviving his career right under his nose, and the Stooges became popular again and made a comeback. Moe and Larry brought Joe DeRita in for a third in reforming the team, and together the three embarked on maybe their most productive decade ever.
They made feature films, live television appearances, produced TV pilots, toured the country, starred in a cartoon series, recorded kiddie LP albums, published a comic book series, and plastered their own mugs on tons of merchandise. The Sixties were good to the aging Stooges.
What were some of your favorite Stooge productions?
Believe it or not, I really enjoy the 1960s cartoon series with the live action footage intertwined. I saw that as a kid and loved the color footage. I love seeing the Stooges in color. When the early MGM shorts finally made it to TV showing the Stooges in early two-strip Technicolor, I was watching with my tongue hanging out…
Who were some of your favorite interview subjects?
I was really fortunate in locating Larry’s own barber, who was a friend of his. She was interesting. Her name was Eddie Crispell. She gave me a wonderful interview, including details of his last hours alive.
Don Lamond, Larry’s son in law also provided a really point-blank interview, especially with details surrounding the death of Larry’s son. These were the kind of things I searched for to tell the true story of this man’s life.
Larry’s daughter in law, Christy Kraus, was a great interview. Very honest and touching. She was a neat lady and died not long after the book’s publishing. She did write me to tell me she loved the book.
Frankie Avalon also provided some personal stories about his friendship with Larry and how they loved to reminisce about Philly.
This book also afforded me the opportunity to utilize interviews I’d done years earlier with people like Jules White, Emil Sitka, Joan Howard Maurer, Ed Bernds, and Larry’s sister Lyla Budnick.
What were you most surprised to learn when researching Larry’s life?
I was surprised to learn the depth of Mabel’s alcoholism. That was somewhat astonishing. Also, how she mistreated the poor guy over the years. She gave him hell, even physically abusing the poor guy.
Also, I was intrigued to investigate the death of Larry’s son, how it occurred, and how it affected Larry and Mabel. Those are life-altering areas that we cover in the book.
On the other hand, what were some of Larry’s negative vices and personality traits?
I think Larry was a bit of a pushover, maybe overly trusting with many people. He gave away much of his fortune — including helping many relatives — over his lifetime and wasted sums on ridiculous schemes and investments which went nowhere.
I’m not sure he had many bad habits or traits, because on all accounts this was a very likable gentleman in all respects. He was clean, well mannered, patient, funny, and kind. Larry loved his fans and rarely refused a request.
However, I learned he did have an affair during his marriage, which made Mabel furious; she remained somewhat mistrusting of him, especially when he traveled. This was not totally confirmed, so I left it out of the book. After all, this was supposed to be Larry’s story, much of which was from his point of view, so I didn’t think the alleged affair[s] was something appropriate in that context.
I’d love to hear any stories regarding Larry’s generosity or his love of children.
When Larry’s son, Johnnie, died, Larry and Mabel made sure to take care of his widow and their grandchildren until she could get on her feet and did so for years. That shows you his sense of family responsibility and generosity.
When Larry and Mabel went back East to visit relatives in Philadelphia, they always brought gifts and paid for dinners and helped out relatives and treated the kids royally. Many nieces and nephews have stories of such regal activities and kindnesses from “Uncle Larry and Aunt Mabel.”
We also quoted Don Lamond, Larry’s son-in-law, about an experience with a child following one of their live shows in the early 60s. Keep in mind that Larry was an old softie with kids; he melted around them. He loved them, and they loved him and his huge honker, his kindly nasal tone, his smile, and that perfectly shaped “chrome dome.” You just want to pet that forehead.
Once, following a show, the Stooges met some young kids in the dressing room afterward, and one of the little boys told Larry that he was blind and asked to feel Larry’s face and Larry let him.
He began to tell Larry how he loved the Stooges and said “I watch you guys every day.” Larry had to quietly excuse himself as he began to cry. Here, this blind boy told him that he “watched” them every day, and Larry was overcome by the young boy and his enthusiasm.
The Stooges were never paid adequately for their amazing body of work over the years. Were they wealthy by the end of their lives?
Moe probably made the most with some really wise investments. His family did even better, however I won’t get into that topic. The other Stooges really never made out as well, Larry included. He was nearly broke when he entered the Motion Picture Country Home.
He had just a few hundred dollars in his bank account. True. I saw the statements. It’s been said he gambled his money away, but he was a small time gambler; he loved the races, golf, football, baseball, boxing, and other sports in general. Nothing like say, Lou Costello’s sobering trips to the track.
But Larry gave away and piddled much of his fortune. He and Mabel rented a home most of their life, with maid service, etc. They took trips, he bought furs, and it was somewhat of an extravagant life for his income. There wasn’t much left when he retired.
When Curly Joe died in 1993, he wasn’t well off financially, either. Joe Besser died with a decent amount of money in his bank account and donated a good portion to the Motion Picture Fund.
The book contains a wealth of information on Larry’s final 10 years. His friendship with Jim Malinda paints a very down-to-earth view of the comedian.
To me, Jim Malinda was a key interview in the book. My meeting Jim was completely a surprise — another instance where, I think, Larry was guiding me. I was directed to him on recommendation of Larry’s barber, Eddie Crisbell.
I would have never found him otherwise. She remembered Jim and suggested I speak with him because she recalled them being good pals at that time. Jim was terrific and generous with memories and reminiscences of his friend Larry and freely spoke about his experiences knowing Larry in the late ’60s until his death in 1975.
His recall was great, and his comments were quite frank and candid, really telling me how it was. Jim really respected and loved Larry and never took their friendship for granted. Jim was a young actor when he met Larry; he was a very cool and good looking guy back then who was attempting to get into the film business.
He and Larry struck up a friendship through a mutual girlfriend…yes, a mutual girlfriend who dated Jim and later dated Larry. Larry liked the young ladies, and I think this particular lady was in her forties or so.
What was so interesting in his interview were the wonderful details, such as his recalling where he was during the first Moon Landing in 1969. He was with his girlfriend and Larry, and all three of them were at her apartment watching the television and the worldwide event that was taking place. All of them were stunned as they watched the landing on live television.
Isn’t it interesting to know where Larry was and what he was doing at that time? It would have been interesting to know where he was — as well as the other Stooges — say, when Kennedy was assassinated.
Moe made very little social commentary in Moe Howard and the Three Stooges, but then again, much of that was assembled from bits and pieces written haphazardly over the years. His daughter and son in law, Joan and Norman Maurer, completed his book posthumously, and it’s somewhat riddled with errors in the Stooges history.
In fact, when that book came out, Shemp’s widow, Babe Howard, insisted that Shemp was the first Stooge to join forces with Ted Healy — not Moe Howard. She was emphatic about it — and was with Shemp back then so her claim gains validity. She claimed Moe was making claims he did not deserve. She insisted Shemp was actually the first “Stooge.” But I digress…
So back to Jim…Malinda was also instrumental in helping Larry in his recuperation following his major stroke. I think Larry somehow felt that Jim might have been a surrogate son, somewhat of a replacement for his late son, Johnny. That struck me as something Larry felt at that time and Jim felt the same way. He told me so.
Jim was great in many ways, including his support of the project and his hope that Larry got his due. Plus, Jim had saved some terrific photos he’d taken of Larry and allowed me to print them.
How did Larry view his debilitating stroke?
Larry’s stroke affected every bit of him: movement, speech, and I think a little of his mental capabilities. All in all, I think he made the best of it and just became accustomed to his limitations. It was his fans who were able to visit him — with his encouragement — that actually made out the best.
Here this comedy legend was accessible to all at the Motion Picture Country Home, and he openly welcomed visitors. How cool is that? He took phone calls from fans all across the country and responded to fan mail galore.
There are many actors today who recall meeting him and visiting with him, people like Bob Saget and Kevin Spacey among them. They were kids then.
I was especially surprised to discover that Joe Besser, Curly Joe DeRita, and Emil Sitka did not visit Larry while he was ill.
I really don’t know why those guys did not visit Larry in the home. It is a bit surprising. Emil Sitka told me he did not visit Larry after the stroke at the Motion Picture Home. However, Emil’s son states that his father’s diaries suggest he did visit him during his illness.
I think that perhaps Emil visited Larry after he had his stroke while he still resided in Hollywood — which is where Emil lived as well. Most people assume Larry went directly into the nursing home following his major stroke, but that is not so.
Larry spent time at his daughter’s Hollywood home in a private apartment that was adapted for his recovery. He was there more than a year before getting into the Motion Picture Home. He suffered more strokes, and it became necessary to find a nursing home facility to care for him.
But Curly Joe DeRita worked so closely with Larry for a decade and could have visited, and he said he never did. Surely he called him, but I don’t know. Curly Joe was quite obese in his final years and not very mobile.
Curly Joe attended Larry’s funeral, I know that. And I attended Curly Joe’s funeral in July 1993. I was one of his pall bearers. I asked his wife, Jean, if I could place a cigar in his lapel pocket, and she thought that was an appropriate send-off.
So, I sent ol’ Curly Joe, the last and oldest Stooge at age 83, on his way with a nice ten dollar cigar. I like cigars myself and smoke when I’m really writing and getting swept up in the thick of some text.
Larry was telling jokes until the very end. Does one come to mind?
I loved Larry talking about flying in airplanes. Someone asked him why he was afraid to fly. He said, “I’m not afraid of flying…I’m afraid of crashing.”
Does Larry have any surviving family members?
Larry has grandchildren and great grandchildren surviving. Son-in-law Don Lamond passed away in late 2015, best known as a Los Angeles area TV personality who hosted the Stooges’ shorts on KTTV and appeared in numerous supporting roles in their ’60s movies. Of course, there are nieces and nephews on both the East and West Coasts.
Larry’s legacy is still planted firmly in the Philadelphia area where he came from. The actual building where he was born and grew up is a restaurant called Jon’s with a giant mural of Larry’s face on the outside wall.
Why did the Three Stooges not receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame until the mid-1980s?
It’s beyond me why the committee in Hollywood continually — for decades — passed up the Stooges when awarding the famous stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Moe was irritated by it, I know. He actually said in a radio interview that the committee who decides can “take their star and stick it you know where — one point at a time.”
Larry, who lived in an apartment in the late ’60s right on Hollywood Boulevard, would see the cemented names and be reminded he was nowhere to be found, every single day.
Finally, after a national campaign which involved Joan Howard, two Stooges fans known as Greg and Jeff Lenburg, broadcaster Gary Owens, and the International Three Stooges Fan Club, they were given a star in 1983.
I was invited to the ceremony and represented the fan club since I was Vice President at that time, and I reported on the event and had a blast. Joe Besser attended, so that was the highlight. Milton Berle was there, too, and that lent some vintage Hollywood feeling to the event also.
It was strange because Stooges’ foil Emil Sitka had not been invited, but I brought him as my guest. When the people organizing the event noticed him, they immediately asked him to speak at the event, which he did.
He also stayed and autographed photos and books and things for all of the fans — much more so than anyone else that day. And people knew exactly who he was, believe me. I won’t get into the politics of why he wasn’t invited in the first place, but suffice to say that he should have been one of the first on the list.
Curly Joe DeRita was just too heavyset to attend, and his wife told me his bladder problems would not allow him to get of the house. That might have been disastrous.
It still irritates me that the Hollywood committee placed their star on a side street — Vine — rather than on the main walk on Hollywood Boulevard. They deserve it much more than say, Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight, wouldn’t you think?
What are your thoughts regarding the Farrelly Brothers’ 2012 big screen homage to the Three Stooges?
My first thought, way back when the film was announced in the early 2000’s, was that a “new” Stooges film may be the most colossal mistake in film history. There were names attached in the press like Sean Penn playing Larry and Benicio del Toro becoming Moe. Whether these were serious considerations or just stupid hype, I don’t know. I wasn’t keen on the idea of this film coming to fruition.
I watched the movie with a packed house full of critics — I know, everyone’s a critic. But this was a screening for press, and I was really curious about how it would be received. I wanted to like the movie — I really did. To my surprise, I rather liked the film. I didn’t find it overwhelmingly funny, but it had some moments.
The script was not so hot, the supporting cast was just okay — no great standouts. Even Larry David playing a nun was just a joke taken waaaaay too far. And I think Larry David can be hilarious.
But the most impressive part of the film were the three guys portraying the Stooges themselves. I felt Sean Hayes [Larry], Will Sasso [Curly], and Chris Diamantopoulos [Moe] put on film the most accurate recreation of the team that I’d ever seen.
I really didn’t find any cringe-worthy moments when I thought, ‘Oh, they didn’t do that gag very well, did they?’ Their timing was pretty good, the makeup excellent, and the actors even altered their voices to nail the Stooges, so to speak. They’d done their homework, as did the Farrelly’s.
However, one thing the Farrelly’s didn’t discover in their homework is that any storyline involving the Stooges and children usually falls flat. That was the stuff of Moe, Larry, and Curly-Joe in the sixties — the kiddie shows and humor played down for little boys and girls.
In the early short subject comedies, the Stooges rarely involved little kids. Rarely. And the ones in which they did, the humor really lacked. That leads me to think the Farrelly’s were making a film for kids, and I wasn’t thrilled about that.
In re-watching the DVD version of The Three Stooges film, I was disappointed that some of the funniest moments ended up as bonus materials instead of in the main feature.
Days after seeing the film at the press screening, I was invited by a friend to pop into a press junket and meet the three guys who starred as the Stooges. I went — eagerly — and was surprised that they were doing the junket interviews in character and makeup.
I brought copies of One Fine Stooge and was surprised when they all told me immediately that they’d bought the book for research on their roles. All three complimented the book greatly. I was really stunned by this.
Sean Hayes, especially, thanked me for writing the book because he said it was a story that needed to be told. I’ll always remember that and his enthusiasm about One Fine Stooge.
Can you explain why the Stooges remain so popular in comparison to contemporaries such as the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello?
The Stooges have a timelessness about them, don’t they? It’s hard to say why. It’s like asking “What is comedy?” or “What is funny?” There’s a raw comedy that those guys tune into and touch upon.
I would say they’re an acquired taste, and I think that’s true. I love the timing and originality they illustrate. They’ve outlasted, surpassed, and transcended all other vintage comedy teams in the history of film. Amazing, isn’t it?
You were only eight when Larry passed away on January 24, 1975, but I get the strong sense that you are kindred spirits.
Somehow I really feel like we collaborated on his book, so I think I did talk with him in a sense. I spoke to him at his grave, and I hope he heard me. I know he guided me. I just know it. Things worked out too beautifully for this book.
And to me, that book turned out far and above Moe Howard’s book, not only in construction, content, and design, but also with accuracy as well. I think Larry would have loved topping Moe on that note.
Totally true encounters with Munchkins, the World’s Tallest Man, and the King of Cool [Dean Martin]
Stephen (Steve) Cox ably demonstrates his astronomical lucky streak in an exclusive sit-down summit unleashed this…
[Author’s Note: Stick around for “Speak to Me, Kid, Say a Few Syllables! Paging Moe Howard of the Three Stooges,” required reading for Stooge fanatics. Moe’s only son, Paul Howard, is a caricaturist with fascinating behind the scenes tidbits about the beloved Jewish comedians who rarely grants expansive interviews. When asked to sum up Larry in a nutshell, Howard astutely reveals, “Like Curly, Larry was a devil-may-care kind of personality. Very easy-going. Unlike Curly, he was more of a family man. But both of them didn’t watch their finances. The most inspiring aspect of Larry was that after he had a stroke, he learned to draw (quite well) with his ‘other hand,’ and he welcomed sharing his memories with visiting fans during his final years”].
‘Stooges Among Us’ contributor Scott Reboul traces his journey to the hysterically funny trio
Radiochemist Scott Reboul met most of the Three Stooges and grants a thorough walk down memory lane honoring the…
Stooge chronicles from a 24-year Savannah River Site radiochemist
Redeeming qualities of the Three Stooges’ 1959–1965 films, Kook’s Tour and the impact of Larry and Moe dying occupy a…
The Three Stooges are comedy gods: Enduring confessions from baby boomer Scott Reboul
Scott Reboul met, corresponded, and traded laughs with the Three Stooges in the 1970s. Today he accesses his vast…
Them’s fightin’ words in my country! A hurrah for Stooge underdog Shemp Howard
Sixty-three years ago on November 22 at 11:35 p.m. PST, eternal Three Stooges underdog Shemp Howard was riffing…
I’m a victim of soicumstance! Keeping up with the Three Stooges on AMC and IFC
The Three Stooges, one of the most iconic comedy teams in history, now call both American Movie Classics [AMC] and IFC…
Mayberry blood brothers: The light and darkness of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts
“Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show” biographer Daniel de Visé furnishes a panoramic…
Heart to heart with ‘Two and a Half Men’ outsider Jennifer Taylor
In her most expansive interview, Charlie Sheen’s former TV fiancé talks #MeToo, bad auditions, God, love, healthy…
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