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Moe Howard
Jewish Name - Moses Harry Horwitz

Moses Harry Horwitz (June 19, 1897 May 4, 1975), known professionally as Moe Howard, was a Jewish American actor and comedian best known as the leader of The Three Stooges, the farce comedy team who starred in motion pictures and television for four decades. Moe Howard's distinctive hairstyle came about when Moe Howard was a boy and cut off Moe Howard's curls with a pair of scissors, producing a ragged shape approximating a helmet or bowl.

Early life

Moses Horwitz was born on June 19, 1897, in Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Bensonhurst, to Solomon Horwitz and Jennie Gorovitz. Moe Howard was the fourth of the five Horwitz brothers of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. In Moe Howard's younger years, Moe Howard acquired the nickname Moe and later adopted the name Harry. Although Moe Howard's parents were not involved in show business, Moe, Moe Howard's older brother Samuel and younger brother Jerome all eventually became world-famous as members of the Three Stooges. Moe loved reading, as Moe Howard's older brother Jack commented: "I had many Horatio Alger books and it was Moe's greatest pleasure to read them.

 

They started Moe Howard's imaginative mind working and gave him ideas by the dozen. I think they were instrumental in putting thoughts into Moe Howard's head to become a person of good character and to become successful." In later years, this helped him in Moe Howard's acting career, making memorizing Moe Howard's lines quick and easy. Although Moe Howard's "bowl cut" hairstyle is now widely recognized, when Moe Howard was a child Moe Howard's mother refused to cut Moe Howard's hair, letting it grow to shoulder length. One day, Moe Howard could not take Moe Howard's classmates' years of teasing any longer, sneaked off to a shed in Moe Howard's parents' back yard, and cut Moe Howard's hair. Horwitz was so afraid Moe Howard's mother would be upset (she enjoyed curling Moe Howard's hair) that Moe Howard hid under the house for several hours, causing a panic. Moe Howard finally came out and Moe Howard's mother was so glad to see him that she did not even mention the hair.

Horwitz began to develop an interest in acting and, as a result, Moe Howard's schoolwork suffered. Moe Howard began playing hooky from school in order to attend theater shows. Horwitz said, "I used to stand outside the theater knowing the truant officer was looking for me. I would stand there 'til someone came along and then ask them to buy my ticket. It was necessary for an adult to accompany a juvenile into the theater. When I succeeded I'd give him my ten cents that's all it cost and I'd go up to the top of the balcony where I'd put my chin on the rail and watch, spellbound, from the first act to the last. I would usually select the actor I liked the most and follow Moe Howard's performance throughout the play."[1]

Despite Moe Howard's decreasing attendance, Horwitz graduated from P.S. 163 in Brooklyn, but Moe Howard dropped out of Erasmus Hall High School after only two months. This was the end of Moe Howard's formal education. To mollify Moe Howard's parents Moe Howard took a class in electric shop, but quit after a few months to pursue a career in show business.[1]

Horwitz began by running errands for no fee at the Vitagraph Studios in Midwood, Brooklyn (the long-time home of the CBS daytime serial As the World Turns), where Moe Howard was rewarded with bit parts in movies being made there. However a fire at the studios in 1910 destroyed the film and most of Horwitz's work done there. In 1909 Moe Howard met a young man named Lee Nash who would later provide a significant boost to Horwitz's career aspirations. In 1912, they both held a summer job working in Annette Kellerman's aquatic act as diving "girls."[1]

Career

Moe Horwitz continued Moe Howard's attempts at gaining show business experience by singing in a bar with Moe Howard's older brother Shemp until their father put a stop to it, and in 1914 joining a performing troupe on a Mississippi River showboat for the next two summers. In 1921, Moe Howard joined Lee Nash, who was now firmly established in show business as Ted Healy, in a vaudeville routine. In 1923, Horwitz spotted Shemp watching the show and yelled at him from the stage. Horwitz and Shemp heckled each other to a large positive response from the audience and Healy hired Shemp as a permanent part of the act. Next, Healy recruited a vaudeville violinist, Larry Fine, in 1925, to join the comedy troupe, which was billed as "Ted Healy and Moe Howard's Racketeers" (later changed to Ted Healy and Moe Howard's Stooges).[1]

By 1930, Ted Healy and Moe Howard's Stooges were on the verge of "the big time," and made their first movie, Soup to Nuts featuring Ted Healy, and Moe Howard's four Stooges (Moe (billed as "Harry Moe Howard"), Shemp, Larry, and one-shot Stooge Fred Sanborn) for Fox Films (later 20th Century Fox). Shemp had never seen eye-to-eye with the hard-drinking and sometimes belligerent Healy, and left the group shortly after filming in order to pursue a solo film career. After a short search for a replacement, Moe Howard suggested Moe Howard's youngest brother, Jerome ("Babe" to Moe Howard and Shemp). Healy originally passed on Jerry (whom Moe Howard disliked), but Jerry was so eager to join the act that Moe Howard shaved off Moe Howard's luxuriant auburn mustache and hair and ran on stage during Healy's routine. Healy hired Jerry, who took the stage name of "Curly."[1]

Healy and the Stooges were hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as "nut" comics, to liven up feature films and short subjects with their antics. After a number of appearances in MGM films, Healy was being groomed as a solo character comedian. With Healy pursuing Moe Howard's own career, Moe Howard's Stooges (now renamed The Three Stooges) signed with Columbia Pictures where they stayed until December 1957, making 190 short films.[1]

With Healy's departure, Moe Howard's character assumed Healy's previous role of the aggressive, take-charge leader of the Three Stooges: a short-tempered bully, prone to slapstick violence against the other two Stooges. However, despite Moe Howard's rather cruel demeanor towards Moe Howard's pals, Moe Howard's character was also very loyal and protective of the other Stooges, keeping them from harm and, should it befall them, doing whatever it took to save them. Moe Howard emphasized in Moe Howard's 1977 book, however, that the ill-tempered aspects of Moe Howard's on-screen persona did not reflect Moe Howard's real personality. Moe Howard also boasted of being a shrewd businessman, by wisely investing the money made from Moe Howard's film career. However, the Stooges received no subsequent royalties from any of their many shorts, as they were paid a flat amount for each one and Columbia owned the rights (and profits) thereafter.[1]

In 1934, Columbia released its first Three Stooges short, Woman Haters, where their stooge characters were not quite finalized. It was not a Stooge comedy in the classic sense, but rather a romantic farce; Columbia was then making a series of two-reel "Musical Novelties" with the dialogue spoken in rhyme, and the Stooges were recruited to support comedienne Marjorie White. Only after the Stooges became established as short-subject stars were the main titles changed to give the Stooges top billing. The version seen on TV and video today is this reissue print.[1]

Their next film, Punch Drunks, was the only short film that was written entirely by the Three Stooges, with Curly as a reluctant boxer who goes ballistic every time Moe Howard hears "Pop Goes the Weasel." Their next short, Men in Black (a parody of the hospital drama Men in White) was their first and only film to be nominated for an Academy Award (with the classic catchphrase, "Calling Dr. Moe Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Moe Howard"). They continued making short films at a steady pace of eight per year, such as Three Little Pigskins (with a very young Lucille Ball), Pop Goes the Easel, Hoi Polloi (where two professors make a bet trying to turn the Three Stooges into gentlemen), and many others.[1]

In the 1940s, the Three Stooges became topical, making several anti-Nazi movies including You Nazty Spy! (Moe's favorite Three Stooges film), I'll Never Heil Again, and They Stooge to Conga. Moe's impersonation of Adolf Hitler highlighted these shorts, the first of which preceded Charlie Chaplin's controversial film satire, The Great Dictator, by months.[1]

On May 6, 1946, during the filming of Half-Wits Holiday, brother Curly suffered a stroke. Moe Howard was replaced in the Three Stooges by Shemp, who agreed to return to the group until Curly would be well enough to rejoin. Although Curly recovered enough to appear in Hold That Lion! in a cameo appearance (the only Three Stooges film to contain all three Moe Howard brothers; Moe, Curly, and Shemp), Moe Howard soon suffered a series of strokes which led to Moe Howard's death on January 18, 1952.[1]

The Three Stooges' series of shorts continued to be popular through the 1950s; Shemp co-starred in 73 comedies. (The Stooges also co-starred in a George O'Brien western, Gold Raiders, in 1951.) Moe Howard also co-produced occasional western and musical films in the 1950s.

On November 22, 1955, Shemp died of a heart attack, necessitating the need for another Stooge. Producer Jules White used old footage of Shemp to complete four more films with Columbia regular Joe Palma filling in for Shemp (thus creating the Fake Shemp phenomenon), until Harry Cohn hired Joe Besser in 1956. According to Moe Howard's autobiography, Moe Howard wanted a "two stooge" act, and it was Cohn's idea, not Moe Howard's, to replace Shemp as part of the act. Joe, Larry, and Moe Howard filmed 16 shorts through December 1957. Shortly before the death of Columbia head Harry Cohn in February 1958, the making of short subjects came to an end. Keeping himself busy, Moe Howard was hired by Harry Romm as an Associate Producer. According to Moe Howard, stories that Moe Howard was forced to take a job as a gofer at Columbia are completely false.[1]

Fortunately for the Stooges, Columbia sold the Three Stooges' library of short films to television under the "Screen Gems" brand. With this, the Three Stooges quickly gained a new audience of young fans. Ever the businessman, Moe Howard put together a new Stooges act, with burlesque and screen comic Joe DeRita (dubbed "Curly-Joe" because of Moe Howard's resemblance to Curly Moe Howard) as the new "third Stooge." The revitalized trio starred in several feature-length movies: Have Rocket, Will Travel, Snow White and the Three Stooges, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, The Three Stooges in Orbit, The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze, and The Outlaws Is Coming.[1]

Moe Howard, Larry and Curly-Joe continued to make live appearances, many notable "guest appearances", notably in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (as three firemen who appear for only a few seconds) and 4 for Texas. The men tried their hand at a children's cartoon show titled The New Three Stooges, with the cartoons sandwiched between live action segments of the boys. But by 1965, they were close to 70 years old and could not no longer handle slapstick comedy. The men were paid residually for their efforts and continued to receive the bulk of the profits from sales of Stooges merchandise.

Moe Howard sold real estate when Moe Howard's show-business life slowed down, although Moe Howard still did minor roles and walk-on bits in movies (Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title, Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls) and television appearances (Here's Hollywood, Toast of the Town, Masquerade Party, Truth or Consequences and several appearances on The Mike Douglas Show). In one episode of The Mike Douglas Show, Moe Howard, Moe Howard's hair in a style popular at the time, made a surprise appearance during an interview of the writer of a "where-are-they-now" book. When the audience was given the chance to ask the writer about famous people, Moe Howard asked "What ever happened to the Three Stooges?" Finally recognized by Douglas, Moe Howard then combed Moe Howard's hair into Moe Howard's trademark style.[episode needed] The Stooges also made several appearances on late night television, particularly The Tonight Show.[episode needed]

The Stooges attempted to make a final film in 1969, Kook's Tour, which was essentially a documentary of Moe Howard, Larry and Curly-Joe, out of character, touring the country and interacting with fans. But production abruptly halted when on January 8, 1970, Larry suffered a major stroke during filming, paralyzing the left side of Moe Howard's body. Moe Howard died on January 24, 1975 at age 72. Moe Howard asked long-time Three Stooges supporting actor Emil Sitka to replace Larry, but this final lineup never recorded any material.
Personal life

On June 7, 1925, Moe Howard married Helen Schonberger, a cousin of magician Harry Houdini. The next year, Helen pressured Moe to leave the stage, as she was pregnant and wanted Moe nearer to home. Moe attempted to earn a living in a succession of "normal" jobs, none of which was very successful. Moe Howard soon returned to working with Ted Healy.[1]

Death

Moe Howard was working on Moe Howard's autobiography, tentatively titled I Stooged to Conquer when Moe Howard died of lung cancer on May 4, 1975. Moe Howard died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California where Moe Howard was admitted a week earlier. For much of Moe Howard's adult life, Moe Howard was a heavy smoker. [1][3] Moe Howard was entombed in Culver City's Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. Moe Howard's wife died of a heart attack in October 1975 and was entombed next to him. Moe's autobiography was released in 1977 as Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
Legacy

Moe and the Three Stooges received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 30, 1983, at 1560 Vine Street.
Moe was portrayed by Paul Ben-Victor in The Three Stooges, a 2000 made-for-TV biopic that focused on the trio's years in show business and their off-screen lives.
In the 2012 Farrelly brothers' film The Three Stooges, Moe is portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos.

References

Moe Howard, Moe (1977, rev. 1979). Moe Howard and the Three Stooges. Broadway Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8065-0723-1.
"Caricatures by Paul" - website
Greene, Rick (Spring 1975). "I Stooged to Conquer: The Forthcoming Autobiography of Moe Howard". Three Stooges Fan Club Journal.

 


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