Moses Harry Horwitz
(June 19, 1897 – May 4, 1975), known professionally as
Moe Howard, was a
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
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
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."
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
 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.
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.
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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