The name Curly Howard would probably be foreign to many people. They would wonder who this person is and what has he done. However, Curly of “The Three Stooges” is a name known to many generations of people who grow up watching television. Curly was beloved by a number of people, even today. He was the robust of the three and had the least amount of hair. He was best known for his high-pitch voice, his signature “woo-woo-woo” and his strange dance moves. A lot of individuals who watched the Stooges have their favorite episode featuring him and don’t particularly like the ones with his look-alike replacement. Many people may not realize that he was not a member of the original cast; Curly replaced his brother Shemp. So, from where did this beloved character originate?
Curly Howard was born Jerome Lester Horwitz in Brooklyn, New York on October 22, 1903. He was the youngest of the three Howard brothers. Moe, also a Stooge, was his other brother. As a child, he accidentally shot himself in the foot while playing with his pistol in the family’s backyard. His brother, Moe, found him, but he was so scared to get surgery that it was never corrected. This accident served as an impetus for his exaggerated walk on screen. When he was younger, Curly had the nickname Babe, which his brother Moe affectionately called him.
Before he became a member of “The Three Stooges,” he was known by the name Jerry. In 1928, he made his stage debut at the age of 25 as a comedic conductor for the Orville Knapp Band. Curly pursued other entertainment endeavors while his brothers, Moe and Shemp, became members of the Ted Healy creation, “The Three Stooges.” He would not become a member of the comedy team until 1932.
Ted Healy initially didn’t want Curly to replace his brother, Shemp. According to IMDB.com, at the time, Curly had wavy brown hair and a mustache. However, when he shaved his head and his mustache, Healy immediately reconsidered his decision. He became an audience and critics favor for his childlike, playful manner almost instantly. This career as a member of the comic trio lasted until 1947. Known as the “Curly Years,” he made more than 100 film appearances and received the brunt of Moe’s abuse in the performances.
Although his professional career was prospering, Curly’s personal life was not as pleasant. Despite his bubbly nature in front of the camera, he was painfully shy in private. His shyness was so overwhelming that he always stayed in character when he was in the public eye. In addition to being timid, he was not having success in love either. He was married four or five times, with a mysterious marriage in his teens, and the father of two children.
Unable to deal with his success, mostly due to his shy personality, Curly indulged in a number of addictive behaviors, namely drinking, overeating, womanizing and compulsive spending. His destructive lifestyle led to serious health problems, including hypertension, but he refused to change his bad habits. By 1945, the unhealthy lifestyle was affecting his film performances as well.
Eventually, he suffered a massive stroke on the set of one of the film “Half-Wits Holiday” (1947). After he had a minor recuperation, he tried to return to work but experienced a series of strokes. On January 18, 1952, Curly Howard died at 48 years old.
Even in death, he attained immortality. No one could replace him in the Stooges franchise. The movie grease paid homage to “The Three Stooges” in the bonfire scene, “The Curly Shuffle” was recorded in 1984, and even now, people can be seen wearing t-shirts bearing his image.