Curly Howard Was One of the Most Beloved Members of the Three Stooges
Lester Horowitz's desire to enter the world of show business started as a young child. He would regularly watch his older brothers Moe and Shemp perform comedy routines as part of vaudeville legend Ted Healy's stage act. After a period of time, Shemp decided to leave Healy's act. Moe suggested to Healy his younger brother Lester would be an excellent replacement for Shemp. After a long audition, Lester Horwitz was hired by Ted Healy. Lester Horowitz then became Curly Howard, and his entertainment career began.
The future Curly Howard was born on October 22, 1903, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of five boys. Since he was the youngest, all his brothers would tease him by calling him “Babe.” His older brother Shemp married a woman named Gertrude Frank. Her nickname was also “Babe.” So as to avoid confusing the two people, his brothers started calling him “Curly.” Curly Howard was known for being quiet as a child. He wasn't good at academics but was an impressive athlete. Howard was a stand-out on his high school basketball team. Howard didn't finish high school. He preferred to get paid to do odd jobs. Howard was also a huge success when it came to ballroom dancing and singing. He idolized his older brothers and would often follow them to their rehearsals and vaudeville performances.
At the age of 12, Curly was cleaning a rifle and accidentally shot himself. His brother Moe got him to the hospital in time to save his life. After he was healed, the accident left Curly with a slight limp because he had a thinner left leg. Curly was terrified to have surgery. He refused to have an operation that would have corrected his limp. In order to hide the limp on screen or in front of an audience, Curly developed his famous exaggerated walk.
When Shemp left, and Moe suggested his younger brother Curly replace him, Ted Healy had his doubts. Curly had thick chestnut hair and an athletic build. His mustache was elegantly waxed, and Healy believed Curly looked too handsome and didn't appear to be funny. Curly asked for another chance. He left the room, and when Curly came back, he had shaved his head. Curly began doing some of the things he and his brothers did to one another when they were growing up. He then said to Ted Healy and his assistant, “Boy, don't you two look girlie.” They all agreed Curly would be the perfect name for the character he had created.
Curly Howard was hired to perform with his brothers in Ted Healy's show. That year, Curly and his brothers left Ted Healy and created the stage name “Three Stooges.” They then signed to be in comedy shorts films for Columbia Pictures. They became the most popular comedy short film attraction for the movie studio. All the brothers agreed, their little brother Curly was a big part of their success.
Exceptional Comedic Skills
Curly Howard had no formal training when it came to acting. He had a natural comedic charm. Curly's unique ways of doing things made him very popular with audiences. Children especially liked things he did on stage and in film. His trademark was having a head that could not be damaged by anything. When he was in character, Curly would often keep going when the scene was complete. It was common for movie directors to keep the film cameras rolling as Curly would improvise in different situations. When there was a scene that needed something special, they knew Curly Howard could create something and make it funny.
When he was not performing, Curly Howard was quiet and kept to himself. He was known for being an introvert. Unless he had a sufficient number of drinks, Curly did not like to socialize. He began to have problems with his older brother Moe. Curly never did funny things unless he was performing, intoxicated or with only his brothers. Curly Howard got married on June 7, 1937. His wife's name was Elaine Ackerman. The year after their marriage, the couple had their only child; a daughter they named Marilyn. During June of 1940, the couple divorced. Curly then gained a substantial amount of weight. His health began to suffer as he developed hypertension. He didn't like having to keep his head shaved and felt it made him less attractive to women. His brothers worried about their little brother Curly who continued to regularly drink to excess.
Curly Howard's voice started to get deeper and his actions noticeably slower starting in 1944. His energy also was very low. Some believe it's possible he suffered the first of many strokes he experienced during his life. During December of 1944, Moe insisted Curly visit the Cottage Hospital located in Santa Barbara, California. After a complete examination, the doctors said Curly had a retinal hemorrhage, was obese and had a significant case of hypertension. His poor health forced him to cut back on making the comedic shorts.
Continued Health Deterioration
In 1945, Curley's brothers agreed, he was only a shell of his former comedic genius. Curly's work schedule had been cut even more, but his health continued to deteriorate.
During October of 1945, Curly Howard married Marion Buxbaum. The marriage lasted for approximately three months. It was a bitter divorce and one that was exploited by the media. After the divorce, Howard's health quickly became worse. Starting in 1946, Curly's voice had become noticeably coarse. Remembering the simplest dialogue became too much for him. During this time, he lost a significant amount of weight. This resulted in deep lines creasing his face.
Curly Howard made his final appearance on film in the comedic short “Half-Wits Holiday.” Curly suffered a severe stroke during the filming of the comedic short. It happened on May 6, 1946, right before the last scene of the day. Curly couldn't speak and cried. After this, Curly spent a few months at a Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. After this, he went home to continue his recuperation. Curly Howard married Valerie Newman on July 31, 1947. The couple had a daughter in 1948 they named Janie. The two of them remained married until Curly Howard's death.
During the later months of 1950, Curly Howard's health got much worse. He eventually was confined to a bed. He was then moved to a Sanitarium. Because he had suffered multiple strokes, it became very difficult for him to talk and communicate to people. He eventually could only communicate by squeezing a person's hand. On January 18, 1952, Curly Howard passed away at the age of 48.
Many celebrities and film critics felt Curly Howard was their favorite member of The Three Stooges. Most people agree he was a natural comedian who was a genius at making up funny things on the spur of the moment. His creation of “woob, woob, woob,” “ruff, ruff,” “nyahh-ahhh-ahhh,” as well as “n'yuk, n'yuk, n'yuk” and others have earned him a spot in American Culture and comedic history.