Curly Howard Was One of the Most Beloved Members of the Three Stooges

Updated on January 18, 2018
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Curly Howard
Curly Howard

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.


Early Life

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.


Exaggerated Walk

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.


Early picture of Three Stooges comedy group. Curly Howard on the far right.
Early picture of Three Stooges comedy group. Curly Howard on the far right.

Audition

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.


Three Stooges

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.

Curly Howard performing
Curly Howard performing

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.


Personal Life

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.


Illness

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.


Half Wits Holiday movie short. Curly Howard on the far left.
Half Wits Holiday movie short. Curly Howard on the far left.

Stroke

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.


Curly Howard Burial Plot
Curly Howard Burial Plot

Last Days

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.


Comedic Legend

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.


Questions & Answers

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      • Readmikenow profile image
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        Readmikenow 5 weeks ago

        Thanks!

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 5 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Readmikenow -- you are so right. And I would wager that he (Howard) was a favorite not only for you and I, but to anyone who loved REAL comedy. Keep up the fine work, mike.

      • Readmikenow profile image
        Author

        Readmikenow 5 weeks ago

        Kenneth, thanks. Curly Howard was my favorite. He was such a funny man with such a tragic life.

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 5 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Bravo, Mike! Bravo! I am so very glad to meet and follow you and read about MY favorite comedy icon: Curly Howard--more than a name, but a legend. I mean this too.

        I loved every short film and every episode of the Stooges, but those with Joe and Shemp were to me, Non-Stooges, but Curly, Larry and Joe were the Real Deal.

        I was impressed at the depth of research you did to achieve such a great hub.

        Bravo!

        Keep up the fine work.

      • Readmikenow profile image
        Author

        Readmikenow 6 weeks ago

        Bill, thanks. I think some of the comedy Curly did will be popular for many generations.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I spent countless hours as a child watching The Three Stooges, and Curly was my favorite by far. What fun!

      • Readmikenow profile image
        Author

        Readmikenow 6 weeks ago

        It's a shame as he was a tremendous comedic talent.

      • profile image

        Peter Renardo 7 weeks ago

        Curly suffered his first mini stroke sometime between Idiots Deluxe and If A Body Meets A Body in early 1945. He also made a feature film at this time, and his illness was only appearing occasionally.

      • Readmikenow profile image
        Author

        Readmikenow 3 months ago

        Larry, thanks. He was one of my favorite stooges.

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

        Big fan of the Stooges. I really enjoyed the information on Curly.

      • Readmikenow profile image
        Author

        Readmikenow 4 months ago

        A B, thanks. Yeah, he was one of my favorite stooges as well. A shame how his life declined and ended.

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 4 months ago from Central Florida

        Great read Mike!

        Curly was my favorite Stooge for sure, he made me laugh out loud. Moe just scared me!

        It is shame that his health declined so rapidly. It sounds as if you were describing a man of 78, not 48. Sad!

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