The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to midâ€“20th century best known for their numerous short subject films. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick. In films, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names: "Moe, Larry, and Curly" or "Moe, Larry, and Shemp," among other lineups depending on the films.
The act started as Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen, consisting of Moe Howard, his brother Shemp, and Larry Fine. This threesome did one feature film entitled Soup to Nuts before Shemp left to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by his brother Curly and the trio became The Three Stooges.
When Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946, Shemp returned, reinstating the original lineup until Shemp's death in November, 1955. Film actor Joe Palma was used as a temporary stand-in to complete four Shemp-era shorts before Joe Besser joined as the third Stooge. Joe DeRita replaced Besser by 1958. The act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kiddie fare until Larry Fine's paralyzing stroke in January 1970 doomed its resurgence.
Larry died from a series of strokes in January 1975. Moe tried one final time to revive the Stooges with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka in Larry's role, but this attempt was cut short with Moe's passing in May 1975.