Curly Howard Of The Three Stooges Hated Doing This For His Character

In the world of slapstick comedy, one act stands head and shoulders above the rest: The Three Stooges. The most famous Three Stooges lineup — comprised of Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine, with several appearances by Shemp Howard — is like the Beatles of comedy, in that everyone has their favorite member. They're either a Moe fan or a Curly fan, for instance, much the same way there's a clear delineation between those who feel Paul carried the Beatles and those who think John was the driving force behind the band's success. Meanwhile, others would argue that Larry — like George — was the important silent partner, and furthermore, there's probably a significant overlap between Shemp and Ringo fans.

According to Britannica, the Three Stooges were formed in 1922 after Moe Howard — real name, Moses Horwitz — had been unable to find success in show business. He had tried performing everywhere, from Shakespearean theaters to burlesque houses to vaudeville theaters, where he even performed as part of a high diving act. According to the book "The Comedians" by Kliph Nesteroff, Howard was hired for the diving gig by a comedian named Ted Healy, who was later credited with starting the Three Stooges. The first lineup comprised Howard, his brother Samuel "Shemp" Howard, and the violin-playing Larry Fine. Shemp eventually left the group — he didn't get along with Healy — and was replaced by another one of Howard's brothers, Jerome "Curly" Howard.

Curl's shaved head was the result of some quick thinking

The early version of the Three Stooges was often billed as Ted Healy and His Stooges, with Healy playing a straight man to the Stooges' antics. They appeared in some films together, but eventually, the Stooges and Healy split (via Britannica).

Back when Jerome Howard (who, according to the official Three Stooges website, was known as Babe at the time) had first joined the Three Stooges as a replacement for his brother Shemp when they were still performing with Healy, he had to adhere to one of the group's trademarks that they had developed early on: Each Stooge had a goofy haircut. Moe had his trademark bowl cut, while Larry had his frizzy, tangled halo of hair.

According to Fascinate, when Moe first pitched Jerome to take over for Shemp, the newbie had red hair and a handlebar mustache which Ted Healy thought didn't look funny. So, Moe took him out of the room and they shaved off all of Jerome's hair. That worked, because Jerome joined the group and the Curly character was born. So too was the Stooges' most famous lineup.

The Three Stooges in the Curly era

The Stooges appeared in films before teaming up with Columbia Pictures, but that's the studio they became synonymous with during the peak of their career. According to the official Three Stooges website, the first short the trio did for Columbia was called "Woman Haters," which was released in 1934. Somewhat unusual was that it was part of a series of shorts Columbia produced called "Musical Novelties," so all of the dialogue is delivered with a jazz-like flair and also rhymes. Additionally, Curly was credited under the name Jerry Howard.

Studio executives liked their early work enough to give them a seven-year contract that paid them $60,000 each year, which would be over a $1.25 million today. The Stooges did a total of 97 short for Columbia from 1934 to 1946, but they didn't limit their performances to film; they continued to perform on stage as they did early in their careers, and made a lot of money this way. They performed around their shooting schedule and sometimes averaged as many as 20 weeks per year dedicated to live shows.

Curly hated having to shave his head

While it became his trademark — and was what got him the gig in the first place— Curly wasn't a big fan of having to shave his head. According to Fascinate, Curly was self-conscious about his trademark haircut and was concerned that it would make him appear unattractive to women.

Unfortunately, Curly had his share of problems with his romantic relationships. He was married four times; the fourth was his longest, at about four-and-a-half years (per The Three Stooges website). It's thought the frustrations in his personal life — arguably a byproduct of his shaved head — drove him to drink heavily. In 1946, Curly experienced a stroke that sidelined him for good. He died in 1952 at just 48 years old (via Britannica).

Brother Shemp returned to the act to replace Curly. His second tenure is well remembered by fans, given his abilities as an actor and comedian. However, Shemp died in 1955. The next two replacements — Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita — both used similar short hairstyles as had Curly in the Stooges' golden era, though neither one of them managed to achieve the level of esteem achieved by both of their predecessors, Curly and Shemp.