The Childhood Shooting Accident That Led To The Three Stooges' Curly's Distinct Walk

Comedy's most prized trio of neurotic numbskulls managed to make a career out of ruthlessly hurting each other. For 48 years strong, "The Three Stooges" reigned supreme over the grand domain of slapstick insanity and marvelous stupidity, in short films, features and, later, television. That's an astoundingly long time for any show business act to stay together, but the trio's popularity never wavered and it remains one of the most monumental entities of comedic entertainment in modern history (via IMDb). However, unlike the unprecedented "Jackass" phenomenon where guys like Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O resort to actually hurting themselves (and one another), Larry, Moe, and Curly kept their painful ploys within the realm of artificiality.

All the same, pain does hold a place deep in the Stooges' history. Long before they were major stars, a few of the guys suffered some significant physical damage that changed their lives forever. Larry Fine ("Larry") endured a severe chemical burn on his arm when he was a child and had to get multiple skin grafts done as a result. He also learned how to play the violin by means of physical therapy, and most Stooges fans know full well that his fiddle sawing became a consistent spectacle on the show, so something good did come out of it. Jerome Howard, who portrayed Curly, likewise suffered a harrowing accident as a young boy that could have easily taken his life. Luckily, no fatalities resulted from the incident, but it did leave him with a certain physical ailment that never went away. 

Jerome Howard suffered a bullet wound as a boy

Jerome Lester Horwitz was born in Brooklyn, New York on October 22, 1903. Jerome, who later became Curly, was arguably the most popular of The Stooges. He was also the younger brother of Moses Horwitz, who famously portrayed the character of Moe  and invited his kid brother to climb aboard the project in its early stages when brother Shemp quit (per The Three Stooges). Devout Stooges fans might recall a peculiar limp in Curly's walk that was definitive of his posture. However, it wasn't just a quirky adornment that he added on his own to accentuate his character's peculiarity. The limp was real, and it started after Jerome accidentally shot himself when he was a young teenager (via Factinate). 

One afternoon, the young Jerome decided to go hunting with a friend. He was cleaning his brother Moe's .22 rifle when it accidentally went off. Before he knew what was happening, he noticed blood spurting out of his left leg, and he was suddenly overtaken with terror and shock. Thankfully, the bullet entered a part of his body that didn't place him in the hands of potential death, though it was a close call nonetheless. The bullet wound to his foot resulted in permanent damage to the bones which he refused to have surgically corrected, resulting in Curly's trademark, awkward strut that he sported throughout the entirety of the series and in his personal life as well (per "Moe Howard and the Three Stooges").

Stooges actors often got hurt on set

While the stunts performed by Larry, Moe and Curly were safely staged and generally harmless to the actors, several accidents did take place on set that resulted in injuries. In one of the more popular episodes, "3 Dumb Clucks" (1937), Curly can be seen falling down an elevator shaft at one point. According to MeTV, the unfortunate goofball smacked his head on a stray 2x4 board on the way down and split his scalp wide open. As if that wasn't enough, doctors quickly stitched him up and he was put back to work in a matter of minutes. 

Threats existed beyond a controlled set as well. While the three off-duty Stooges were leisurely strolling down the Atlantic City boardwalk one afternoon, a young boy noticed the stars and shockingly took it upon himself to display his admiration by assaulting them with a cane. He managed to hit each of them in the head with it before running off (per MeTV). They say that laughter is the best kind of medicine, though it might take a stronger medicine than that to heal some of the wounds left on The Three Stooges.