Shemp Howard

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Shemp Howard
Shemp Howard in Brideless Groom 1947.png
Howard in Brideless Groom in 1947
Born
Samuel Horwitz

(1895-03-11)March 11, 1895
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 1955(1955-11-22) (aged 60)
Resting place Home of Peace Cemetery
East Los Angeles, California
Occupations
  • Comedian
  • actor
Years active1923–1955
Known for The Three Stooges
Spouse
Gertrude Frank
(m. 1925)
Children1
Relatives Moe Howard (brother)
Curly Howard (brother)
Joan Howard Maurer (niece)
Website ThreeStooges.com

Shemp Howard (born Samuel Horwitz; March 11, 1895 [1] – November 22, 1955), was an American comedian and actor. He was called "Shemp" because "Sam" came out that way in his mother's thick Litvak accent.[ citation needed ]

Contents

He is best known as the third Stooge in the Three Stooges, a role he played when the act began in the early 1920s (1923–1932), while it was still associated with Ted Healy and known as "Ted Healy and his Stooges"; and again from 1946 until his death in 1955. During the fourteen years between his times with the Stooges, he had a successful solo career as a film comedian, including a series of shorts by himself and with partners. He reluctantly returned to the Stooges as a favor to his brother Moe and friend Larry Fine to replace his brother Curly as the third Stooge after Curly's illness.

Early life

Howard was born Samuel Horwitz on March 11, 1895 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York City. [1] He was the third of five Horwitz brothers born to Lithuanian Jewish parents Solomon Horwitz (1872–1943) and Jennie Horwitz (1870–1939). He had two older brothers, Irving (1891–1939) and Benjamin (Jack) (1893–1976). His two younger brothers were Moses (Moe) Howard (1897–1975) and Jerome (Curly) Howard (1903–1952).

Howard's first name, Shmuel, after his grandfather,[ citation needed ] was anglicized to Samuel, and his parents and brothers usually called him Sam.[ citation needed ]

Career

Show business

Shemp's brother Moe Howard started in show business as a youngster, on stage and in films. Moe and Shemp eventually tried their hands as minstrel-show-style "blackface" comedians with an act they called "Howard and Howard A Study in Black". At the same time, they worked for a rival vaudeville circuit, without makeup.[ citation needed ]

By 1922, Moe had teamed up with his boyhood friend Ted Healy in a "roughhouse" act. One day Moe spotted his brother Shemp in the audience and yelled at him from the stage. Quick-witted Shemp yelled right back, and walked up onto the stage. From then on he was part of the act, usually known as "Ted Healy and His Stooges". The Howard brothers were the original Stooges; Larry Fine joined them in 1928. [2] On stage, Healy sang and told jokes while his three noisy stooges got in his way, and Healy retaliated with physical and verbal abuse. Shemp played a bumbling fireman in the Stooges' first film, Soup to Nuts (1930), the only film where he played one of Healy's gang.[ citation needed ]

After a disagreement with Healy in August 1930, Moe, Larry and Shemp left to launch their own act, "Howard, Fine & Howard", and joined the RKO vaudeville circuit. They premiered at Los Angeles's Paramount Theatre on August 28, 1930. In 1931 they added "Three Lost Soles" to the act's name, and took on Jack Walsh as their straight man. Moe, Larry and Shemp continued until July 1932, when Ted Healy approached them to team up again for the Shuberts' Broadway revue "Passing Show of 1932", and they accepted the offer. In spite of their past differences, Moe knew an association with the nationally known Healy would provide opportunities the three comics were not getting on their own.[ citation needed ]

On August 16, 1932, in a contract dispute, Healy walked out of the Shuberts' revue during rehearsals. Three days later, tired of what he considered Healy's domineering handling of the Stooges' career, Shemp left Healy's act to remain with "Passing Show", which closed in September during roadshow performances and after pan reviews in Detroit and Cincinnati. Shemp regrouped to form his own act and played on the road for a few months. He landed at Brooklyn's Vitaphone Studios for movie appearance opportunities in May 1933. When he split from Healy, Shemp was immediately replaced by his and Moe's younger brother Jerry Howard, known as Curly. [3]

Solo years

Shemp Howard, like many New York City-based performers, found work at Vitaphone. Originally playing bit roles in their Roscoe Arbuckle comedies, showing off his comical appearance, he was given speaking roles and supporting parts almost immediately. He was featured with studio comics Jack Haley, Ben Blue and Gus Shy; then co-starred with Harry Gribbon, Daphne Pollard, and Johnnie Berkes, and finally starred in his own two-reel comedies.[ citation needed ] The independently produced Convention Girl (1935) featured Shemp in a very rare straight role as a blackmailer and would-be murderer.[ citation needed ]

Shemp preferred to improvise dialogue and jokes, which became his trademark. In late 1935, Vitaphone was licensed to produce short comedies based on the "Joe Palooka" comic strip. Shemp was cast as "Knobby Walsh", and though only a supporting character, he became the comic focus of the series, with Johnnie Berkes and Lee Weber as his foils. He co-starred in the first seven shorts, released in 1936–1937. Nine of them were produced, the last two done after Shemp's departure from Vitaphone.[ citation needed ]

Howard unsuccessfully attempted to lead his own group of "stooges" in the Van Beuren musical comedy short The Knife of the Party . In 1937 he followed his brothers' lead, moved to the West Coast, and landed supporting actor roles at several studios, mainly Columbia Pictures and Universal. He worked exclusively at Universal from August 1940 to August 1943, performing with such comics as W. C. Fields, and with comedy duos Abbott and Costello and Olsen and Johnson. He lent comic relief to Charlie Chan and The Thin Man murder mysteries. He appeared in several Universal B-musicals of the early 1940s, including Private Buckaroo (1942), Strictly in the Groove (1942), How's About It? (1943), Moonlight and Cactus (1944) and San Antonio Rose (1941); in the latter of which he was paired with Lon Chaney Jr. as a faux Abbott and Costello. Most of these projects took advantage of his improvisational skills. When Broadway comedian Frank Fay walked out on a series of feature films teaming him with Billy Gilbert, Gilbert called on his closest friend, Shemp Howard, to replace him in three B-comedy features for Monogram Pictures, filmed in 1944–45. He also played a few serious parts, such as his supporting role in Pittsburgh (1942), starring Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne.[ citation needed ]

The Three Stooges: 1946–1955

Shemp with his younger brother Moe Howard and partner Larry Fine in Sing a Song of Six Pants in 1947 Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947) 2.jpg
Shemp with his younger brother Moe Howard and partner Larry Fine in Sing a Song of Six Pants in 1947
Shemp in Brideless Groom in 1947 ShempUgly.jpg
Shemp in Brideless Groom in 1947
Moe Howard, Shemp (bottom center), and Larry Fine in Malice in the Palace in 1949 Malice in the Palace.JPG
Moe Howard, Shemp (bottom center), and Larry Fine in Malice in the Palace in 1949

From 1938 to 1940 and again from 1944 to 1946, Howard appeared in Columbia's two-reel comedies, co-starring with Columbia regulars Andy Clyde, The Glove Slingers, El Brendel, and Tom Kennedy. He was given his own starring series in 1944. He was working for Columbia in this capacity when his brother Curly was felled by a debilitating stroke on May 6, 1946. Curly had already suffered a series of strokes prior to the filming of If a Body Meets a Body (1945), and in January 1945 Shemp filled in for Curly at a week-long appearance at the St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans.[ citation needed ]

Shemp agreed to fill in for Curly in Columbia's popular Stooge shorts, knowing that if he refused, Moe and Larry would be out of work. [ citation needed ]He intended to stay only until Curly recovered, which never happened as Curly's health continued to worsen. Curly died on January 18, 1952, at the age of 48. Shemp agreed to remain with the group permanently.

Shemp's role as the third Stooge was much different from Curly's. His characterization was more relaxed as opposed to Curly's energetic persona. Unlike Curly, who had many distinct mannerisms, Shemp's most notable characteristic as a Stooge was a high-pitched "bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!" sound, a sort of soft screech done by inhaling. It was a multipurpose effect: he emitted this sound when scared, sleeping (done as a form of snoring), overtly happy, or dazed. It became his trademark sound as the "nyuk nyuk" sound had become Curly's. Because of his established solo career, he was also given opportunities in the films to do some of his own comic routines.[ citation needed ]

During this period, The Three Stooges ventured into live television appearances, beginning on Tuesday, October 19, 1948, with Milton Berle on his Texaco Star Theatre program.

Shemp appeared with Moe and Larry in 77 short subjects, four of which were produced posthumously using stock footage. The trio also made the feature film Gold Raiders (1951). Shemp suffered a mild stroke in November 1952, but recovered within weeks. The medical episode had no noticeable effect on his remaining films with the Stooges, many of which were remakes of earlier films that also used recycled footage to reduce costs.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

In September 1925, Shemp married Gertrude Frank (1905–1982). They had one child, Morton (1927–1972).[ citation needed ]

Shemp had several phobias, including of airplanes, automobiles, dogs, and water. According to Moe's autobiography, Shemp was involved in a driving accident as a teenager and never obtained a driver's license. [4]

Death

Crypt of Shemp Howard at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California Shempgrave.jpg
Crypt of Shemp Howard at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California
Cover of Los Angeles Examiner on November 24, 1955 Shemp Howard obituary in the Los Angeles Examiner on November 24, 1955.jpg
Cover of Los Angeles Examiner on November 24, 1955

On November 22, 1955, Shemp went out with associates Al Winston and Bobby Silverman to a boxing match, one of Shemp's favorite pastimes,[ citation needed ] at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. While returning home in a taxi that evening, Shemp died of a massive heart attack, at the age of 60.

Moe's autobiography gives a death date of November 23, 1955, which became the date cited by other accounts. Much of that book was finished posthumously by his daughter and son-in-law, and some details were confused.[ further explanation needed ] The Los Angeles County Coroner's death certificate states that Shemp Howard died on Tuesday, November 22, 1955, at 11:35 [PM] PST. Howard's obituary appeared in the November 23 afternoon editions of Los Angeles newspapers, citing the death on the night of November 22. [5]

Shemp Howard is interred in a crypt in the Indoor Mausoleum at the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles. His younger brother Curly is also interred there, in an outdoor tomb in the Western Jewish Institute section, as well as his parents Solomon and Jennie Horwitz and older brother Benjamin "Jack".[ citation needed ]

Tributes

The Three Stooges earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street on August 30, 1983. [6]

The "Fake Shemps" and legacy

Columbia had promised exhibitors eight Three Stooges comedies for 1956, but only four were completed at the time of Shemp Howard's death. To fulfill the contract, producer Jules White filmed four more shorts posthumously by reusing old footage of Howard with new connecting scenes played by a body double, longtime Stooge supporting actor, Joe Palma, who is seen mostly from the back. He came to be known by Stooge fans as the "Fake Shemp", a term which director Sam Raimi later coined in reference to any body double replacing an actor.[ citation needed ]

The re-edited films are often regarded as inferior. Rumpus in the Harem borrows from Malice in the Palace , Hot Stuff from Fuelin' Around , and Commotion on the Ocean from Dunked in the Deep ; all of which were originally released in 1949, then rereleased in 1956. The best-received and most technically accomplished is Scheming Schemers (1956), combining new footage with recycled clips from three old Stooge shorts: A Plumbing We Will Go (1940), Half-Wits Holiday (1947) and Vagabond Loafers (1949). [7]

When it was time to renew the Stooges's contract, Columbia hired comedian Joe Besser to replace Shemp. Columbia discontinued filming new Stooge short subject comedies in December 1957, releasing the last new short in June 1959, but kept the series going into the 1960s by reissuing Shemp's Stooge shorts to theaters. This, as well as a TV release of Stooge shorts, allowed Shemp Howard to remain a popular star for long after he died.[ citation needed ]

In the television biopic The Three Stooges (2000), Shemp Howard was portrayed by John Kassir.

Filmography (Non-Stooge)

Features
Two Reelers
with The Three Stooges

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References

  1. 1 2 "Shemp's Birth Certificate". Threestooges.net. Archived from the original on December 15, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  2. Davidson, Robert. "ThreeStooges.net :: The Three Stooges Journal – Issue No. 155".
  3. Deezen, Eddie (January 18, 2012). "The Final Years of Curly (of Three Stooges Fame)". Mental Floss . Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  4. Howard, Moe (1979) [1977]. Moe Howard and the Three Stooges. Broadway Publishing. ISBN   978-0-8065-0723-1.
  5. "Comic Shemp Howard of 3 Stooges Dies. Veteran Actor, 60, Stricken by Heart Attack in Auto". Los Angeles Times . November 24, 1955. Retrieved August 12, 2011. Shemp Howard, 60, veteran stage and screen comedian and one of 'The Three Stooges,' died Tuesday of a heart attack.
  6. "The Three Stooges". walkoffame.com. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  7. Forrester, Jeff (2002). Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time. Donaldson Books. pp. 151–152. ISBN   0-9715801-0-3.