The Three Stooges were a slapstick trio whose antics delighted generations of audiences starting in vaudeville and continuing on to television over three decades.
Mop-topped Moe Howard and his bald brother Jerome "Curly" Howard performed in the late 1920s as a three-man act with failed violinist and boxer Larry Fine. The trio appeared on Broadway with comedian Ted Healy who brought them to Hollywood in 1930.
Although it performed under different names, the group later came to be known as Ted Healy and His Stooges. In 1934 Healy left the group and it renamed itself the Three Stooges.
The punching, gouging, bumbling antics of the team were a hit with movie audiences, and the Stooges subsequently made more than 200 film shorts for Columbia Pictures.
When Curly died in 1952, another Howard brother, Samuel, known as Shemp, took his place in the act. After Shemp's death his place was taken by Joe Besser and, later, by comedian Joe De Rita.
After television made them popular with a new generation, they made a number of new films — "Stop, Look and Laugh," "Snow White and the Three Stooges" and others — without outstanding success. But the old two-reelers continued to run on TV.
In a Times interview in 1971, Fine said most of the comedy routines in the early films were ad-libbed. "The screenwriters made up the situation," he said. Three plumbers fixing leaking pipes at a society matron's mansion, for example.
"But on the script the only directions were, 'The Stooges enter and do their stuff.' "