To the average fan, The Three Stooges’ shenanigans may obscure how their Jewish backgrounds shaped their lives and work. But not for Gary Lassin—president of The Three Stooges Fan Club, editor of The Three Stooges Journal and curator of The Stoogeum (a museum of Three Stooges memorabilia).
“As a Jewish fan of The Three Stooges, I’ve always been fascinated with the boys’ use of Yiddish in their films,” Lassin told JNS.org. “Non-Jewish fans are intrigued by this as well.”
The Stooges were back in the news in 2012 with the Farelly Brothers’ “The Three Stooges: The Movie.”
That feature film is based on the Stooges’ early to mid-20th century short films. Regarding the Stooges’ legendary shorts, Lassin’s research has revealed that no fewer than 38 shorts utilized a Yiddish term or expression. The Stooges made 190 shorts during their careers, and forty percent of them included either Hebrew or Yiddish, according to Lassin.
Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp were born Jewish. Moses Horwitz was born on June 19, 1897, in Brooklyn to Solomon Horwitz and Jennie Gorovitz, the fourth of five brothers of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. Although his parents were not involved in show business, Moe, his older brother Samuel (Shemp) and younger brother Jerome (Curly) all eventually became world-famous as members of The Three Stooges. Larry was born to a Jewish family as Louis Feinberg in Philadelphia. His father, Joseph Feinberg, was a Russian Jew and his mother, Fanny Lieberman, owned a watch repair and jewelry shop.
Lassin said, “There’s little doubt that Yiddish was the language spoken in the Horwitz and Feinberg homes during Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp’s formative years.”
For example, the map of “Jerkola” from the 1955 short “Stone Age Romeos” shows five locations that have their origins in Yiddish: Shmow Lake, The Schnozzle Mountains, Borscht Island, Mish Mosh and Ferblongent.
Originally known as “Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen,” The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to mid–20th century best known for their numerous short subject films. Using physical farce and extreme slapstick, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names: “Moe, Larry, and Curly” or “Moe, Larry, and Shemp,” among other lineups. The original trio did one feature film entitled “Soup to Nuts,” after which Shemp left the group to pursue a solo career and was replaced by his brother Curly. This incarnation of the team was the first to be known on film as The Three Stooges.
The 2012 movie—starring Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso—recreates the characters played by Moe, Larry and Curly. The film’s story places the Stooges in a modern setting.
Although most fans rank Curly as their favorite stooge—mostly because of his sound effects and child-like demeanor—the Farrellys enjoy Larry the most.
“The Farrelly brothers have always categorized Larry as the great reactor and that’s what made him their favorite,” Larry Fine’s grandson Eric Lamond told JNS.org. “He was also quite an accomplished violinist and an amateur boxer.”
Lamond is the marketing director of C3 Entertainment, the company originally founded by The Three Stooges. Today, C3 is a diversified entertainment company involved in television and motion picture productions, retail and product development and sales, and the licensing, merchandising and promotion of brands worldwide.
In Ambler, Pa., Lassin runs the 10,000-square-foot, three-story Stoogeum—which contains 100,000 artifacts dubbed “Stoogeabilia” from 1918 to the present. The museum includes several interactive displays, a research library, a 16mm film storage vault, and an 85-seat theater used for film screenings, lectures and special presentations.
The Stoogeum is also the headquarters of The Three Stooges Fan Club, one of the nation’s oldest and largest clubs with 2,000 members worldwide. An annual meeting of the fan club brings together Stooges relatives, supporting actors, impersonators and fans.