Shemp Howard was an American actor and comedian best recognized for appearing as the third stooge in the comedy team, The Three Stooges. He first performed this role when the act was still linked with Ted Healy and was called "Ted Healy and his Stooges." He was again associated with the act from 1947 till his death. Besides his association with the Stooges, Howard also enjoyed a successful film career. He appeared in tons of movies including ‘Art Trouble’, ‘Millionaires in Prison’, ‘The Invisible Woman’, ‘Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga’, ‘The Strange Case of Doctor Rx’, ‘Strictly in the Groove’ and ‘One Exciting Week’, to name a few. Howard, who was addressed as “the ugliest man in movies,” was known for his impeccable comedic talent. He had the ability to liven up the scenes with ad-libbed dialogues or wisecracks which became a trademark of the actor’s performances. On a personal note, Howard was an avid boxing fan. He was good friends with Huntz Hall. His favorite Stooges comedy was the one he did with The Three Stooges for the very first time and that dealt with boxing.
Childhood & Early Life
Shemp Howard was born as Samuel Horwitz on March 11, 1895, in Manhattan, New York City, U.S.A. Raised in Brooklyn, he was one of the five sons of his Jewish parents, Jennie Horwitz and Solomon Horwitz. He had two younger brothers, Moe and Jerome, as well as two older brothers, Irving and Benjamin.
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Initially Shemp Howard and his brother Moe appeared as minstrel-show-style "blackface" comedians in the act titled ‘Howard and Howard—A Study in Black’. During this time, the duo also worked for a rival vaudeville circuit, appearing without makeup.
After this, Shemp became a part of an act known as ‘Ted Healy and His Stooges’. The stooges of this act included the Howard brothers and others who joined and left between 1925 and 1928.
In August 1930, following a disagreement with Ted, Shemp and his brother Moe and their friend Larry Fine launched their own act titled ‘Howard, Fine & Howard’ and became part of the RKO vaudeville circuit. Soon after this, the three premiered at Paramount Theatre.
In 1931, the Howard brothers added "Three Lost Soles" to their act's name, and also hired Jack Walsh as their straight man.
They continued this way until July 1932, when Healy approached them to collaborate again for ‘Passing Show of 1932’ and the brothers readily accepted the offer. However, due to a contract dispute on August 16, 1932, Healy walked out during rehearsals. Due to this, Shemp got frustrated and left Healy's act to stay with ‘Passing Show’.
Shemp Howard also performed solo. He initially worked at the Vitaphone studio in Brooklyn, playing small roles in comedies, showing off his goofiness. The comedian starred with Vitaphone comics Jack Haley, Gus Shy and Ben Blue and then co-starred with Daphne Pollard, Johnnie Berkes and Harry Gribbon. Then after starring in his own two-reel comedies, Howard landed in his first film role in the 1934 movie ‘Art Trouble’.
In late 1935, Shemp was cast in Vitaphone’s ‘Joe Palooka’ comic strip. He starred in the first seven shorts which got released during 1936 and 1937. After this, the American comedian moved to the West Coast and performed at several studios, including Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures.
After appearing in the 1939 flick ‘Another Thin Man’, he acted in the movies ‘The Bank Dick’, ‘Millionaires in Prison’ and ‘The Invisible Woman’. Shemp then had a role in the movie ‘How's About It’ in 1943. A year later, he did a few films, such as ‘Crazy Knights’, ‘Moonlight and Cactus’, ‘Strange Affair’ and ‘Three of a Kind’.
In the year 1946, he became a part of the comedy flick ‘One Exciting Week’. He then performed in the films ‘Africa Screams’ (1949) and ‘Gold Raiders’ (1951).
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In the year 1941, Shemp Howard did a few amazing movies like ‘Tight Shoes’, ‘Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga’, ‘Hold That Ghost’, ‘Too Many Blondes’, ‘In the Navy’, ‘San Antonio Rose’ and ‘Hellzapoppin'.
A year later, he was cast in some more fabulous big screen projects like ‘Crazy House’, ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Pittsburgh’, ‘Private Buckaroo’, ‘The Strange Case of Doctor Rx’ and ‘Strictly in the Groove’.
During 1938–1939 as well as 1944–1947, the American comedian appeared in Columbia's two-reel comedies, along with Columbia regulars The Glove Slingers, Andy Clyde, Tom Kennedy and El Brendel. He replaced his brother Curly in Columbia's famous Stooge shorts.
He initially joined the Stooges on a temporary basis but as Curly's condition worsened, Shemp Howard’s association with the Stooges became permanent. Before replacing Curly in the film series, he was also substituted for his brother in a few personal appearances in the early 1940s.
Awards & Achievements
On August 30, 1983, The Three Stooges received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Shemp Howard was married to Gertrude Frank from 1925 until his death. The couple had one child, Mort Howard, who was born on February 26, 1927.
On November 22, 1955, Shemp went out with some of his pals to a boxing match at the old Hollywood Legion Stadium. While returning home in a taxicab, he died of a sudden massive heart attack. He was 60 at that time. The actor was buried in the Indoor Mausoleum at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles.
A TV biopic film titled ‘The Three Stooges’ was made in 2000 to honor the Howard brothers. In this flick, Shemp Howard’s role was portrayed by 'fake Shemp' Johnny Kassir.
Shemp Howard, who was involved in a driving accident in his teens, never obtained a driver's license.
He was extremely fearful; many who knew the actor would joke that he was even scared of his own shadow!
He was the tallest of all the Stooges.
He was Alex Trebek's most favorite Stooge.
Howard’s favorite actors were Horace McMahon, Andy Devine, and Richard Arlen. His favorite actress was Patsy Kelly while his favorite radio comedian was Fred Allen.