By Carla Charter
The Three Stooges were a childhood staple for many. Even now, when someone hears the well-known phrase “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk,” a smile will cross their face.
The Stooges were active from 1920 to 1970. They made a total of 220 films and are best known for their 190 short subject films. Moe Howard and Larry Fine were staples of the trio from the earliest days. The third stooge was played by multiple actors including Shemp Howard, Curley Howard, Joes Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.
All started individually in their late teens. Mo and Shemp were brothers they started together with their childhood friend Ted Healey which they worked with for a number of years, according to Erin Smith, Archivist at the Stoogeum, the country’s only Three Stooge’s museum.
In the mid 1920’s they saw Larry in a club in Chicago asked him to join. Shemp left for Hollywood and started his own career and they brought in Mo Shemp’s youngest brother, Curley. In the early 1930’s Healy and the Stooges went to make movies in Hollywood. They split with Healey in 1934, who then started his own movie career, she continued.
The Three Stooges collection, now at the museum. has been growing for about 40 years. It began when museum owner Gary Lassin met his wife, Larry Fine’s grand -niece. Lassin’s collection soon outgrew his exhibit space at home and the museum was opened in 2004.
The only other Three Stooges museum in the world is in Buenos Aires Argentina, where the Three Stooges are known as Los Tres Chiflados. “They are very, very popular there. Even the people dubbing short films in Spanish are celebrities,” Smith said.
The Stoogeum’s collection contains over 100,000 items. “What is on display is 10% of the total collection. The rest is in storage rooms,” according to Smith.
Among the items on display at the museum include Shemp’s World War I Army Honorable discharge papers and three jackets belonging to Mo, Larry and Curley Jo wore in the 1960’s “In Mo’s pocket there is a comb. Mo would use it to comb his hair forward when he would perform, she said.
Other displays at the museum include a deli wall modeled after Sardi’s in New York City with autographed photographs of supporting cast members, a room dedicated to foreign posters and a display focusing on the Stooges live appearances. “There is a Hall of Shemp which focus on Shemp’s career outside of working on the Three Stooges. He had a prolific career with Joe Paluka Films,” Smith said.
The Stoogeum is also home to the Three Stooges Fan Club. The museum. The museum is about 45 minutes south east of Philadelphia where Larry Fine was born and attracts several thousand visitors a year. They are opened every Thursday, except holidays, from 10-3 p.m. other weekdays by appointment More information on the Stoogeum Museum can be found at www.thestoogeum.com