The Three Stooges was the stage name of an American comedy act of the middle 20th century, known for many short films characterized by the use of slapstick-laden violence and dialogue. Their shorts and feature films - more than 200 made between 1930 and 1963 - are continually shown worldwide, and have influenced modern comedy stars such as Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey.
The Three Stooges began as a foil for Vaudeville actor Ted Healy in 1922; he had known the Horwitz brothers since childhood, and when part of his ensemble walked out on him before a performance at the Brooklyn Prospect Theatre in New York, he contacted them and asked them to be part of his show; the new change called for them to be cast as hecklers in the audience before being brought to the stage as part of the act, which included scenes of physical, slapstick comedy.
Five children were born to New York tailor Solomon and Jennie Horwitz; three of them would take to the stage under the surname "Howard". The two who heckled Healy only to be slapped by him comprised the new act of "Ted Healy and his Stooges"; they were Samuel Horwitz (March 17, 1895-November 23, 1955), and his brother Moses (June 19, 1897-May 4, 1975). Moses went by the nickname "Moe", and Samuel was called "Shemp", partly as a result of the thick Yiddish accent of their mother. By 1925 the act was very successful, both commercially and critically, and a third man was added to the cast: Louis Fienberg (October 5, 1902-January 24, 1975), a man who had his own act at the time and was adept at the violin; his stage name was "Larry Fine", and his part was considered more straight compared to the other two.
The four appeared in an acclaimed 1929 stage musical entitled A Night in Venice, and from there they were signed by Fox Films to do their first motion picture, Soup to Nuts (1930). But friction existed between Shemp and Healy, which reached a climax when their fourth film was finished in 1932; Shemp left, and his role was taken over by the youngest of the Horwitz brothers, a kid with brown locks of hair and a mustache who was considered the handsomest of the family, Jerome Lester Horwitz (October 22, 1903-January 18, 1952); the shaving of his head for the stage led to the nickname "Curly".
After two more years and several films, it was apparent to the Stooges that Ted Healy was treating them as stooges off the stage; contracts were made to Healy's advantage, and at one point Healy prevented the signing of the Stooges to a contract with 20th Century Film. On March 6, 1934, the Stooges broke with Healy and a short time later signed with Columbia Pictures; their first short film without Healy premiered two months later (Women Haters) and was an immediate success.
On the screen Moe was portrayed as "controlling" - in charge of the three, who would generally obey him after a hair pull, eye gouge, or a hit on the head with a large blunt object. Larry was the calming influence, while Curly was a cauldron of insanity, doing a battle of wits with a plumbing system to the same degree he would use in serving liquor  or fighting a clam in his soup.
97 shorts were made by Moe Larry, and Curly up until 1947; during this period it became evident that Curly was having health problems, exasperated by several failed marriages. During the filming of Half-Wits' Holiday he suffered a major stroke. His last appearance was a cameo in Hold That Lion (1947), but he would not recover. Curly passed away in 1952 at the age of 48.
By then, Shemp was back with the troupe, having had a successful career on his own, and the three would star in 76 more shorts. After the last one was made Shemp would suffer a massive heart attack in a taxi in 1956; his death was thought to have ended the act as far as Moe was concerned, but he was persuaded by Columbia executives that it should continue with a new Stooge. Between 1957 and 1959 fifteen shorts were made with Moe and Larry starring with Joe Besser, a long-time friend from their Vaudeville days who's comedy act consisted of child-like behavior  and his catchprase "Not Sooooo Faaaassst!" After his contract was up, he was replaced by Joe DeRita, and the three were able to take advantage of a resurgence of the Stooges in television; feature films and commercials were added to the act.
"What's the big idea?" (Larry)
"Remind me to kill you later." (Moe)
"Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!" (Curly laughing)
«You imbecile!» (Moe)