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The Three Stooges

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Larry Fine (October 5, 1902 – January 24, 1975) was an American comedian and actor, who is best-known as a member of the comedy act The Three Stooges.


Larry was born to a Jewish family as Andrew Louis Feinberg in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the corner of 3rd and South Streets. His father, Joseph Feinberg, and mother, Fanny Lieberman, owned a watch repair and jewelry shop. The building there is now a restaurant which is called "the birth place of Larry Fine" but is not actually where he was born. The upstairs houses a small Stooge museum. When Larry was a child he burned his arm with some acid that his father used to test whether or not gold was real. Mistaking it for a cool drink Larry had the bottle to his lips when his father noticed and slapped it from his hand, splashing his forearm with acid. Later Larry received violin training to help strengthen his damaged muscles and this talent would be observed in many of the Stooges' films. In scenes where all three are playing fiddles, only Larry is actually playing his instrument; the others are pantomiming. To further strengthen his arm, Larry took up boxing as a teenager and fought and won one professional bout. His career as a pugilist was stopped by his father, who was opposed to Larry's fighting in public.[1] His experience in boxing, however, no doubt served him well in his later career as a Stooge.

As Larry Fine, he first performed as a violinist in vaudeville at an early age. In 1925, he met Moe Howard and Ted Healy. Howard and his brother Shemp had been working as audience stooges for Healy. Shemp left soon after to attempt a solo career and was in turn replaced by another brother, Curly. Larry's trademark bushy hair came out, according to rumor, from his first meeting with Healy, in which he had just wet his hair in a basin, and as they talked, it dried oddly. Healy told him to keep the zany hairstyle and, according to a 1973 radio interview with Moe:

“ ...So Healy said 'Would you like to be one of the stooges and make three instead of two?' And Larry said 'Yes, I would love that.' Healy said 'I'll give you ninety bucks a week.' 'Fine.' He also said, 'I'll give you an extra ten dollars a week if you throw that fiddle away.' ”

Beginning in 1933, The Three Stooges made 190 short films, and several features, with their most prolific period featuring the characters of Larry, Moe and Curly. Their career with Healy was marked by disputes over pay, film contracts, and Healy's drinking and abuse. They left Healy for good in 1934.

In many of the Stooge shorts, Fine did more reacting than acting, staying in the background and providing the voice of reason between the extreme characterizations of Moe and Curly. (in the short Three Loan Wolves, Larry was pressed into service to replace an ailing Curly, who was unable to perform as the lead stooge.) After Curly left the act, Larry shared screen time equally with his two partners.

But in the earliest Stooge two-reelers (and occasionally the later ones) Larry indulges in utterly nutty behavior. He would liven up a scene by improvising some random remark or ridiculous action. In the hospital spoof Men in Black, Larry wields a scalpel and chortles, "Let's plug him... and see if he's ripe!" In Disorder in the Court, a tense courtroom scene is interrupted by Larry breaking into a wild Tarzan yell. Of course, after each of his outbursts, Moe would gruffly discipline him. It is said that Larry had developed a callus on one side of his face from being slapped innumerable times by Moe over the years.

Larry's on-screen goofiness was an extension of his own relaxed personality. Director Charles Lamont recalled, "Larry was a nut. He was the kind of guy who always said anything. He was a yapper." Writer-director Edward Bernds remembered that Larry's suggestions for the scripts were often "flaky," but would occasionally contain a good comic idea.

Offstage, Larry was a social butterfly. He liked a good time and surrounded himself with friends. Larry and his wife, Mabel, loved having parties and every Christmas threw lavish midnight suppers. Larry was what some friends have called a "yes man," since he was always so agreeable, no matter what the circumstances.

Larry's devil-may-care personality carried over to the world of finance. He was a terrible businessman and spent his money as soon as he earned it. He would either gamble it away at the track or at high-stakes gin rummy games. In an interview, Fine even admitted that he often gave money to actors and friends who needed help and never asked to be reimbursed. Joe Besser and director Edward Bernds remember that because of his free spending, Larry was almost forced into bankruptcy when Columbia terminated the Three Stooges comedies in December 1957.

Because of his profligate ways and his wife's dislike for housekeeping, Larry and his family lived in hotels — first in the President Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where his daughter Phyllis was raised, then the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. Not until the late 1940s did Larry buy a wonderful Mediterranean home in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, California.

The Stooges became a big hit in 1959 on television, when Columbia Pictures released a batch of the trio's films. The popularity brought the Stooges to a new audience and revitalized their careers.

On May 30, 1967, Fine's wife, Mabel, died of a sudden heart attack, a blow that abruptly ended 40 years of marriage. Her death had come nearly six years after another family tragedy: the death of their only son, John, in a car accident on November 17, 1961. The couple's daughter, Phyllis, died of cancer at the age of 60 in 1988. John's wife, Christy (Kraus), died on October 26, 2007, after a lengthy illness.

Returning to work, Fine and the Stooges were working on a new TV series entitled Kook's Tour in January, 1970, when Larry suffered a debilitating stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. He eventually moved to the Motion Picture House, an industry retirement community in Woodland Hills, where he spent his remaining years.

Fine was confined to a wheelchair during the last five years of his life. Like Curly Howard, Fine suffered several additional strokes before his death on January 24, 1975. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, in the Freedom Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Liberation. [2]

He is sometimes erroneously listed as the father of sportscaster Warner Wolf, who is in fact the son of Jack Wolf, one of several other "stooges" who played in Ted Healy's vaudeville act at one time or another. He is, however, the father-in-law of actor and Los Angeles television personality Don Lamond, best known for hosting Stooges shorts on KTTV for many years.

Posthumous Fame

The Three Stooges have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to Motion Pictures, at 1560 Vine Street in Hollywood.

In a 2000 TV movie, Larry Fine was played by Evan Handler.

In a 2004 New Yorker feature on the Farrelly Brothers's attempt to write a script for a new Three Stooges movie, Peter Farrelly offered his theory of Stooge appreciation: “Growing up, first you watched Curly, then Moe, and then your eyes got to Larry. He’s the reactor, the most vulnerable. Five to fourteen, Curly; fourteen to twenty-one, Moe. Anyone out of college, if you’re not looking at Larry, you don’t have a good brain.”

On May 18, 2006 a mural was placed on the corner of 3rd and South Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Larry Fine was born. Currently, the mural of Larry Fine stands over Jon's Bar and Grill, and a sign reads, "Birthplace of Larry Fine.

Cultural references

The voice for Stimpy of Ren & Stimpy fame (voiced by Billy West) is based heavily on Fine's, though aside from the characters' generally sunny demeanor, there are few other similarities between the characters.
An episode of Pinky and The Brain was written as a Three Stooges homage, with Brain taking on the role of Moe and Pinky taking on the role of Curly. To accommodate the fact that the series only had two characters, a third mouse (named simply "Larry") was introduced without explanation. The character was edited into the beginning sequence whenever not too difficult to do so, and sang along with the beginning theme (adding the phrase "and Larry" after each instance of "Pinky and the Brain")
On Second City Television, comedian Joe Flaherty impersonated Larry more than once, including a fake TV advertisement for "Give "em Hell, Larry!" a parody of the theatrical one man show, Give 'em Hell, Harry!, about U.S. President Harry Truman. In the sketch, Larry sits alone behind a desk and rattles off his many Stooge catch-phrases ("What's the big idea?" "I'm sorry. Moe, it was an accident!") with no one to respond to him.
An episode of Garfield and Friends showed three stone age cats, all physically based on each Stooge. In the cartoon, the cat resembling Larry had the infamous Larry hairstyle.
An episode of Mama's Family had Thelma "Mama" Harper as a contestant on the real life game show Jeopardy!. Alex Trebek read the answer, "He was the Stooge with the curliest hair." The other female contestant responded first with, "Who was Curly?" Since she was wrong, the male contestant responded next with, "Who was Moe?" Mama seemed to know the right question to respond with all along. She responded, "Who was Larry?" and got the credit for her response.
In an episode of Seinfeld, George discovers that a woman Kramer set him up with is bald. When Elaine suggests that the woman is bald by choice, George refuses to believe it, declaring that when someone goes into a beauty parlor, "they don't say, 'Give me the Larry Fine.'"

Further reading

[My Brother] Larry, the Stooge in the Middle; by Morris Feinberg (ghostwritten by Bob Davis) [3] (Last Gasp, 2001).
Moe Howard and the Three Stooges; by Moe Howard [4], (Citadel Press, 1977).
The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion; by Jon Solomon [5], (Comedy III Productions, Inc., 2002).
The Columbia Comedy Shorts by Ted Okuda with Edward Watz [6], (McFarland, 1986).
The Three Stooges Scrapbook; by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer, Greg Lenburg [7](Citadel Press, 1994).
The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons; by Michael Fleming [8](Broadway Publishing, 2002).
One Fine Stooge: A Frizzy Life in Pictures; by Steve Cox and Jim Terry [9], (Cumberland House Publishing, 2006).
Brady, Pat. "Recovering From Stroke: It's Easy Life for the Stooge." Los Angeles Times, Valley Edition, Part XI, Page 6, October 28, 1973.
Townsend, Dorothy. "Larry Fine of 3 Stooges Dies After Stroke at 73." Los Angeles Times, Part I, Page 3, January 24, 1975.

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