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
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. 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.'
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Three Stooges have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their
contributions to Motion Pictures, at 1560 Vine Street in Hollywood.
a 2000 TV movie, Larry Fine was played by Evan Handler.
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.”
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.
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
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.'"
Brother] Larry, the Stooge in the Middle; by Morris Feinberg (ghostwritten
by Bob Davis)  (Last Gasp, 2001).
Moe Howard and the Three Stooges; by Moe Howard , (Citadel Press,
The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges
Companion; by Jon Solomon , (Comedy III Productions, Inc., 2002).
The Columbia Comedy Shorts by Ted Okuda with Edward Watz , (McFarland,
The Three Stooges Scrapbook; by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer,
Greg Lenburg (Citadel Press, 1994).
The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, From Amalgamated Morons
to American Icons; by Michael Fleming (Broadway Publishing, 2002).
One Fine Stooge: A Frizzy Life in Pictures; by Steve Cox and Jim
Terry , (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.