Happy Birthday Curly!
Curly. That single word evokes an image and brings smiles and laughter to every corner of the globe. It is instantly recognized and in the mind’s eye a picture appears of one of the funniest men to ever share his talents. To paraphrase an old adage, it’s a word worth a 1,000 pictures or at least the 97 Columbia shorts he made with Moe and Larry!
Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!
Besides the great timing, his wonderful expressions and priceless bits, Curly made sounds like no one else. His Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk! was first heard in 1934′s Men In Black, along with his famous Hhhmmm! in The Three Stooges first Columbia short Woman Haters. Curly gave us the Woob! Woob! Woob! He added the snarling Rrrufff! to the repertoire in 1937′s Dizzy Doctors. Among others is Nyagghhh! Usually used when the Boys were confronted by the bad guys, the monster or whomever or whatever was chasing them!
Of course, there was much more to Curly than his wonderful phrases. The finger wave and the hand wave, especially in front of Moe’s face, was a staple of his visual craft. The finger snap followed by the famous cheek finger roll was probably the most memorable of his hand moves and probably the most imitated by fans.
His faces and expressions were remarkable and in 1935′s Pardon My Scotch he even showed us the first example of the ‘Curly Shuffle’. His footwork was incredibly balanced as any of his 360-degree tiptoe pivot turns illustrate.
The Three Stooges first short for Columbia (Woman Haters) was the only one that gave The Boys a screen credit plus the character name. After that, the screen credits were simply Curly Howard, Larry Fine and Moe Howard. Curly was ‘Jackie’ in that first short.
Curly Trivia II: Actually it was ‘Curley’ until the 1936 short Disorder In The Court.
Curly Trivia III: That same short saw the only appearance by Curly’s (and Moe’s and Shemp’s) father Sol Horwitz in a short.
Take Off Your Hat. Raise Your Right Hand.
This bit from the aforementioned Disorder In The Court was perhaps his best piece of business. When you combine the graceful movement between hat and cane, his facial expressions, turning the tables on the clerk and the machine gun bit with the derby and cane you end up with a comedic tour de force.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Look! Not only another great Curly phrase but used quite often as Curly’s head does damage to assorted saws, axes, picks, pipes, tools, mallets, hammers, crowbars and all the other implements that Moe and Larry used to bonk, bounce and bend off Curly’s head.
The scenes on the golf course from 1935′s Three Little Beers are very clever artistic and spatial arrangements that allow The Boys to ‘Spread Out’ (We just couldn’t resist!) away from each other and do individual pieces of business. Curly’s scene with the ball washer that he uses to do his laundry is not only funny but also introduces us to Curly singing (La Dee and La Dah) to himself. That will become a verbal staple that he adds to his expressions and movements in many more films.
Curly’s ability to blend his facial expression and movements in bit after bit after bit served to showcase his talent and comedic genius. While there are so many that can be used to illustrate the point, there are a few that stand out:
The Present Arms routine in 1940′s Boobs In Arms.
The Oyster Battle from 1941′s Dutiful But Dumb.
The Calculator-Adding Machine Tape-From Mouth bit from 1940′s No Census, No Feeling.
Then there’s Curly in drag as Senorita Cucaracha lip synching in 1945′s Micro-Phonies.
His facial movements and expressions are incredible.
Of course Curly could make any costume work, whether it was a baggy suit, a civil war uniform, a kilt, a tuxedo, a safari jacket or a nightshirt. He could even make wonderful and funny moves when his shoes were cement, watermelons or even guitars!
Whether making a pass at a pretty girl, spritzing seltzer, taking a fall, getting a bonk, slap or whap, spilling the ink or tossing the cream pies, Curly was simply one of the best comedians ever to grace the silver screen.
That was his nickname. He was the youngest of the five Howard brothers. He was born Jerome Lester Horwitz on October 22, 1903 in Bath Beach in Brooklyn. Curly married four times, his first marriage was annulled and his second and third ended in divorce. His second wife, Elaine, bore him his first child, daughter Marilyn. Curly married Valerie Newman in 1947 and gave him his second daughter, Janie. Curly passed away on January 18, 1952 at age 48.
Hey Moe! Hey Larry!
Curly made 97 shorts at Columbia with Larry and Moe, the last being Half Wits Holiday, which was made in 1946 and released in 1947. Curly had a serious stroke while making the short (May 1946). How fitting that in this last short Curly is the instigator of one of the Stooges’ all time pie fights.
Curly did make a cameo appearance in 1947′s Hold That Lion, The Three Stooges 100th Columbia short. That was the only time Larry, Moe, Shemp and Curly appeared on screen together.
Curly. More than just a word and here’s a picture that’s worth a thousand more…