Comic Actor and Third Stooge, Larry Fine, is born, 1902
On This Day in Jewish History: October 5th, 1902
Louis Feinberg, known to the comedy world as Larry Fine, was born in 1902 in Philadelphia. Encouraged at a young age to take up the violin, it was his entre to the Vaudeville stage where, in 1928, he had a fortuitous meeting with Shemp Howard, a comic actor who worked with Ted Healy. When Howard left the show—A Night in Spain—Fine was hired as his replacement and a relationship with Healy and a life-long relationship with the Howard Brothers would follow. A year after joining the show, Fine would team with Shemp’s brother Moe. He would tour with Moe and Shemp for several years and when Shemp left the act to pursue a solo career, be joined by a third Howard brother, the bald, rotund and hilarious Curly. By 1932, the threesome of Larry, Moe and Curly was in place and after a short stint at MGM, The Three Stooges, as they would forever be known, signed with Columbia Pictures in 1934. There they would, over the next quarter century, make over 200 short and feature films.
If the Stooges had the perfect man, it was Larry. His dimwitted persona ricocheted between the assaulting Moe, who slapped his forehead and pulled his hair with almost compulsive regularity, and the oversized juvenile Curly whose stupidity could make him the center of comedic gravity. Of the three, Larry may be the Stooge to whom most people could relate—he lacked the violent outbursts of Moe and the crude physicality of Curly, and often seemed caught in a world of accidents and brutality not of his own making. In the Stooges’ act, Larry may have come in for the most punishment, and the essence of his comedic art was his durability, his bouncing back, not only from Moe’s commands and violence, but from the general confusion he frequently endured. Larry was a vital member of the team despite the overpowering presence of the Howard brothers on either side of him. If the tradition of smart Jewish humor can be traced from George S. Kaufman to Groucho Marx to S.J. Perelman to Woody Allen, the Three Stooges do not just stand outside this tradition; they are a tradition onto themselves. Their slapstick chaos attacked dignity, personal safety and private property. They enacted their own form of working class revolution, often cast as day laborers who upset the plans of every boss they encountered. But the Stooges also did their part to challenge Adolf Hitler. With You Nazty Spy!, released in January 1940, two months before Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the Stooges were the first to satirize der Fuhrer. They would follow it up in 1941 with I’ll Never Heil Again. Given that all 4 of the Stooges grew up in homes of European Jewish immigrants, it is strongly speculated that Yiddish played a prevalent role in all of their upbringings. Lon Davis, author of "Stooges Among Us" said that although they may not have been as vocal about their Jewish background, "each man identified himself as being of the Jewish faith,” Davis told JNS.org. “The impact of that faith on their lives was their style of humor.
Aside from their Jewish humor, the boys did a significant amount of fundraisers for synagogues and other righteous causes.
Of the 190 shorts the group worked on, at least 38 utilized a Yiddish term or expression and at least 40% incorporated Hebrew or Yiddish in the scripts. Notably in the 1955 short, "Stone Age Romeos", there is a map that shows 5 locations labeled as, "Shmow Lake, The Schnozzle Mountains, Borscht Island, Mish Mosh and Ferblongent".
Columbia would end production of Stooges films in 1957 but Fine would continue to act with Moe Howard until a stroke ended his career in 1970. Despite thirty years in Hollywood, Larry Fine could not hold onto his money, squandering much of it by betting on the horses or cards. Still, along with the Howard Brothers and later, Curly’s replacements Joe Besser and Joe DeRita, he would earn an incredibly loyal following, one that endures today. Larry Fine died on January 24, 1975.