SHEMP HOWARD Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Name: Shemp Howard                                                                   
Birth name: Samuel Horwitz                                                           
Born: 4 March 1895 Bensonhurst, New York                                             
Died: 22 November 1955 Hollywood, California                                         
Shemp Howard (March 4, 1895 - November 22, 1955) was part of the Three               
Stooges comedy team. Born Samuel Horwitz, he was called "Shemp" because "Sam"       
came out that way in his mother's thick Jewish Lithuanian accent. He was the         
older brother of Moe Howard and "third stooge" in the early years of the act. He     
would rejoin the trio in May 1946, after youngest brother Jerome "Curly" Howard     
suffered a stroke.                                                                   
Shemp, along with his brother Moe, was born in Bensonhurst and Jerome (Curly),       
was born in Bath Beach a suburb of Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. He     
was the third of the five Horwitz brothers and of Levite and Lithuanian Jewish       
ancestry. Shemp played his somewhat homely appearance to comic effect, often         
mugging grotesquely or allowing his hair to fall in disarray. Notoriously phobic,   
his fears included airplanes, automobiles and water.                                 
Moe entered show business in the 1910s. Shemp followed him in 1922, as part of a     
slapstick vaudeville act known as Ted Healy's Stooges. In September 1925, Shemp     
married Gertrude Frank (28) a fellow New Yorker. They had only one child, a son,     
Morton (born 1926) who died in 1972. On stage, Healy would sing and tell jokes       
while his three noisy stooges (show-business slang for assistants) would get in     
his way. Healy would retaliate with physical and verbal abuse. Shemp played a       
bumbling fireman in the Stooges' first film, Soup to Nuts, the only film in         
which he plays one of Ted Healy's gang.                                             
Healy was always the main attraction of the act, and his stooges were in             
constant disagreement with him over billing, money, and management. Tired of         
Healy's shenanigans, Shemp left Healy's act in 1932 to pursue a solo film career.   
He attempted, unsuccessfully, to create his own group of "stooges" in the Van       
Beuren musical comedy short The Knife of the Party.                                 
Otherwise, Shemp Howard's solo career was very successful. He performed with         
such comic greats as Fatty Arbuckle, W.C. Fields, and the comedy team Abbott and     
Costello, all of whom would reportedly trim his scene-stealing material. He also     
lent comic relief to Charlie Chan and The Thin Man murder mysteries, and was         
hilarious in several Universal B-musicals of the early 1940s, among them             
Strictly In The Groove, How's About It? Moonlight And Cactus, and San Antonio       
Rose, in which he is paired with Lon Chaney Jr. as a faux Abbott & Costello. In     
most of these, his improvisational skills are highlighted. He was briefly teamed     
with comedians Billy Gilbert and Maxie Rosenbloom for three B-comedy features in     
1944-45. He also played a few dramatic roles, such as his small role in the John     
Wayne film Pittsburgh in 1942.                                                       
Since 1939, Shemp had been appearing frequently in Columbia's two-reel comedies,     
co-starring with Columbia regulars Andy Clyde, The Glove Slingers, El Brendel,       
and Tom Kennedy. Howard was given his own starring series in 1944; he was           
working for Columbia in this capacity when his brother Curly was felled by a         
debilitating stroke in 1946. Shemp reluctantly replaced Curly in Columbia's         
popular Stooge shorts. Initially, Shemp rejoined the Stooges on a temporary         
basis until Curly recovered, but as Curly's condition worsened, it became           
apparent that Shemp's association with the Stooges would be permanent. (Prior to     
replacing Curly on film, Shemp had substituted for his brother in some personal     
appearances in the early 1940s.)                                                     
Shemp is often compared to Curly, but his comedic stylings were unique, and some     
fans even prefer his gruff, wisecracking comic style over Curly's brand of           
silliness. Shemp appeared with Moe and Larry in 73 short subjects and the           
feature film Gold Raiders. He suffered a mild stroke in November 1952, though       
without noticeable effect on his remaining films with the Stooges (largely           
remakes of earlier films that recycled footage to reduce costs). Some fans,         
however, contend that in these later cheapies, Shemp looks weak, pale, and even     
For Crimin' Out Loud (released posthumously in 1956) was the last film featuring     
new footage of Shemp (far right).                                                   
While returning home by taxicab from a boxing match on November 22, 1955, Shemp     
died of a massive heart attack. Shemp was lighting a cigar after telling a joke     
when he suddenly slumped over in his friend Al Winston's lap. Although Moe           
Howard claimed in his autobiography that Shemp died on November 23, 1955 and         
most accounts point to that date, the Los Angeles county coroner death               
certificate states that Shemp Howard died on Tuesday November 22, 1955 at 11:35     
PST. He is interred at the Home of Peace Memorial Park in East Los Angeles.         
In 1985, his surviving widow Gertrude Howard requested that Shemp's remains be       
exhumed. A second autopsy revealed that Shemp died from massive opaque plaque       
buildup in his arteries In Paul "Mousie" Garner's 1985 biography of the             
Three Stooges, co-written by Joan Howard Maurer, Gertrude is quoted as saying       
that after his mild stroke in 1952, Shemp was prescribed an unknown heart           
medication despite never being otherwise treated for a heart problem.