Friday, July 19, 2013

He Stooged to Conquer

Moe Howard’s Story

By David Luhrssen
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 The Three Stooges enjoyed a remarkable run among America’s most enduring—and instantly recognizable—comedians. Their raucous antics suggest naughty boys in men’s bodies. The Stooges’ humor was lower brow than most, lacking the pathos of Laurel and Hardy, the politics of Charlie Chaplin, the irony of Buster Keaton or the sophistication of the Marx Brothers. And unlike Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis, there was no straight man among them. All three were gonzo.

The Chicago Review Press has republished Chief Stooge Moe Howard’s autography under the title I Stooged to Conquer. He was the one with the bangs and the bowl haircut and, naturally, he had stories to tell. Born Moses Horwitz in Brooklyn, Moe and his brothers were fascinated by the “penny picture machines” that ran some of the earliest motion pictures. There wasn’t much more than a penny between them in their hard-scrapping youth.

Show biz beckoned as Moe skipped school and split the proceeds from the frogs he caught in a nearby pond (and sold to the local tavern), giving 70 cents on the dollar to mom and 30 to the nearby vaudeville house. “I felt as if I was the performer. I lost myself completely,” he wrote, reminiscing about the shows. By 1909 he was cast as street urchins in films produced by Brooklyn’s Vitagraph Studio. Hollywood was still decades away, but Moe was getting his taste of the limelight.

Moe’s voice is apparent throughout I Stooged to Conquer and there humility on every page. It’s easy enough to say he never took himself too seriously (with a haircut like that?), but it’s good to add that he bore no apparent grudges and wore his career lightly. It was a madcap ride, and he seemed to enjoy every minute.

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