Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website. This article was selected for what would have been Moe Howard's 116th birthday.
Moe Howard, the face-slapping, eye-poking leader of the Three Stooges was born Moses Horwitz on June 19, 1897, in Bensonhurst, New York. Early in his youth he got the nickname "Moe" and adopted the middle name Harry. Moe was the fourth of five sons born to Solomon and Jennie Horwitz. Brother Samuel ("Shemp") was two years older and younger brother Jerome ("Curly") was six years Moe's junior.
While he was growing up, Jennie Horwitz loved to have young Moe's hair styled in a feminine-looking "Buster Brown" haircut, complete with girlish curls. The girly-looking mop top haircut caused poor Moe to get into an inordinate amount of fights at PS 163 in Brooklyn. After one bloody nose too many, Moe took shears and carefully clipped off his curls, one by one. This left him with a fringe of long forehead bangs, his future trademark as the bossy leader of the Three Stooges.
Early on, Moe displayed a very quick mind and had an uncanny ability for memorizing anything, an ability that would later come in handy and help make him a "quick study" with scripts. Moe got the show business bug early and at PS 163 he made his acting debut (as well as directing) The Story of Nathan Hale. He soon became a frequent truant, preferring to catch plays at the local melodrama theaters around town. Moe would sit up in the high balcony, rest his chin on a rail, and "select the actor I liked the most and follow his performance throughout the play."
After graduating from PS 163, Moe dropped out of Brooklyn's Erasmus High School after only two months to pursue a career in show biz. He started hanging around the Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn, running errands for many of the famous actors and actresses of the era. He was to appear in many silent films for Vitagraph, earning from 50 cents to a dollar a day.
In 1909, Moe met another acting hopeful named Ted Healy and the two became close friends. In 1912, Moe and Ted joined Annette Kellerman's aquatic act as "diving girls," a job that lasted through the summer.
In 1913, Moe and older brother Shemp started singing in a quartet (Moe sang baritone; Shemp sang lead). Moe and Shemp sang every night until about 9 or 10 PM in the family room at Sullivan's Saloon, until Solomon found out and put an end to it.
In 1914, Moe found employment acting on Captain Bryant's showboat Sunflower. He developed his chops as a thespian on the Sunflower for the next two years, acting in various melodramas. By 1917, Moe and Shemp developed a blackface act and trod the boards of Vaudeville together for the next five years.
In 1922, Moe resumed his acquaintance with old friend Ted Healy. Soon Moe, Ted, and Shemp formed the earliest version of the Three Stooges act, an act which was to last, in various forms, for the next five decades. Comedian/violinist Larry Fine joined the act in 1925 and for the next seven years, the act would feature Ted Healy as "the boss" of the act, bullying, slapping, and eye-poking Moe, Larry, and Shemp.