The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to mid–20th century best known for their numerous short subject films. Their hallmark was physical farce and extreme slapstick. In films, the stooges were commonly known by their first names: "Moe, Larry, and Curly" and "Moe, Larry, and Shemp," among other lineups. The film trio was originally composed of Moe Howard (1897-1975), brother Shemp Howard (1895-1955) and longtime friend Larry Fine (1902-1975). Curly Howard (1903-1952) replaced brother Shemp, who later returned when Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in 1946.
After Shemp's death in 1955, he was replaced by comedian Joe Besser, after the use of stuntman Joe Palma to record several "Shemp" shorts after his death. Eventually Joe "Curly-Joe" DeRita (born Joseph Wardell) replaced Joe Besser. Larry suffered a serious stroke in 1970, and was unable to continue performing. Emil Sitka, a longtime actor in Stooge comedies, was contracted to replace Larry, but no film was ever made with him in the role, although publicity photographs exist of him with his hair combed similarly to Larry's, posing with Moe and Curly-Joe. However, Larry's paralyzing stroke in 1970 effectively marked the end of the act. He died in January 1975. Moe died of cancer a few months later.