1001 W 75TH ST. WOODRIDGE, IL 630-427-1880

Hollywood Memorial

Curly Joe DeRita

DeRita was born into a show business family and often acted on stage from his early childhood. Taking on his mother’s maiden name, DeRita (Portuguese), the actor joined the Burlesque circuit during the 1920s, gaining fame as a comedian. After Shemp Howard died in 1955, Moe Howard and Larry Fine tried to complete the ‘Three Stooges’ act with Joe Besser, but his wife’s ill health led Besser to quit the act after just two years. Familiar with DeRita’s work, Moe Howard asked him to join the act, and he readily accepted. DeRita became the first non-Jewish member of the Three Stooges. Because of his physical resemblance to predecessors Besser and especially Curly Howard, DeRita was renamed ‘Curly-Joe’ and became the sixth of the Three Stooges in 1958. ‘Curly-Joe’ also made it easier to distinguish him from Besser (the previous Stooge called Joe). Columbia Pictures’ short films studio shut down, leaving the Stooges to seek their own full-length features. The team created a number of theatrical Three Stooges films, including ‘Have Rocket, Will Travel’ and ‘Snow White and the Three Stooges.’ Aimed primarily at children, these films rarely reached the same comedic heights as their shorts. (Moe and Larry’s advanced ages plus pressure from the PTA and other children’s advocates led to a severe toning-down of the trio’s trademark violent slapstick.) Through the 1960s, DeRita remained a member of the team, participating in animated cartoons (with live-action introductions). However, Larry Fine suffered a stroke in 1970, putting all new Stooges related material on hold. Nearly blind from diabetes, DeRita died in Los Angeles on July 3, 1993. He was buried in the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood. His epitaph reads, ‘The Last Stooge.’