Healy was born Charles Earnest Lea Nash on October 1, 1896 in Kaufman, Texas. He attended Holy Innocents' School in Houston before the family moved to New York in 1908. While in New York, he attended high school at De LaSalle Institute. Healy initially intended to follow in the footsteps of his father and pursue a career in business, but eventually decided to pursue a career on the stage.
Healy's first foray into show business was in 1912. He and his childhood friend Moses Horwitz (later known as Moe Howard) joined the Annette Kellerman Diving Girls, a vaudeville act which included four boys. The work ended quickly, however, after an accident on stage. Healy and Howard then went their separate ways. Healy developed a vaudeville act and adopted the stage name Ted Healy.
Healy's act was a hit, and he soon expanded his role as a comedian and master of ceremonies. In the 1920s he was the highest paid performer in Vaudeville making $9000 a week. He added performers to his stage show, including his new wife Betty Brown (a.k.a. Betty Braun). His first Stooge was his German Shepherd dog that appeared in his first vaudeville act.
When some of his acrobats quit in 1922, Moe Howard answered the advertisement for replacements. Since Howard was no acrobat, Healy cast his old friend as a stooge (someone who impersonated a member of the audience who is called on stage). In the routine, Howard's appearance on stage would end with Healy losing his trousers.
Howard's brother Shemp joined the act as a heckler in 1923, and Larry Fine was added in 1925. Healy's vaudeville revues (A Night in Venice, A Night in Spain, New Yorker Nights, and others) included the quartet under various names, such as Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen.
Ted Healy and his Stooges (1933)
Moe Howard took a break from show business in 1927 after the birth of his daughter. The group reconvened in 1928 and appeared in several Broadway productions, leading to their appearance in the 1930 film Soup to Nuts. In 1931 the Stooges broke from Healy after a dispute over a movie contract. They began performing on their own, using such monikers as "The Three Lost Souls" and "Howard, Fine and Howard", and often incorporating material from the Healy shows. Healy attempted to sue the Stooges for using his material, but the copyright was held by the Shubert Theatre Corporation, for which the routines had been produced, and the Stooges had the Shuberts' permission to use it.
Healy hired a new set of stooges, consisting of Eddie Moran (soon replaced by Richard "Dick" Hakins), Jack Wolf (father of sportscasterWarner Wolf), and Paul "Mousie" Garner in 1931. The original Stooges rejoined Healy's act in 1932, but Shemp left shortly thereafter to pursue a solo career and was replaced by his younger brother Curly Howard. In early 1934, Fine and the Howards parted ways with Healy for the last time.
From 1935 through 1937 Healy appeared in a succession of films for 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and MGM, playing both dramatic and comedic roles. Most of his comedies featured new "stooges", including Jimmy Brewster, Red Pearson and Sammy Glasser. During this period Healy took to wearing a full toupée in public.[page needed] His last film, Hollywood Hotel, was released a few days after his death in 1937.
Healy's first wife was dancer and singer Betty Brown (born Elizabeth Braun), whom he married in 1922 after knowing her for one week.The couple worked together in vaudeville before divorcing in 1932, after Brown sued heiress Mary Brown Warburton for alienation of her husbands affections.
Healy's second marriage was to UCLA Co-Ed Betty Hickman. Healy upon introducing himself asked her to marry him and became engaged the next day. They were married in Yuma, Arizona on May 15, 1936 after a midnight surprise elopement by plane. Betty Hickman was granted a divorce from Healy on October 7, 1936, but later reconciled.
Hickman gave birth to the couple's son, John Jacob, on December 17, 1937, four days before Healy's death
Healy died suddenly on December 21, 1937, and the circumstances surrounding his death were a matter of some controversy. The cause was initially reported as "heart attack", but the presence of recent wounds — a deep cut over Healy's right eye, a "discolored" left eye, and bruising of the head, neck, and trunk regions — and stories of an altercation on the night of his death at the Trocadero nightclub on Sunset Strip, gave rise to speculation that he died as a result of these injuries.
According to one source, which quoted Healy's friend, the writer Henry Taylor, an argument broke out between Healy and three men identified only as "college boys". The younger men knocked Healy to the ground and kicked him in the head, ribs and stomach. United Press articles after Healy's death quoted wrestler Man Mountain Dean, who happened to be at Healy's hotel when he stumbled, injured and incoherent, out of a taxi; Dean helped get the comedian to a doctor. At some point in the evening Healy's friend Joe Frisco took him to his apartment, where he was later found dead.
A more recent (and so far uncorroborated) source alleges that the three assailants were not college boys but actor Wallace Beery, Albert R. Broccoli (later producer of James Bond films), and Broccoli's cousin Pat DiCicco. While there is no documentation in news reports that either Beery or DiCicco was present, Broccoli admitted that he was indeed involved in a fist fight with Healy a few hours before he died. In other reports, Broccoli admitted to pushing Healy but not striking him. Because of the circumstances, Wyantt LaMont, the physician who treated Healy, refused to sign his death certificate; but autopsy findings revealed that Healy died of acute toxic nephritis secondary to acute and chronic alcoholism. The external wounds were specifically ruled out as a cause of death, thus rendering the role of any assailants (and their identities) moot.
Healy was reportedly at the Trocadero celebrating the birth of his son, an event that he had eagerly anticipated, according to Moe Howard: "He was nuts about kids," wrote Howard. "He used to visit our homes and envied the fact that we were all married and had children. Healy always loved kids and often gave Christmas parties for underprivileged youngsters and spent hundreds of dollars on toys."
Ted Healy is interred at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Healy's was the first caricature drawn by Alex Gard to grace the walls of Sardi's restaurant in the New York City Theater District. Healy was survived by his widow, Betty Healy and his son, John Jacob Nash. Despite his sizeable salary Healy spent his money as soon as he earned it. A trust fund was organzied by Hollywood stars for Betty Healy and her son