12 Jul 1909 1
03 Jul 1993 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
Joe Derita 1
12 Jul 1909 1
03 Jul 1993 1
Burial Place: Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood CA 2
Last Residence: Burbank, CA 1
Social Security:
Social Security Number: ***-**-6624 1

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Curly Joe DeRita, 83, Last of the Three Stooges

Curly Joe DeRita, the last surviving member of the Three Stooges team of hard-edged slapstick comedians, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 83 and had been living at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif., for two years.

The cause was pneumonia, and he had previously suffered a series of strokes, said a stepson, Robert Benjamin.

The Three Stooges made short filler material produced by Columbia Pictures for a quarter-century ending in 1958. In 1959, the plump Mr. DeRita joined the group for some years and performed with the team in a succession of feature-length comic films.

Among them were "Have Rocket, Will Travel" (1959), "Snow White and the Three Stooges" (1961) and "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962), and "The Outlaw Is Coming" (1965).

Mr. Benjamin said that at his death Mr. DeRita was still getting fan letters "from around the world" Roots in Vaudeville

When Mr. DeRita joined the group, he took the place of Joe Besser, who had had minor roles in Abbott and Costello comedies and had become a Stooge in 1955 after his predecessor, Shemp Howard, died in 1955.

The Stooges, whose roots were in vaudeville, also included over the years, Mr. Howard's brothers, Moe and the original Curly; Larry Fine, and Joe Besser.

Mr. de Rita was known simply as Joe before he joined the Stooges.

When he and the other two Stooges, Larry and Moe, appeared in "Snow White and the Three Stooges" (1961), a New York Times reviewer, Howard Thompson, wrote that the the trio "are lively, to be sure." He continued: "If their friendly, pleasant bumbling (the pies fly only once) doesn't exactly enhance Grimm, the boys do quite nicely as sideline sponsors of the hero and heroine. The earthy clowns may be just what an atomic-age 'Snow White' calls for."

The Stooges' knockabout-style comedy began amusing movie fans in 1930. The team made its movie debut in that year in "Soup to Nuts." Eventually they made more than 200 two-reeler comedies, each lasting about 18 minutes, that were used to fill in movie bills to a given length.

Those shorts were repeatedly resurrected in later years for the pleasure of new generations who savored the wildly wacky Stooge antics on television.

By the early 1980's, the Stooges had spawned a cult of sorts, with film festivals, television marathons, books, a variety of trademarked products and a vigorous fan club commemorating their unsubtle antics, which were punctuated with gruns, growls, screeches and various bits of mayhem committed on one another. Another perennial attraction was their seeming to reduce to rubble whatever they came in touch with.

After his comic career ended, Mr. DeRita lived in Southern California.

In addition to Mr. Benjamin, Mr. DeRita is survived by his wife, Jean, and another stepson, Earl Benjamin.

Joe DeRita; Last Surviving Member of the Three Stooges

Joe (Curly Joe) DeRita, 83, the lone survivor of the Three Stooges, died Saturday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills after a bout of pneumonia, a family member said.

DeRita joined Moe Howard and Larry Fine in 1959 as a third replacement for the original Curly.

The Three Stooges of Columbia Pictures fame--Moe Howard; his brother, Curly (Jerome Lester Howard); and Larry Fine--made more than 200 short films in the 1930s and 1940s. Jerome's death in 1952 after a series of strokes thrust the persona of the short, stocky Curly into upheaval.

He was first replaced by Shemp, another Howard brother, and then by Joe Besser. In 1959, DeRita came on the scene.

DeRita, who got his vaudeville start at age 8 with the Dancing DeRitas, was the man that Moe and Larry wanted after Besser left the act.

When his contract wit the Harold Minsky show in Las Vegas expired, he joined the Stooges. Their first stage show, in Barstow, was "a total flop," said Robert Benjamin, DeRita's stepson. But the act soon picked up, and the new trio played fairs, performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and completed a handful of feature-length films, including "Snow White and the Three Stooges," "Have Rocket Will Travel" and "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules."

The trio also completed a pilot for "Kook's Tour," a proposed TV series. Larry and Moe died in 1975, Benjamin said.

DeRita was born in Philadelphia and lived most of his life in the Los Angeles area, most recently in Burbank, Benjamin said. He traveled through Europe and Japan performing for troops during World War II.

Benjamin said he will remember his stepfather as forever making jokes.

"Joe used to love to torment waiters," Benjamin said. "He couldn't stop being a comedian."

Benjamin, who said he was a 20-year-old hippie wearing love beads at the time, recalled an incident in the 1960s.

"Joe went into the garage and came out with a bunch of spark plugs and wrenches around his neck. He said, 'These are my love beads,' " Benjamin said. "He was very kind-hearted. He helped me out on so many occasions."

DeRita spent two years at the Woodland Hills retirement home and hospital after a series of strokes made it too difficult for his wife to care for him, Benjamin said.

In addition to Robert Benjamin, he is survived by his wife, Jean DeRita, and stepson Earl Benjamin. The family has requested that any donations go to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in lieu of flowers. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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