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Curly Joe DeRita

Curly Joe DeRita, the last of the bumbling “Three Stooges” comedy team, died July 3 of pneumonia. He was 83.

He had lived at the Motion Picture & Television Fund convalescent home and hospital in Woodland Hills the past two years after a series of strokes.

“He made a lot of people happy in his life. He loved working with the Stooges ,” said Robert Benjamin, his stepson.

The Three Stooges began in vaudeville in 1923 as Ted Healy and His Stooges and included at various times the Howard brothers of Curly, Moe and Shemp, as well as Larry Fine, Joe Besser and DeRita.

The act was featured in some 200 two-reel comedies produced by Columbia Pictures from 1934 to 1958. The Stooges were never big moneymakers for Columbia until the movie shorts were released on television.

DeRita joined the Stooges in the late 1950s, replacing Besser. Curly, the most popular Stooge, died in 1952, Shemp in 1955. Moe and Larry died in 1975.

DeRita is survived by his wife, Jean DeRita, Benjamin and stepson Earl Benjamin.

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