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Also Known As: Joseph Besser Died: March 1, 1988
Born: August 12, 1907 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: St Louis, Missouri, USA Profession: comedian, actor, song plugger, magician's assistant, handbill distributor, Western Union delivery boy

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Short, portly comedian whose eccentric personas often were whiny, child-like, cautious or bratty, Joe Besser is best recalled as Stinky, the "man-child" dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit who caused Lou Costello much consternation, and for joining The Three Stooges for the last of their 16 two-reel shorts at Columbia after the death of Shemp Howard. A burlesque and vaudeville performer who emigrated to Hollywood at the demise of those two stage genres, he began doing bits in radio and in films, usually as weak, frightened passive characters. Besser began to attract more audience recognition as Mr. Know It All on radio's "Let Yourself Go" (from 1945 to 1949) and then in 1950, when he spent a year as a comedy performer on the CBS variety program "The Ken Murray Show". Audiences enjoyed him as the skipping, brat Oswald, a.k.a. 'Stinky', who threatened "I'll harm you" whenever he was grasped by the arm on TV's "The Abbott and Costello Show" (syndicated, 1952-54). When Shemp Howard died in 1955, Besser was tapped as his replacement in the Three Stooges, but his nervous-nellie shtick didn't really mesh with the more knockabout slapstick of Moe Howard and Larry Fine. When the Stooges ended their...

Short, portly comedian whose eccentric personas often were whiny, child-like, cautious or bratty, Joe Besser is best recalled as Stinky, the "man-child" dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit who caused Lou Costello much consternation, and for joining The Three Stooges for the last of their 16 two-reel shorts at Columbia after the death of Shemp Howard. A burlesque and vaudeville performer who emigrated to Hollywood at the demise of those two stage genres, he began doing bits in radio and in films, usually as weak, frightened passive characters. Besser began to attract more audience recognition as Mr. Know It All on radio's "Let Yourself Go" (from 1945 to 1949) and then in 1950, when he spent a year as a comedy performer on the CBS variety program "The Ken Murray Show". Audiences enjoyed him as the skipping, brat Oswald, a.k.a. 'Stinky', who threatened "I'll harm you" whenever he was grasped by the arm on TV's "The Abbott and Costello Show" (syndicated, 1952-54).

When Shemp Howard died in 1955, Besser was tapped as his replacement in the Three Stooges, but his nervous-nellie shtick didn't really mesh with the more knockabout slapstick of Moe Howard and Larry Fine. When the Stooges ended their affiliation with Columbia Pictures (with whom Besser had been under contract in the 30s and 40s) in 1958, he was dropped in favor of 'Curly' Joe DeRita. For Besser, that turn of events proved favorable as he went on to a career as a character player in films and TV. He co-starred as the building superintendent Mr. Jillson on the ABC sitcom "The Joey Bishop Show" from 1962 to 1965 and made memorable guest appearances on shows like "Batman" and "Love American Style". For much of the 70s, he provided character voices for animated series, many produced by Hanna-Barbera.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Which Way to the Front? (1970) Dock master
2.
 Hand of Death (1962)
3.
 The Errand Boy (1961)
4.
 The Silent Call (1961)
5.
 Let's Make Love (1960) Charlie Lamont
6.
 Plunderers of Painted Flats (1959) Andy Heather
7.
 The Story on Page One (1959) Gallagher
8.
 Say One for Me (1959) Joe Greb
9.
 The Rookie (1959) Medic
10.
 The Helen Morgan Story (1957) Bartender
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in St. Louis, Missouri
:
As a teenager, decided to become a magician
1920:
At age 13, stowed away on train carrying his idol magician Howard Thurston; joined Thurston's act as a magician's assistant
1923:
Became magician's assistant to Madame Herrmann
1923:
Worked in various capacities in vaudeville
1928:
Went solo as a comedian
1930:
Toured vaudeville partnered with Dick Dana
1932:
Featured on Broadway in "The Passing Show of 1932"; also in cast were Ted Healy, Shemp Howard. Moe Howard and Larry Fine
:
Appeared as an exasperated child in Olsen and Johnson's stage show "Sons of Fun"
1938:
Teamed with singer Lee Royce
:
Signed by Columbia Pictures
1938:
Film debut in the short "Cuckoorancho"
:
Performed bit roles in more than 40 motion pictures
:
Had featured spots on radio shows including "The Jack Benny Show", "The Fred Allen Show" and "Tonight on Broadway"
:
Played Mr. Know It All on the radio show "Let Yourself Go", starring Milton Berle
1946:
Made appearance on "Hour Glass", one of the first live hour-long entertainment series produced for a TV network (NBC)
:
Became regular on first TV series, "The Ken Murray Show"
:
Played Stinky on "The Abbott and Costello Show"
:
Member of The Three Stooges, performing in final 16 two-reel shorts for Columbia
:
Played Mr. Jillson on the ABC sitcom "The Joey Bishop Show"
1969:
Made TV movie debut, "The Monk" (ABC)
:
Did voices for Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Puddy Puss, Babu, and Scarebear
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Education

Glascoe Elementary School: St Louis , Missouri -

Notes

"Y'craaaaazy" --Joe Besser

"I love working for kids. They are my best fans, my best audience and my best friends. My biggest thrill is having the kids like me. As long as this happens, I've got it made." --Joe Besser

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Erna Dora Kretschmer. Dancer, choreographer. Married on November 18, 1932.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Morris Besser. Baker. Orthodox Jew; immigrated from Poland to USA in 1895.
mother:
Fanny Besser. Polish immigrant; Orthodox Jew; moved to USA in 1895.
brother:
Manny Besser. Comedian. Older.
sister:
Rose Besser. Older.
sister:
Esther Besser. Older.
sister:
Molly Besser. Older.
sister:
Lilly Besser. Older.
sister:
Gertrude Besser. Older.
sister:
Florence Besser. Older.
sister:
Henrietta Besser. Older.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Contributions

glenburg ( 2007-03-09 )

Source: Once a Stooge, Always a StoogeThree Stooges Scrapbook

As co-writer of the late Mr. Besser's autobiography, "Once a Stooge, Always a Stooge," I can assure that Mr. Besser was never "dropped" in favor of Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. To the contrary, Mr. Besser had to bow out as the third Stooge due the poor health of his wife. If you check out "The Three Stooges Scrapbook" which I co-authored with my brother and Moe's daughter, Joan Howard Maurer, Mr. Besser's story was confirmed by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Joe DeRita. In fact, both Moe and Larry were sorry that he could not continue with the act. As far as the statement that his style of humor did not "mesh," that's a misrepresentation. Mr. Besser did his best considering the scripts which were given to the team during this period, most of which were remakes of earlier shorts with low production values. To illustrate that his style did mesh, I can remember attending a Three Stooges Film Festival in the 1980s where a Stooges short with Mr. Besser was presented. It was "Oil's Well That Ends Well." The laughter was deafening. Sure, Mr. Besser wasn't Curly, but he didn't pretend to be. He shouldn't be judged by Curly purists. He should be judged on his own merit. Lastly, Mr. Besser never worked in burlesque. Sincerely, Greg Lenburg

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