Joe "Curly Joe" DeRita (Joseph Wardell)

Joe DeRita

Joe DeRita

Actor, Comedian. Born into a show-business family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Florenz (DeRita) and Frank Wardell. His given name was Joseph Wardell. Joe began performing at the age of 7. He played the Burlesque circuit until 1942 when he went to headline in California stage shows. He toured with Randolph Scott and Bing Crosby for the USO during World War II. Joe made his film debut in “The Doughgirls” (1944) and continued to perform in films, radio, and television. Joe appeared in Columbia shorts such as “Slappily Married” and “The Good Bad Egg,” these shorts featured some of the same supporting actors who were in the Stooge Shorts. In 1958 the Columbia short subjects department was disbanded, and The Three Stooges no longer had a contract with Columbia. Joe Besser did not want to travel with the act so Moe and Larry needed a third stooge. Joe DeRita was asked to join the act, and at this time the Stooges formed Comedy III Productions, Inc., a company which still holds The Three Stooges rights and manages their affairs. He was the sixth member of The Three Stooges, and the second to be billed as Curly, under the persona of “Curly Joe”. In 1958 Columbia released the old Three Stooges shorts to television and there was an immediate resurgence of popularity of the Stooges. The Stooges with Curly Joe as the third Stooge made numerous personal appearances all around the country and made six full length feature motion pictures. This period of time from 1958 and throughout the 60′s was described by Larry Fine as the Stooges’ golden years. While filming “Kook’s Tour” in 1970 Larry suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body.  When Moe Howard’s death ended the comedy team in 1975, Joe retired. Joe was married twice, first to Bonnie Brooks then to Jean Sullivan. He died in the Motion Picture Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 83. (bio by: Shock)  Family links:  Spouses:  Jean Sullivan DeRita (____ – 1979)*  Bonnie DeRita (1917 – 1965)* *Calculated relationshipCause of death: Pneumonia Inscription:Curly – Joe DeRita”THE LAST STOOGE”

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  • July, 12, 1909
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


  • July, 07, 1993
  • Woodland Hills, California

Cause of Death

  • Pneumonia 


  • Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park
  • North Hollywood, California

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