There are stories linking Ted Healy of Three Stooges fame to both Thelma Todd and Pat DiCicco.
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Healy in the trailer for
The Casino Murder Case
Ernest Lea Nash
October 1, 1896
December 21, 1937(1937-12-21)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
or Possible Murder 
Comedian and Actor
, Red Skelton
, Jack Benny
, Bob Hope
(October 1, 1896 – December 21, 1937) was an American vaudeville
, and actor
. He is chiefly remembered as the creator of The Three Stooges
, but had a successful stage and film career of his own.
Early life and career
Healy was born Ernest Lea Nash
on October 1, 1896 in Houston, Texas
and was known as Lee. In 1912, as teenagers, Nash and his childhood friend Moses Harry Horwitz
(later known as Moe Howard of the Three Stooges
) joined the Annette Kellerman
Diving Girls, a vaudeville
act which included four boys. The work ended quickly, however, after an accident on stage. Nash and Howard then went their separate ways. Nash 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 1920's 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). 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.
The beginning of the Stooges
Howard's brother Shemp
joined the act soon after as a heckler in 1923, with Larry Fine
joining in 1925. Healy's vaudeville revues (with names like A Night in Venice
, A Night in Spain
, and New Yorker Nights
) included the trio under various names, such as Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen, but never as Ted Healy and the Three Stooges
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 an 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"), often using some of the material from the Healy shows. Healy subsequently sued the Stooges for using his material. However, the copyright was actually held by the Shubert Theatre Corporation
(for which the routines had been produced)—and since the Stooges had the Shuberts' permission to use it, Healy lost the suit.
Healy then hired a new set of stooges, consisting of Eddie Moran (soon replaced by Richard "Dick" Hakins), Jack Wolf, and Paul "Mousie" Garner
. The Howard-Fine-Howard Stooges rejoined Healy's act in 1932, but Shemp quit the act shortly thereafter, soon to be replaced by his younger brother Curly Howard
. The reunion did not last, however, and in early 1934, Howard, Fine and Howard parted ways with Healy for good.
After the Stooges
Healy went on to establish a promising career in motion pictures
, where he was successful in both comedic roles (where he was often grouped with new "stooges", including Jimmy Brewster, Red Pearson and Sammy Glasser) and dramatic roles. After Larry Fine
, Moe Howard
and Curly Howard
left his act in 1934, Healy appeared in a succession of films for 20th Century Fox
, Warner Brothers
, and MGM
. During this period, Healy took to wearing a full toupée
He was 41 and under contract to MGM at the time of his death on December 21, 1937, a few hours after preview audiences had acclaimed his work in the Warner Brothers film Hollywood Hotel
A cloud of mystery still hangs over Healy's death. Newspaper accounts attributed it to serious head injuries sustained in a nightclub
brawl while celebrating the birth of his first child. Conflicting reports claimed the comedian died of a heart attack
at his Los Angeles home.
The death certificate issued by the state of California lists his cause of death as nephritis
, or inflammation of the kidneys.
Two days before his death, the twice-married Healy had visited Moe Howard
's wife, Helen, at their Hollywood apartment with the news that his ex-wife Betty (Hickman) was pregnant. Even though he'd recently been divorced by the 21 year-old,
Healey was excited at the prospect of his first child, telling Mrs. Howard, "I'll make him the richest kid in the world." Howard later stated in an interview that Healy had always wanted children and that it was ironic that the impending birth of his first child shortly preceded his own death. Howard recalled, "He was nuts about kids. 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."
At the time of Healy's death, the Stooges (consisting of Moe, Larry, and Curly) were at Grand Central Terminal
in New York City
preparing to leave for a personal appearance in Boston
. Before their departure, Howard called Rube Jackter, head of Columbia Pictures
' sales department, to confirm their benefit performance at Boston's Children's Hospital. During the conversation, Jackter told Howard that the night editor of The New York Times
wanted to talk to him. Howard phoned The Times
. The editor, without even a greeting, queried curtly, "Is this Moe?" Howard said it was. The editor then asked, "Would you like to make a statement on the death of Ted Healy?" Howard was stunned. He dropped the phone. Folding his arms over his head, Howard started to sob. Curly and Larry rushed into the phone booth to warn Howard that their train was about to leave. They found him crumpled over, crying. Since Howard seldom openly showed his emotions, Larry cracked to Curly, "Your brother's nuts. He is actually crying." Howard did not explain the reason for his emotional breakdown until he boarded the train. When they arrived back in Hollywood, they learned the details of Healy's death from a writer friend, Henry Taylor. Taylor told Howard that Healy had been out drinking at the Trocadero
nightclub on the Sunset Strip
, and an argument broke out with three college boys. Healy called them vile names and offered to go outside the club to take care of them one at a time. Once outside, Ted did not have a chance to raise his fists. The three men jumped him, knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the head, ribs and stomach. Healy's friend actor Joe Frisco
came on the scene, picked him up from the sidewalk and took him to his apartment, where Ted died of what medical officials initially called a brain concussion
However, a very different account asserts that Healy was beaten to death by screen legend Wallace Beery
, Albert R. Broccoli
(later producer of James Bond
films), and notorious gangster (and Broccoli's cousin) Pat DiCicco.[why?]
This account appears in E. J. Fleming's book The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM Publicity Machine
(2004) about legendary MGM "fixers
] Mannix and Strickling. Under orders from studio head Louis B. Mayer
, MGM sent Beery, one of their most valuable properties, to Europe for several months, while the story of the "three college boys" was fabricated to conceal the truth. (Immigration records confirm a four-month trip to Europe on Beery's part immediately after Healy's death, ending April 17, 1938).
Despite his sizable salary, Ted Healy died penniless. MGM's staff members started a fund to pay for his burial. Moe Howard later mentioned that producer Bryan Foy
of the famed Foy family of vaudevillians footed a sizeable portion of the bill for the funeral. According to Howard, even in the heyday of his stage career, Ted refused to save money and spent every dime of his salary as fast as he earned it. Healy loved betting on horses, and his favorite reading matter was race track charts.
Healy was survived by his widow, Betty Healy (née Hickman, whom he married on May 15, 1936) and his son, John Jacob Nash — who was baptized in St. Augustine's Church, opposite MGM, a week after Healy's death. John Nash, who legally changed his name to Theodore John Healy in 1959, died on July 16, 2011 from liver failure as a complication of prostate cancer in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.
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
- ^ World War I Draft Registration
- ^ Maurer, Joan Howard; Jeff Lenburg, Greg Lenburg (1982). The Three Stooges Scrapbook. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0946-5.
- ^ Pittsburgh Press December 22, 1937
- ^ Lewiston Evening Journal December 23, 1937
- ^ Prescott Evening Courier December 22, 1937
- ^ Death Certificate, filed on December 23, 1937
- ^ Howard, Moe. (1982) The Three Stooges Scrapbook, pp. 14–15; Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0803-5
- ^ Howard, Moe. (1977, rev. 1979) Moe Howard and the Three Stooges, p. 39; Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-8065-0723-1
- ^ Ile de France passenger list, p. 117, line 9, Microfilm roll T715_6140
- ^ The New York Public Library Inventory of Sardi's Caricatures
- The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion by Jon Solomon, (Comedy III Productions, Inc., 2002).
- The Three Stooges Scrapbook by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer, Greg Lenburg (Citadel Press, 1994).
* * *
MYSTERY SEEN AS TED HEALY DIES SUDDENLY
(Special To The News)
Hollywood, Dec. 21 -- The sudden death today of Ted Healy, bald and glowering comedian famous for his stooges, assumed aspects of mystery tonight with reports that he had been severely beaten, a little more than twenty four hours before he died, at the Trocadero Restaurant, Hollywood's premier night spot.
Coroner Frank Nance announced he would perform an inquest after Dr. Wyland Lamont, Healy's physician, refused to sign a certificate of death, Early reports said the comic had died of "a stroke."
From a group of fellow actors came the story tonight of Healy's mysterious beating.
Bobby Burns Berman, New York and Hollywood cafe man, said that Healy sobbing and with tears streaming down his face, approached him early Monday morning as he stood in Vine St. with comedian Joe Frisco and Man-Mountain Dean, motion picture actor and wrestler.
SLUGGED, HE SAYS
"I was slugged out at the Trocadero," Healy told them, Berman said, and exhibited a huge welt on his head.
But he refused to tell who had beaten him or why.
He said he was going for treatment to Dr. Sidney L. Weinberg, who could not be reached at his office tonight.
Reportedly stricken at 3 A. M., Healy died at 11:30 A. M. (3:30 P. M. New York) after oxygen had been administered in a vain attempt to save his life.
Mrs. Healy, the former Betty Hickman, who gave birth to a son on Friday, had not been informed of his death. Her husband had remained at her bedside until only a few hours before he was reportedly stricken.
His latest film, "Hollywood Hotel," was previewed last night.
* * *
Ted Healy's death was linked to the Trocadero. And Ted Healy's death was linked to Pat DiCicco. For Pat DiCicco was said to have been one of the three men who beat him shortly before he died.
One account has it that Ted Healy was romantically involved with Thelma Todd.
Ted Healy and his Stooges, from back when their early days.
That's Shemp next to Ted Healy at the right.
Ted Healy and the Three Stooges in Hollywood
Curly, in place of Shemp, is next to Ted Healy at the left.
Ted Healy without Stooges.
Ted Healy with Patsy Kelly in SING, BABY, SING, 1936.
Ted Healy was also associated with Frank Fay, with whom Patsy Kelly had worked in New York.
Ted Healy and first wife Betty Healy
Betty Healy at the Roach studio
With Laurel and Hardy in OUR RELATIONS:
Betty Healy, Lona Andre, Daphne Pollard, Iris Adrian
Gloria Bondell, Katherine Blondell ( Mother ), Joan Blondell.
Gloria Blondell made one Three Stooges short, THREE SAPPY PEOPLE, in 1939. She was also married to Pat DiCicco's cousin Cubby Broccoli at the time.
Cubby Broccoli in 1936, while he was married to Gloria Blondell.
Mabel Todd ( not to be confused with Thelma Todd )
with Ted Healy in his last film, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, 1937.
I beleve that a book published in 2002 was the first to have the story that Pat DiCicco, Cubby Broccoli, and Wallace Beery were the ones that beat up Ted Healy shortly before his death.
Moe Howard's book MOE HOWARD AND THE THREE STOOGES had mentioned the story about Ted Healy having been beaten up, but hadn't named the assailants.
The Forrester's book also has it that Ted Healy was seeing Thelma Todd in 1934, while she was still married to Pat DiCicco.
The source for this story is said to have been Mousie Gardner, one of Healy's "new Three Stooges",
who had himself come out with a book in 1999.
It hadn't said anything about Thelma Todd, but it did mention that Ted Healy liked to set fire to things, including some belongings of blonde Bonnie Bonnel, who had worked with him and the Three Stooges in the movies.
Bonnie Bonnell next to Ted Healy in NERTSERY RHYMES, with the Three Stooges.
Bonnie Bonnell with Ted Healy and the Three Stooges in PLANE NUTS.
There's also a story from another of the new Stooges, Dick Hakins. After the incident where Pat DiCicco chased Harry Cohn from New York's 21 Club in 1942, shouting "Thelma!"*, it says that Dick Hakins wondered if Cohn had been threatening to expose DiCicco's involvement in the deaths of Thelma Todd and Ted Healy. "From what I knew of Harry Cohn, I wouldn't put anything past him," Hakins is quoted.
But we don't know just how much DiCicco had to do with the deaths of Thelma Todd or Ted Healy. The only thing that is certain in this case is that nothing is certain.
*This incident was mentioned by Gloria Vanderbilt ( who was married to Pat DiCicco at the time ) in her autobiography BLACK KNIGHT, WHITE KNIGHT.
HOLLYWOOD PARTY Trailer
MEET THE BARON with Zasu Pitts
THE GOOD OLD SOAK ( movie with Wallace Beery and Ted Healy):