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On May 5, 1934, the world met Moe, Larry and Curly for the first time on the silver screen. Although the Three Stooges had been performing in various configurations since the late 1920s, it wasn’t until the mid-1930s that they released their first film under that name. Titled Woman Haters, the 19-minute-long, rhyming, musical short had a comedic premise that likely wouldn’t fly in 2015 — it centers on a group of men united by their membership in the “Woman Haters Club” —but was enough to launch the Stooges’ prolific film career, the first of more than 200 movies they would make as a comedy trio.
By the time LIFE photographed the Stooges in 1959, they had been through still more reconfigurations — Curly suffered a stroke in 1946 and needed to be replaced — but their TV career was still ahead of them. The syndication of their dozens of comedy shorts for television helped the act regain popularity and grow its following, appealing to, among other demographics, young children. Accordingly, LIFE’s shoot included images of the men recording their first album, which featured kiddie tunes such as “Old McDonald” and “Three Little Fishes.” And all these years later, the sight of the three knuckleheads still elicits a hearty “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” from the fans who loved their outrageous antics.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.