Saturday, April 19, 2014



Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel were a comedy double act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of thin Englishman, Arthur Stanley Jefferson, born 16 June 1890 in Ulster Lancashire, England, died 23 February 1965, and fat American, Norvell Hardy, born January 18 1892, in Harlem, Georgia, died August 7, 1957. Theirs was a classic double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted 25 years, from 1927 to 1951.

Oliver "Ollie" Hardy. One-half of one of the most famous double acts in history.

The pair had separate film careers until they both signed with the Hal Roach studios and were paired together in the silent short film Putting Pants on Phillip, released in 1927. They remained with the Roach studio until 1940 and then appeared in eight “B” movie comedies for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1941 to 1945. Upon finishing their movie commitments, they concentrated on performing in stage shows and embarked on a music hall tour of England, Ireland and Scotland.

In 1949, Hardy's friend, John Wayne asked him to play a supporting role in his movie, The Fighting Kentuckian

Norvell's father, Oliver, was a Confederate veteran, of the American Civil War (1861-1865) who was wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. After the war, Oliver helped his father manage what was left of the family cotton plantation. He later went on to buy a share in retail business and was elected full-time Tax Collector for Columbia County, Georgia. Norvell's father Oliver died a year after Norvell was born, and Norvell was the youngest of five children, but his older brother Sam died in a drowning accident, even though Norvell attempted to save him.

Hardy was a difficult child and an indifferent student, although he acquired an early interest in music and theater, possibly from his mother's tenants. His mother recognized his talent for singing and sent him to Atlanta to study music and voice. Sometime prior to 1910, Hardy began styling himself “Oliver Norvell Hardy”, adding the first name “Oliver” as a tribute to his father.

In 1913, friend suggested that he move to Jacksonville, Florida, where some films were being made. Hardy did so, working in Jacksonville as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night, and at the Lubin Manufacturing Company during the day. The following year, he made his first movie, Outwitting Dad, for the Lubin Studio. Although, billed as O. N. Hardy, in his personal life he was known as “Babe” Hardy, a nickname given him by an Italian barber.

This picture here, more than any other, sums up the relationship between the pair. Doofy Stan and eternally exasperated Ollie.

His size placed limitations on the roles he could play, as he was 6'1” and weighed up to 300 pounds, at times. He would often end up being typecast as the “heavy” or the villain. During his time in Jacksonville and New York, where movies were also being made he made over 50 short one-reeler films, again, usually playing the villain.

The Music Box -- famous piano-moving scene

In 1917, he moved to Los Angeles, working freelance for several Hollywood studies. Later that year, he appeared in the movie The Lucky Dog, with Stan Laurel. Still, it wasn't until 1924, that Hardy began working at Hal Roach Studios with the Our Gang films. It wasn't until 1927, that Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together, and Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey, realizing the audience reaction to the two, began intentionally teaming them together. With this pairing, he created one of the most enduring and famous double acts in history.

The first car radio? I'm pretty sure this is just some kind of Rube Goldbergian gimmick, but it's hella awesome, just the same!

I'll end this on a personal note; when I was in 9th grade, I was in some class like English that showed a Laurel and Hardy short, for some forgotten reason. I had seen them before, and enjoyed them, but this one was a howler. One other kid, who sat next to me, a boy named Gary Lowe, who was smart as a whip and I, in a class of about 30 kids, laughed uncontrollably and generally cackled like hyenas throughout the whole thing. We were the only two who did. I think even our teacher thought we had lost it and gone crackers. After the movie, we would keep sneaking looks at each other and off we'd go again. The teacher, a nice man; a very patient man, and a very wise man, Mr. Anderson, pretty much had to put the class for the day on abeyance because we could not stop laughing. It was one of those moments in time; one I'll never forget. It was priceless!


Anabel Marsh said...

So I've been to Stan Laurel's birthplace in Ulverston AND to the place where he first performed, which is the Panopticon here in Glasgow. His father was managing one of the other theatres at the time. The Panopticon still exists, though no longer functions as a music hall. One of my friends, Colin Hough, wrote a play about Laurel's experience there which was performed on BBC radio a couple of years ago.

Anabel at Anabel's Travel Blog

Guilie Castillo said...

Haha--those moments of hilarity, especially when they're spontaneous and unexpected, are what give life color. Thanks for the education on Laurel & Hardy--wow on your research!
Guilie @ Life In Dogs

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mary - we used to love their films when we were kids and I'd watch one now if it was on and convenient .. they were just so clever ..

Love them - cheers Hilary

Viola Fury said...


Thanks for stopping by! That's fascinating! I love to go back over places where people and events lived and happened and imagine it as if I were there! I would love to have heard the play! I've wandered around Georgia, the state where Oliver Hardy was born, but I have not visited his home town. Thanks again, for visiting. Mary xoxo

Viola Fury said...


Thanks for coming by! Yes, we certainly entertained a class full of less-than-impressed freshmen, who were trying to be cool. But then, we were the nerds anyway, and as social outcasts, were pretty much resigned to our fates. :D Mary xoxo

Viola Fury said...


I had lots of fun watching them on the Tee Vee during college and they still pop up on occasion. You Tube has a vast collection of their films, but it's a bit hard to 'gather 'round the computer screen' for a family night. Thanks so much for stopping by! Mary xoxo