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Laurel and Hardy

From Academic Kids

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Laurel and Hardy

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are probably the most famous comedy duo in film history.

Contents

Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel (June 16, 1890 - February 23, 1965) was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire (now Ulverston, Cumbria), England. Laurel began his career as a comedian in English music halls where he was an understudy to Charlie Chaplin in Fred Karno's comedy company. He emigrated to America in 1910 and embarked on a vaudeville career. He made his first film appearance in 1917 (Nuts in May). He stayed in film and did minor and undistinguished work for Hal Roach, Anderson and Universal.

Before his partnership with Oliver, Stan appeared solo in more than 50 silent one- and two-reelers. He had to use eyeliner, as his pale blue eyes wouldn't photograph well on the black and white film at the time. He also removed the heels from his shoes to give himself a "foolish" walk.

Oliver Hardy

Oliver Hardy (January 18, 1892 - August 7, 1957) was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia near Augusta, Georgia, in the United States of America. As he turned 18, he changed his first name to that of his father, thenceforth calling himself 'Oliver Norvell Hardy'. He was nicknamed 'Babe;' according to Hardy himself, from asking a barber for a shave as a child and the barber slapping a little powder on his face and saying, "That's it, Babe, you're clean." His widow is credited in saying in a 1980's interview included in the television broadcast "Laurel and Hardy, Together Again," Hardy picked up his nickname from an Italian barber patting him on the cheek and saying "That's nice-a-bab-y!" The name stuck. Hardy was even billed as Babe Hardy in early films. So well known was Hardy by this nickname, that in some of the duo's first silent films, Laurel can be seen mouthing the word "Babe" when calling out to Hardy.

Before Hardy started his film career as a "heavy" actor in 1914 (Outwitting Dad), he had been a movie house projectionist/manager at the Palace Theater in Milledgeville, GA. Before his partnership with Stan, Oliver appeared solo in more than 250 silent one- and two-reelers, only about 100 of which are extant.

Hardy had a very pleasant singing voice, and often enjoyed performing for those on the set as well as singing in his own movies.

Works

The first encounter of the two comedians in a film took place in The Lucky Dog (1921). They first appeared in the same Hal Roach film in Forty-Five Minutes From Hollywood (1926), and their first 'official' film was The Second Hundred Years (June 1927), directed by Fred Guiol and supervised by Leo McCarey, who was the one to suggest that Stanley and Oliver be teamed permanently.

From 1926 onwards they starred in Hal Roach comedies, including silent shorts, talkie shorts and feature films – 106 in all. They made a great number of popular shorts before their first feature film with director James Parrott, Pardon Us (1931). The duo reduced the number of shorts they made to concentrate on feature films, such as Pack Up Your Troubles (1932), Fra Diavolo (1933), Sons of the Desert (1933), and Babes in Toyland (1934). They made the classic short The Music Box in 1932, which won the Academy Award for Best Short Subjects, Comedy, and stopped making shorts in 1935.

The duo's other films (produced by Roach and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were Bonnie Scotland (1935), The Bohemian Girl (1936), Our Relations (1936), Way Out West (1937) (which includes the famous song On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine), Swiss Miss (1938), and Blockheads (1938).

The humor of Laurel and Hardy was generally slapstick in nature, often employing Laurel's character as dominant (although Hardy always presumed he had the upper hand), usually to Hardy's chagrin. A typical sequence would be their collaboration on the construction of a house: Hardy holds a number of nails in his mouth, Laurel warmly claps him on the back, Hardy swallows the nails.

In some cases, the comedy bordered on the surreal. For example, Laurel might light his pipe by flicking his thumb upwards from his clenched fist as if he held a cigarette lighter. His thumb would ignite, and he would light his pipe. Hardy, seeing this, would attempt to duplicate it. When, after many attempts he actually would achieve the same effect, he would be surprised to discover that his thumb was actually burning, and would cry in pain and hastily blow it out.

A famous shtick the team often performed was a bizarre kind of tit for tat fight with an opponent. In the basic scenario, the pair would begin the fight by damaging something that the opponent valued, while that opponent did not defend himself. However, when the pair were finished, the opponent would then calmly retaliate by damaging something that Laurel and Hardy valued, while the pair strangely refrained from defending themselves. The pair then dispassionately retaliated with an escalating act of vandalism and so on, until both sides were simultaneously destroying property in front of each other.

Collaborations

By 1936, the relationship between Laurel and Hardy was under strain, and both of them were distanced from Hal Roach. Laurel in particular frequently argued with Roach, and extended stand-off periods became common during the late-1930s. In 1938, The Roach studio switched distributors from MGM to United Artists. Laurel and Hardy made three more films before they split with Roach in 1940. They set up their own production company, making a further eight films up to 1945. They made one final film together in 1951, the French-set Atoll K aka Utopia, directed by Léo Joannon.

Throughout their career the driving force was Laurel, who wrote the scripts and sometimes produced, and always insisted on being paid twice as much as Hardy.

Oliver Hardy died in 1957 and was interred in The Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, California. Laurel did not attend his partner's funeral, due to his own ill health, explaining his absence with the line "Babe would understand."

Stan Laurel died in Santa Monica in 1965 and is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.

Their famous signature tune is known as the Cuckoo Song, composed by T. Marvin Hatley (1905-1986) and first used in Night Owls (1930).

The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as Sons of the Desert after a fraternal society in the film of the same name. It was founded in New York in 1965 with the sanction of Stan Laurel.

In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, the duo were voted the 7th greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders, making them the most popular double act on the list.

Literature

  • Louvish, Simon (2001). Stan and Ollie: The roots of comedy. London: Faber and Faber. [Greatly detailed double biography—essential reading]
  • McCabe, John (1961). Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy. New York: Signet.
  • Mitchell, Glenn (1995). The Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia. London: Batsford. [L&H from A to Z]
  • Skretvedt, Randy (1996). Laurel and Hardy: The magic behind the movies (rev. 2nd ed.). Beverly Hills, CA: Past Times. [The definitive filmography—essential reading]
  • Stone, Rob (1996). Laurel or Hardy: The solo films of Stan Laurel and Oliver "Babe" Hardy. Temecula, CA: Split Reel.

See also

External links

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