Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Laurel and Hardy
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the members of the most known comedy duo in film history.
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.
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'. Before Hardy started his film career as an 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.
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.
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."
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.
- 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.
- Laurel and Hardy Films
- Laurel and Hardy (cartoon) , a children's animated series based on Laurel and Hardy
- Asteroids 2865 and 2866 are named after Laurel and Hardy
- List of entertainer pairs
- Laurel and Hardy - The Official Website
- Laurel and Hardy Forum
- An Online Mess You've Got Me Into!
- Laurel and Hardy Central
- Laurel and Hardy Society - Way Out West tent
- Website of the Dutch Blotto tent
- Complete list of all films in which L. and H. appear together (PDF-file)
- Complete List of Stan's Solo Films
- Complete List of Ollie's Solo Films
- Dick und Doof on the Tongs Wiki - L&H around the world
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