Laurel and Hardy. The Block Heads. The Comedy Duo. Fat and Skinny. These are the nicknames the comedy legends are usually referred to. This blog entry is dedicated to the comedy duo that have inspired and influenced millions around the globe. Their style of humour can be laughed at by everyone and is outrageously funny! I will cover why they are so great, how they became famous; some of their greatest films who they were and their legacy. This is a pretty long one so bear with me.
|Stan on left, Ollie on the right|
Let’s begin with Stanley. He grew up in London and performing was drilled into him from the beginning as his parents where both active in theatre. Stan had a natural affinity for the theatre, with his first professional performance on stage being at the Britannia Panoptic on in Glasgow, at the age of 16. In 1910 he joined a theatre group, and it just so happens, Charlie Chaplin was in it too! He emigrated to America in 1912 where he decided to change his name; he worried that "Stanley Jefferson" was too long to fit onto posters. He shortened it to "Stan" and added "Laurel" and that is how his name came to be.
|The Lucky Dog from 1918. Oliver left, Stanley Right.|
He appeared in several short films assisting Chaplin and Stan actually worked with Oliver Hardy in 1918 when The Lucky Dog was produced, and it would still be another 10 years before they would team up. Stan was the initial writer for several short silent sketches, and wrote most (if not all) the Laurel and Hardy sketches. So the one that always seems to be the dumb one, was the brilliant minded writer of the gags, plots and stories! In 1927 Stan worked with Ollie at Hal Roach Studios, as he was looking for a partner to kick start his career. And it wasn’t long until they went onto being two of the greatest comedy duos in Hollywood.
His full name is ‘Oliver Norvel Hardy’, which he would also enjoy saying in the films and sketches, making him feel important. In the 1910's his nickname was Babe, which Stan would call him, outside of the films and sketches.In 1910, a movie theatre opened in Hardy’s home town of Milledgeville, Georgia, and he became the projectionist, ticket taker, janitor and manager. He soon became obsessed with the new motion picture industry, and became convinced that he could do a better job than the actors he saw on the screen. A friend suggested that he move to Jacksonville, Florida, where some films were being made.
In 1913, he did just that, where he worked as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night, and at the Lubin Manufacturing Company during the day. During the 1910’s e features in almost 50 short one-reelers and soon would partner with Stan. In 1927 Hardy joined the Hal Roach studios and acted with Stanley in a short sketch called Duck Soup. It was only a few months before they would partner together.
The Duo Begins:
All right enough about History, now onto their best projects. So from 1927 onwards they went onto making hundreds of short sketches and films with Hal Roach right up to 1940. They made several silent short sketches together, and in 1929, began to make talkies shortly after the invention of sound in film! Here is a summary of what they did in the 13 year period at Hal Roach Studios.
Berth Marks (1929)
One of the first talkies Stan and Laurel did and basically it follows them getting a train. That sounds simple, but they soon have trouble getting to sleep, and even getting on the train. Berth Marks is a classic episode indeed.
This was definitely one of the best Laurel and Hardy sketches y far! In this episode, we see how the studio has experimented with clever camera techniques. The sketch is about Stan and Laurel, two fathers of children who are basically themselves dressed up as children and the clever thing is, is that all the furniture is massive to make them seem like children. The 20 minute sketch is absolutely hilarious and is one of my favourites.
Pardon Us (1931)
This is their first feature films together. In Pardon Us, Laurel and Hardy to make beer, and their caught before they even buy the ingredients. The film takes them to their time at jail and they have one heck of a time! Great L & H film.
The Music Box (1932)
This is another one of my favourite L & H shorts. In this one they must deliver a piano, and discover they have to take it up a somewhat 6 flight staircase. So they make their way up (eventually) and try to get the piano in the house. The Music Box is a hilarious short indeed.
Sons of the Desert (1933)
Check out my review for this film here. Sons of the desert is one of my favourite L and H films. Well the duos are members of a group called "Sons of the desert". The film opens with them at a conference and talking about how they must go to a convention in Miami. They take an oath that they swear to go there, which means they really must go! So they return home to their wives to find out that Ollie's wife will not let him go. It turns into one big panic and is another hilarious classic.
Way out West (1937)
Way out West is often referred to as the best Laurel and Hardy film. I wouldn't say it’s the best, but it’s one of the best. In this one the duos have to deliver a deed to a goldmine to a daughter, whose father left it to. They take the deed over, but give it to the wrong person, so he film is a chase for the deed. Another classic!
Block Heads (1938)
This is another brilliant one (but aren’t they all?). The film opens with Stan and Ollie in World War 1 and Stan is told to stand at his post in a trench. So he stays there. The film forwards 20 years and Stan is still walking at his post. So soon this is in the papers and Ollie soon finds him and brings him home. Block heads is another hilarious film with crazy antics.
A Chump at Oxford (1940)
This is one of the last Laurel and Hardy films. This time the duo decides to go to college. Several things happen. They enter a maze and get lost, get students in trouble and Stan gets knocked on the head, suddenly changing his character. One of the characters (Meredith the Valet) recognises Stan as Lord Paddington, the "greatest athlete and scholar the University ever had". He says that Lord Paddington had lost his memory when the window fell on his head and wandered from campus. A lot more happens in this one, but I’m keeping it brief. It’s another brilliant classic well worth checking out.
Laurel and Hardy films have always meant a lot to me and go way back even to when I was around 8 years old! And I still find them funny. That’s the power of their comedy. It’s not something that’s funny now and not funny the next week. Its comedy that is always funny. Together they work as comic genius’s and have a great filmography. I have seen about 90% of Laurel and Hardy films now and the other 10% would be their later films. There films and short sketches have never made me stop laughing. Music Box, brats, our wives, a chump at Oxford, and the list goes on of their wonderful films of comedy.
First we had Chaplin. Everyone seen him as the pioneer of comedy with the way he moved and acted. But then we have the two that ruled ‘talkie’ comedies. It’s almost like they were meant for each other. The way Hardy and Laurel communicate with each other is fantastic on screen. And the way the characters have their little signature actions. Like when Ollie stares at the camera with complete exasperation after Stan has done something Idiotic, or when Stanley is on his own, doing little bits of magic; like when he uses his thumb as a lighter. And of course we can’t forget about how he scratches his head like a monkey.
Oh, and let’s not forget the catchphrases. I just love it when Hardy says “Here’s another nice mess you've gotten me into”, because you always hear Stan crying in his childish way. Then we have James Finlayson who usually appeared in the Laurel and Hardy sketches/films, with his famous catchphrase "Doh!"
Death do them part:
In May 1954, Hardy suffered a mild heart attack. During 1956, Hardy began looking after his health for the first time in his life. He lost more than 150 pounds in a few months which completely changed his appearance. Hardy suffered a major stroke on September 14, which left him confined to bed and unable to speak for several months. He remained at home, in the care of his beloved Lucille. He suffered two more strokes in early August 1957, and slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. Oliver Hardy died on August 7, 1957, aged 65 years old. Stanley never worked again after this. He stated, "Babe would understand."
Laurel and Hardy today have a legacy. They have influenced millions and have a fan base that covers the globe. Their on mugs, T-shirts, statues and let’s not forget the huge amount of DVD’s. They aren’t just two comedy legends. They were two fine actors that brought laughter to the world and influence actors and directors alike. I hope you enjoyed my blog covering everything about Laurel and Hardy. I appreciate your reading :)