Summary

Birth:
18 Jan 1892 1
Harlem, Georgia 1
Death:
07 Aug 1957 1
North Hollywood, California 1
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Oliver "Ollie" Hardy
Oliver "Ollie" Hardy
Spanky McFarland and Darla Hood visit the set of Our Relations with Laurel and Hardy
Spanky McFarland and Darla Hood visit the set of Our Relations with Laurel and Hardy
Hal Roach (right) with Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel
Hal Roach (right) with Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel
Hal Roach Studios Letterhead
Hal Roach Studios Letterhead
Hal Roach with Laurel & Hardy
Hal Roach with Laurel & Hardy
Disney, Roach, Laurel & Hardy
Disney, Roach, Laurel & Hardy
A historical quartet, the likes of which we will never see again: Stan Laurel, Walt Disney, Hal Roach and Babe Hardy, at the Academy Awards, 1932. Disney received two awards that night: one for "Flowers and Trees", the first Technicolor cartoon, and a second for his creation of a little animated rodent you may remember: Mickey Mouse.
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Oliver Hardy Cary Grant Hollywood Victory.jpg
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Joan Blondell Cary Grant Charles Boyer Desi Arnaz Laurel & Hardy.jpg
Laurel and Hardy Hollywood Victory Caravan 1942.jpg
Laurel and Hardy Hollywood Victory Caravan 1942.jpg
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Mitzi Mayfair, Laurel and Hardy.jpg
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Hollywood Victory Caravan.jpg
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Myrtle with husband Oliver, Ruth with husband Stan at the pier on Catalina Island.jpg
Myrtle with husband Oliver, Ruth with husband Stan at the pier on Catalina Island.jpg
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Oliver, Lucille, Stan.jpg-large
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myrtle Lee Reeves & Oliver hardy.jpg
myrtle Lee Reeves & Oliver hardy.jpg

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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Norvell Hardy 1
Also known as:
Oliver "Ollie" Hardy, Babe 1
Birth:
18 Jan 1892 1
Harlem, Georgia 1
Male 1
Death:
07 Aug 1957 1
North Hollywood, California 1
Cause: cerebral thrombosis 1
Burial:
Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, North Hollywood CA 1
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Birth:
Mother: Emily Norvell 1
Father: Oliver Hardy 1
Marriage:
Virginia Lucille Jones 1
1940 1
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Occupation:
Actor, Comedian 1

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Stories

Portly, pompous, and in a nearly constant state of exasperation due to the childlike shenanigans of his reed-thin companion, Oliver Hardy was one-half of possibly the greatest comedy duo of all time. Raised in a small town in Georgia, Hardy fell madly in love with the new medium of film while working at a local movie theater. After launching a successful career in silent films on the East Coast with production outfits like the Lubin Manufacturing Company, he made the move to Hollywood in 1917. Working as a solo freelancer in dozens of pictures, Hardy ultimately crossed paths with fellow comedic actor Stan Laurel at Hal Roach Studios. When an astute director at the studio recognized their onscreen chemistry, they were paired in such early short films as "Duck Soup" (1927) and "Putting Pants on Philip" (1927). So strong were their comedic abilities that even the addition of sound to film - the death knell to the careers of so many of their contemporaries - did nothing to diminish their appeal. At the height of their popularity, films like "The Music Box" (1932), "Sons of the Desert" (1933), and "Babes in Toyland" (1934) were all considered instant classics. Although their output diminished greatly in the years following their departure from Roach Studios in 1940, the high esteem in which they were held by adoring fans the world over never did. Frequently and unjustly underappreciated in his day, it can be said that if Stan Laurel were the brains behind the team of Laurel and Hardy, then Oliver 'Babe' Hardy was most certainly its heart and soul.

Unlike his future screen partner Stan Laurel, American comedian Oliver Hardy did not come from a show business family. His father was a lawyer who died when Hardy was ten; his mother was a hotel owner in both his native Georgia and in Florida. The young Hardy became fascinated with show business through the stories spun by the performers who stayed at his mother's hotel, and at age eight he ran away to join a minstrel troupe. Possessing a beautiful singing voice, Hardy studied music for a while, but quickly became bored with the regimen; the same boredom applied to his years at Georgia Military College (late in life, Hardy claimed to have briefly studied law at the University of Georgia, but chances are that he never got any farther than filling out an application). Heavy-set and athletic, Hardy seemed more interested in sports than in anything else; while still a teenager, he umpired local baseball games, putting on such an intuitively comic display of histrionics that he invariably reduced the fans to laughter. In 1910, he opened the first movie theater in Milledgeville, Georgia, and as a result became intrigued with the possibilities of film acting. Traveling to Jacksonville, Florida in 1913, he secured work at the Lubin Film Company, where thanks to his 250-pound frame he was often cast as a comic villain. From 1915-25, Hardy appeared in support of such comedians as Billy West (the famous Chaplin imitator),Jimmy Aubrey, Larry Semon (Hardy played the Tin Woodman in Semon's 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz), and Bobby Ray. An established "heavy" by 1926, Hardy signed with the Hal Roach studios, providing support to such headliners as Our Gang and Charley Chase. With the rest of the Roach stock company, Hardy appeared in the Comedy All-Stars series, where he was frequently directed by fellow Roach contractee Stan Laurel(with whom Hardy had briefly appeared on-screen in the independently produced 1918 two-reeler Lucky Dog). At this point, Laurel was more interested in writing and directing than performing, but was lured back before the cameras by a hefty salary increase. Almost inadvertently, Laurel began sharing screen time with Hardy in such All-Stars shorts as Slipping Wives (1927), Duck Soup (1927) and With Love and Hisses (1927). Roach's supervising director Leo McCarey, noticing how well the pair worked together, began teaming them deliberately, which led to the inauguration of the "Laurel and Hardy" series in late 1927. At first, the comedians indulged in the cliched fat-and-skinny routines, with Laurel the fall guy for the bullying Hardy. Gradually the comedians developed the multidimensional screen characters with which we're so familiar today. The corpulent Hardy was the pompous know-it-all, whose arrogance and stubbornness always got him in trouble; the frail Stan was the blank-faced man-child, whose carelessness and inability to grasp an intelligent thought prompted impatience from his partner. Underlining all this was the genuine affection the characters held for each other, emphasized by Hardy's courtly insistence upon introducing Stan as "my friend, Mr. Laurel." Gradually Hardy adopted the gestures and traits that rounded out the "Ollie" character: The tie-twiddle, the graceful panache with which he performed such simple tasks as ringing doorbells and signing hotel registers, and the "camera look," in which he stared directly at the camera in frustration or amazement over Laurel's stupidity. Fortunately Laurel and Hardy's voices matched their characters perfectly, so they were able to make a successful transition to sound, going on to greater popularity than before. Sound added even more ingredients to Hardy's comic repertoire, not the least of which were such catch-phrases as "Why don't you do something to help me?" and "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." Laurel and Hardy graduated from two-reelers to feature films with 1931's Pardon Us, though they continued to make features and shorts simultaneously until 1935. While Laurel preferred to burn the midnight oil as a writer and film editor, Hardy stopped performing each day at quitting time. He occupied his leisure time with his many hobbies, including cardplaying, cooking, gardening, and especially golf. The team nearly broke up in 1939, not because of any animosity between them but because of Stan's contract dispute with Hal Roach. While this was being settled, Hardy starred solo in Zenobia (1939), a pleasant but undistinguished comedy about a southern doctor who tends to a sick elephant. Laurel and Hardy reteamed in late 1939 for two more Roach features and for theBoris Morros/RKO production The Flying Deuces (1939). Leaving Roach in 1940, the team performed with the USO and the Hollywood Victory Caravan, then signed to make features at 20th Century-Fox and MGM. The resultant eight films, produced between 1941 and 1945, suffered from too much studio interference and too little creative input from Laurel and Hardy, and as such are but pale shadows of their best work at Roach. In 1947, the team was booked for the first of several music hall tours of Europe and the British Isles, which were resounding successes and drew gigantic crowds wherever Stan and Ollie went. Upon returning to the States, Hardy soloed again in a benefit stage production of What Price Glory directed by John Ford. In 1949, he played a substantial supporting role in The Fighting Kentuckian, which starred his friend John Wayne; as a favor to another friend, Bing Crosby, Hardy showed up in a comic cameo in 1950's Riding High. Back with Laurel, Hardy appeared in the French-made comedy Atoll K (1951), an unmitigated disaster that unfortunately brought the screen career of Laurel and Hardy to a close. After more music hall touring abroad, the team enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the U.S. thanks to constant showings of their old movies on television. Laurel and Hardy were on the verge of starring in a series of TV comedy specials when Stan Laurel suffered a stroke. While he was convalescing, Hardy endured a heart attack, and was ordered by his doctor to lose a great deal of weight. In 1956, Hardy was felled a massive stroke that rendered him completely inactive; he held on, tended day and night by his wife Lucille, until he died in August of 1957. Ironically, Oliver Hardys passing occurred at the same time that he and Stan Laurel were being reassessed by fans and critics as the greatest comedy team of all time. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

New Georgia Encyclopedia

Oliver Hardy was a successful character actor in silent films and a partner in the Academy Award–winning comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. Born and raised in Georgia, Hardy performed in theater and vaudeville shows around the state early in his career, which laid the foundation for his later success as a film comedian. Beginnings Oliver Hardy was born Norvell Hardy on January 18, 1892, in Harlem, Georgia, a town located just west of Augusta. His father, Oliver Hardy, died ten months later, and his mother, Emily Norvell Hardy, supported her five children by managing a series of boardinghouses, first inMadison, then in Covington and Athens, and finally in Milledgeville. Young Oliver Hardy While quite young, Hardy developed a love for singing. He performed in local theatricals and, as a college student, in events at Georgia Military College and Young Harris College. Returning to Milledgeville in 1910, Hardy worked behind the scenes at a local vaudeville house and a movie theater. At some point during this period he adopted the name Oliver Norvell Hardy, although his friends often referred to him as "Babe." In 1913 he began working in the flourishing film industry in Jacksonville, Florida, occasionally traveling to New York to work on films there. In 1917, after acting in many short and feature films, he decided to pursue his career in California. Hollywood In Hollywood, as in Florida, Hardy worked steadily, specializing in the portrayal of a conventional character in silent films known as the "heavy,"  Oliver Hardy a large, physically intimidating villain. (Over six feet tall, Hardy weighed around 300 pounds for most of his adult life.) In 1926, after appearing in some ninety Hollywood films, Hardy became a contract player for both comic and serious roles with Hal Roach Studios, one of the more important small studios of the era. The studio soon cast Hardy in several films with Stanley Laurel (1890-1965), with whom Hardy had occasionally worked before. Born Arthur Stanley Jefferson, Laurel was an English music-hall comedian who had come to America in a theatrical company as an understudy to Charlie Chaplin. At the time he was teamed with Hardy, Laurel was an up-and-coming film comedian, writer, and director. The Laurel and Hardy Films Together Laurel and Hardy were so appealing that the studio launched a new series of short comedies advertised as "Laurel and Hardy" films. The first, The Second Hundred Years, appeared in 1927. In their subsequent films Laurel and Hardy gradually developed the characters they would play for the rest of their lives.  Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy As childlike adults destined to fail but ever hopeful of success, these characters fall within a "tradition of innocent fools in a dangerous world" that includes, according to film scholar Ted Sennett, the characters played by fellow silent comedians Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harry Langdon. The duo's usual costumes were slightly seedy, old-fashioned suits with stand-up collars and derbies, suggesting characters who aspire to a dignity that they can never quite achieve. Hardy adopted the role of the self-assured but utterly incompetent leader, whose grandiose gestures gave exaggerated importance to the simplest acts. According to critic Gerald Mast, a "contempt for affectation and pretension" is a hallmark of the work of American comedians from Chaplin to Woody Allen. Many critics consider Laurel and Hardy, along with Chaplin, Keaton, and the Marx Brothers, to be among the finest practitioners of slapstick, a type of physical comedy aimed at mocking such aspirations to dignity. With precise comic timing, Laurel and Hardy typically engaged in what biographer John McCabe terms "reciprocal destruction," a sequence of physical gags in which the characters take revenge upon each other. The gags ultimately build to a chaotic ending that exposes and ridicules the foibles of human nature. Filmmakers of the 1960s employed similar techniques during a resurgence of slapstick comedy that resulted in such films as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) and The Great Race (1965). From 1927 to 1940 Laurel and Hardy made sixty short comedies and sixteen feature films for Hal Roach Studios, including Big Business (1929), which is often cited as one of the finest short comedies of the silent era, and The Music Box, which won an Academy Award as the best short film of 1931-32. Outstanding among their feature films for Roach Studios are Sons of the Desert (1933) and Way Out West (1937). While some silent-film actors, like Keaton, saw their careers decline with the advent of sound, Laurel and Hardy's flourished, as Laurel's English accent and Hardy's southern accent and singing brought new dimensions to their characters. The team also proved skillful in their melding of visual and verbal humor, adding dialogue that served to enhance rather than replace their popular sight gags. Because of creative disagreements with Hal Roach Studios, in 1941 the team left for Twentieth Century Fox and MGM. Although Laurel and Hardy believed their talents ideally suited to short films, these larger studios were losing interest in that less-profitable medium and cast the team in a series of modestly budgeted and poorly written features. Moreover, the studios did not allow the duo to engage in the improvisation that had been so vital to the success of their earlier work and insisted instead that the scripts be strictly followed. Discouraged once again, in 1945 Laurel and Hardy retired from films, returning only for the poorly received Atoll K in 1951. Final Years In 1947 Laurel and Hardy began a year of concert appearances in Europe and toured again in 1952 and 1953-54. Hardy also took a supporting role in George Waggner's film The Fighting Kentuckian(1949) and made a cameo appearance in Frank Capra's Riding High (1950). Plans for a television series were shelved as the aging comedians suffered declining health. After a series of strokes, Hardy died on August 7, 1957. Laurel retired and lived until 1965, surviving to see the duo's best work rediscovered by appreciative audiences through television and classic film revivals. A few months after Laurel's death, the inaugural meeting of the Sons of the Desert, the official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society, was held in New York City. Since that time, chapters of the organization have formed across North America and Europe, as well as in Australia. Continuing Appeal Today Laurel and Hardy remain among the most popular of Hollywood's early comedians. Critics have identified the enduring influence of Laurel and Hardy in the work of later comedians, from the antics of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Oliver Hardy  in the 1950s, to Eddie Murphy's Hardy-like portrayal of Sherman Klump in the Nutty Professor (1996). Many Laurel and Hardy films—short subjects and features—are available on videotape and DVD, while the compact discs Songs and Sketches from the Hal Roach Films (2001) and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (2001) preserve examples of Hardy's singing. The town of Harlem maintains a Laurel and Hardy Museum. (Another museum is operated in Laurel's birthplace, Ulverston, in the Lake District of England.) Harlem recognizes its native son on the first Saturday of every October with its Oliver Hardy Festival.

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