Laurel and Hardy were possibly one of, if not the greatest comedy double acts of the early classical Hollywood era. They were British born Stan Laurel (1890–1965), and larger than life American born Oliver Hardy (1892–1957).
When they first started, they were movie stars in their own right before the 1920’s working on several Hal Roach short films. They first worked together on the film ‘The lucky dog’ in 1921 but did not make films together until 6 years later in 1927 as Laurel wanted to continue working behind the camera and Roach even hired him in 1925 as a writer, director and gagman, he also performed now and again as a member of the Hal Roach all stars with Hardy, noteably '45 minutes from Hollywood'.
It was noted that whenever the pair worked together, there was magic and soon they were paired up as Laurel and Hardy but were together as seperate performers and they did not appear as a double act and the trademark outfits did not appear until their 9th official film together 'Do detectives think' and the bowler hatted pair were well and truely on their way to stardom. Laurel & Hardy soon became Hal’s top of the bill, filming and touring on stage throughout the USA and Europe. They continued to work on the movie shorts but decided to work on full length features in the 30’s.
The 30’s had arrived and Hollywood was changing, movies were going toward full feature length and Roach decided that it was time for Stan & Ollie to move with the times. The full length features were greatly welcomed and 1931 marked their first full length feature film in starring roles in ’Pardon us’. they continued to put out at least 1 movie a year such as ‘Pack up your troubles’, ‘Way out west’ and ‘block heads and 'The flying deuces'
In 1940, the pair left the Hal Roach studios to sign with the major film studios 20th Century Fox and MGM until 1945 making eight feature films, six for 20th century fox and 2 for MGM. They had little control of the content of the film content and were disapointed with them and their 'B-movie' status. From 1946 t 1950, the pair left the filmset for the stage and embarked on performing in Europe and on a nationwide music hall tour of the British Isles
In 1950-51 they decided to film what would be their final piece of work together. The final movie ‘Atoll K’ (aka Utopia USA 1954) was a French/Italian co-production. Both Stan and Ollie suffered grave health issues during filming, Hardy with an irregular heartbeat began to lose weight rapidly, while Laurel suffered with prostrate complications and his weight plummeted down to 114 pounds. The movie was a disaster. The film was plagued with language barriers, production issues and wasalso badly dubbed. The movie world had changed with the times and the audience wanted something new. They decided to retire from the movie world forever.
After some months off so that Laurel could recuperate, the duo went back to the European stage and performed many sucessful appearances in sketches that Laurel had written, such as 'A spot of trouble' in 1952 and 'Birds of a feather ' in 1953
On 1st December 1954, the duo were surprised (literally) when they appeared on 'This is your life', which was their 1st and only appearance on American TV. The responce from the American public saw Hal Roach Jr to negotiate in a series of NBC television specials called 'Laurel and Hardy's fables' but both Laurel and Hardy were suffering from declining health and the project was shelved.
In 1955 the duo made their final public appearance together in a British Broadcasting Company probuction of 'Grand order of water rats', where they both reminisced about their friends in British variety. Their final ever appearance together was on a home movie in 1956 entitled 'One moment please' and was shot at Stans home by a family friend. The film was silent lasted 3 minutes, ironic that they should finish with a silent movie short. which shows Laurel recovering well from a stroke and Hardy had lost a vast amount of weight, over 100 pounds in fact, this was on 'doctors orders' to help his condition. He went down to 138 pounds
Oliver suffered from a stroke which left him paralyzed and left him unable to speak (some doctors attribute this to the rapid weight loss) . Stan visited him regularly and did not speak either, instead amusing each other using hand and facial expressions that they had gained from thir early days of the silents.
Oliver died with his wife Lucille by his side on 07 August 1957 of multiple conditions as recorded on the death certificate. Upon hearing of the news of olivers death, Stan is reported to have said "What’s there to say? It’s shocking of course. Ollie was like a brother. That’s the end of the history of Laurel and Hardy." Laurel did not attend the funeral of Hardy due to his own ill health, he said "Baba would understand".
Stan was never again to make a public appearance refusing to appear in a cameo role in Stanley Kramer's 1963 movie 'it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world'. He received a 'Special Academy Award for services to comedy in 1960. Although he never appeared in public again, he continued to write Laurel and Hardy gags, he also contributed gags to many filmmakers. Stan insisted on writing to every fan letter personally, During his final years, he saw the duo's work revived in television and classic movie revivals.
Stan died on 23 February 1965 several days after a heart attack aged 74. Laurel had been a heavy smoker until suddenly giving up when he was about 70. Just minutes away from death, Laurel told his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Somewhat taken aback, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Laurel, "I'd rather be doing that than have all these needles stuck into me!" A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had died quietly.
After over one hundred films together their films ended. They appeared in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, 23 full length feature films and also 11 cameo movie appearances.
Laurel and Hardy were and still continue to be one of the very best double acts to grace this planet. They may be long gone, but NEVER EVER forgotten.
Ladies and Gentlmen
Stan & Ollie Movie Land