Laurel and Hardy

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Stan Laurel (left) and Oliver Hardy (right) in their 1939 feature The Flying Deuces.

Laurel and Hardy were a comedy double act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of thin Englishman, Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and heavyset American, Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s through the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous Hardy.[1][2] One of the comedy routines they performed was an escalating, tit-for-tat fight, an example of which can be seen in their silent film Big Business from 1929. This film was added to the Library of Congress as a national treasure in 1992.[3] The duo's signature tune, which is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku" or "The Dance of the Cuckoos", played over the opening credits of their films.

Prior to their being teamed up both actors had well established film careers. Laurel had appeared in over 50 films while Hardy had been in more than 250 films. The two comedians had previously worked together as cast members on the film The Lucky Dog in 1921. However, they were not a comedy team at that time and it was not until 1926, when both separately signed contracts with the Hal Roach film studio, that they appeared in a movie short together.[4] Laurel and Hardy officially became a team in 1927 when they appeared together in the silent short film Putting Pants on Philip. They remained with the Roach studio until 1940 and then appeared in eight "B" movie comedies for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1941 to 1945.[5] After finishing their movie commitments at the end of 1944 they concentrated on performing in stage shows and embarked on a music hall tour of England, Ireland and Scotland.[5] In 1950, before retiring from the screen, they made their last film which was a French/Italian co-production called Atoll K.

As a team they appeared in 107 films with the pair starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films and 23 full-length feature films. They also made 12 guest or cameo appearances that included the Galaxy of Stars promotional film of 1936.[6] On December 1, 1954 the pair made one American television appearance when they were surprised and interviewed by Ralph Edwards on his live NBC-TV program This Is Your Life. Since the 1930s the works of Laurel and Hardy have been released in numerous theatrical reissues, television revivals, 8-mm and 16-mm home movies, feature-film compilations and home videos. In 2005, they were voted as the seventh greatest comedy act of all time by a UK poll of fellow comedians.[7] The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as The Sons of the Desert which was named after a fictitious fraternal society featured in the Laurel & Hardy film of the same name.

Early careers[edit]

Stan Laurel[edit]

Main article: Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel (June 16, 1890 – February 23, 1965) was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire, England into a theatrical family.[8] His father, Arthur Joseph Jefferson, was a theatrical entrepreneur and theater owner in northern England and Scotland who, together with his wife, was a major force in the industry.[9] In 1905 the Jefferson family moved to Glasgow to be closer to their business mainstay The Metropole Theatre and Laurel made his stage debut in a Glasgow hall called the Britannia Panopticon one month short of his 16th birthday.[10][11] Arthur Jefferson secured Laurel his first acting job with a juvenile theatrical company, Levy and Cardwell, which specialized in Christmas Pantomimes.[12] In 1909 he was employed by Britain's leading comedy impresario Fred Karno as a supporting actor and an understudy of Charlie Chaplin.[13][14] Laurel said of Karno, "There was no one like him. He had no equal. His name was box-office."[15]

In 1912, Laurel left England with the Fred Karno Troupe to tour the United States. Laurel had expected the tour to be merely a pleasant interval before returning to London. However, he emigrated to the U.S. during this trip.[16] In 1917 Laurel was teamed with Mae Dahlberg working as a double act for stage and film and were living as common law husband and wife.[17] The same year Laurel made his film debut with Dahlberg in Nuts in May.[18] While working with Mae he began using the name Stan Laurel and later changed his name legally in 1931.[19] It was felt that Dahlberg held Laurel's career back because she demanded roles in Laurel's films and her tempestuous nature was difficult to work with. Dressing room arguments between the two were common: it was reported that producer Joe Rock paid her to leave Laurel and to return to her native Australia.[20] In 1925 Laurel joined the Hal Roach film studio as a director and writer and from May 1925 through September 1926 he received credit in at least 22 films.[21] Laurel starred in over 50 films for various producers before teaming up with Hardy.[22] However, prior to teaming with Hardy, he experienced only modest success. It was difficult for producers, writers, and directors to write for his character with American audiences knowing him either as a "nutty burglar" or a Charlie Chaplin imitator.[23]

Oliver Hardy[edit]

Main article: Oliver Hardy

Oliver Hardy (January 18, 1892 – August 7, 1957) was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia.[24] By his late teens Hardy was a popular stage singer and he operated a movie house in Milledgeville, Georgia, the Palace Theater, financed in part by his mother.[25] For his stage name he took his father's first name calling himself "Oliver Norvell Hardy" while offscreen his nicknames were "Ollie" and "Babe".[26] The nickname "Babe" originated from an Italian barber near the Lubin Studios in Jacksonville, Florida who would rub Hardy's face with talcum powder and say "That's nice a baby!". Other actors in the Lubin company mimicked this and Hardy was billed as "Babe Hardy" in his early films.[27][28]

Seeing film comedies inspired an urge to take up comedy himself and in 1913 he began working with Lubin Motion Pictures in Jacksonville. He started by helping around the studio with lights, props, and other duties gradually learning the craft as a script-clerk for the company.[25] It was around this time that Hardy married his first wife Madelyn Salosihn.[29] In 1914, Hardy acted as Babe Hardy in his first film called Outwitting Dad.[28] Between 1914 and 1916 Hardy made 177 shorts as Babe with the Vim Comedy Company that were released up to the end of 1917.[30] Exhibiting a versatility in playing heroes, villains and even female characters Hardy was in demand for roles as a supporting actor, comic villain or second banana. For 10 years he memorably assisted star comic and Charlie Chaplin imitator Billy West, Jimmy Aubrey, Larry Semon along with Charley Chase.[31] In total, Hardy starred or co-starred in more than 250 silent shorts of which roughly 150 have been lost. In 1917, after being rejected while trying to enlist during World War I due to his size and the collapse of the Florida film industry, Hardy and his wife Madelyn moved to California to seek new opportunities.[32][33]

History as Laurel and Hardy[edit]

Style of comedy and characterizations[edit]

The humor of Laurel and Hardy was highly visual with slapstick used for emphasis.[34] They often had physical arguments with each other, which were quite complex and involved cartoon violence, and their characters preclude them from making any real progress in the simplest endeavors. Much of their comedy involves milking a joke, where a simple idea provides a basis from which to build multiple gags without following a defined narrative.

Stan Laurel was of average height and weight, but appeared small and slight next to Oliver Hardy, who was 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall[35] and weighed about 280 lb (127 kg) in his prime. They used some details to enhance this natural contrast. Laurel kept his hair short on the sides and back, growing it long on top to create a natural "fright wig". At times of shock, he would simultaneously cry while pulling up his hair. In contrast, Hardy's thinning hair was pasted on his forehead in spit curls and he sported a toothbrush moustache. To achieve a flat-footed walk, Laurel removed the heels from his shoes. Both wore bowler hats, with Laurel's being narrower than Hardy's, and with a flattened brim.[36] The characters' normal attire called for wing collar shirts, with Hardy wearing a neck tie which he would twiddle and Laurel a bow tie. Hardy's sports jacket was a tad small and done up with one straining button, whereas Laurel's double-breasted jacket was loose fitting.

A popular routine the team performed was a "tit-for-tat" fight with an adversary. This could be with their wives—often played by Mae Busch, Anita Garvin or Daphne Pollard—or with a neighbor, often played by Charlie Hall or James Finlayson. Laurel and Hardy would accidentally damage someone's property, with the injured party retaliating by ruining something belonging to Laurel or Hardy.[34] After calmly surveying the damage, they would find something else to vandalize, and conflict would escalate until both sides were simultaneously destroying property in front of each other.[37] An early example of the routine occurs in their classic short, Big Business (1929), which was added to the Library of Congress in 1992. Another short film which revolves around such an altercation was titled Tit for Tat (1935).

One best-remembered dialogue routine was the "Tell me that again" routine. Laurel would tell Hardy a genuinely smart idea he came up with, and Hardy would reply, "Tell me that again." Laurel would attempt to repeat the idea, but babble utter nonsense. Hardy, who had difficulty understanding Laurel's idea even when expressed clearly, would understand perfectly when hearing the jumbled version. While much of their comedy remained visual, various lines of humorous dialogue appeared in Laurel and Hardy's talking films. Some examples include:

  • "You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led." (Laurel, Brats)[37]
  • "I was dreaming I was awake but I woke up and found meself asleep." (Laurel, Oliver the Eighth)
  • "A lot of weather we've been having lately." (Hardy, Way Out West)

In some cases, their comedy bordered on the surreal, in a style that Stan Laurel called "white magic".[34][38] For example, in the 1937 film Way Out West, Laurel clenches his fist and pours tobacco into it as if it were a pipe. He then flicks his thumb upward as if working a lighter. His thumb ignites and he matter-of-factly lights his "pipe". The amazed Hardy, seeing this, would unsuccessfully attempt to duplicate it throughout the film. Much later Hardy finally succeeds, only to be terrified when his thumb catches fire. Laurel repeats the pipe joke in the 1938 film Block-Heads, again to Hardy's bemusement. The joke ends this time by a match Laurel was using relighting itself which Hardy throws into the fireplace whereupon it explodes with a loud bang.

Rather than showing Hardy suffering the pain of misfortunes, such as falling down stairs or being beaten by a thug, banging and crashing sound effects were often used so the audience could visualize the scene for themselves.[34] The 1927 film Sailors Beware was a significant film for Hardy because two of his enduring trademarks were developed. The first was his "tie-twiddle" to demonstrate embarrassment.[34] Hardy, while acting, had been met with a pail of water in the face. He said, "I had been expecting it, but I didn't expect it at that particular moment. It threw me mentally and I couldn't think what to do next, so I waved the tie in a kind of tiddly-widdly fashion to show embarrassment while trying to look friendly."[39] His second trademark was the "camera look" in which he breaks the fourth wall.[37] Hardy said "I had to become exasperated so I just stared right into the camera and registered my disgust."[40] Offscreen Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were quite the opposite of their movie characters: Laurel was the industrious "idea man" while Hardy was more easygoing.[41]

Catchphrases[edit]

The catchphrase most used by Laurel and Hardy on film is: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"[37] The phrase was earlier used by W. S. Gilbert in both The Mikado from 1885 and The Grand Duke from 1896. It was first used by Hardy in The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case in 1930. In popular culture the catchphrase is often misquoted as "Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into." The misquoted version of the phrase was never used by Hardy and the misunderstanding stems from the title of their film Another Fine Mess.[42] Numerous variations of the quote appeared on film. For example in Chickens Come Home Ollie says impatiently to Stan "Well...." with Stan replying, "Here's another nice mess I've gotten you into." The films Thicker than Water and The Fixer-Uppers use the phrase "Well, here's another nice kettle of fish you pickled me in!" In Saps at Sea the phrase becomes "Well, here's another nice bucket of suds you've gotten me into!".

Another regular catchphrase, cried out by Ollie in moments of distress or frustration, as Stan stands helplessly by, is "Why don't you do something to help me?". And another, not-as-often used catchphrase of Ollie, particularly after Stan has accidentally given a verbal idea to an adversary of theirs to torment them even more: "Why don't you keep your (big) mouth shut?!"

"D'oh!" was a catchphrase used by the mustachioed Scottish actor James Finlayson who appeared in 33 Laurel and Hardy films.[37] The phrase, expressing surprise, impatience, or incredulity, was the inspiration for "D'oh!" as spoken by the fictional character Homer Simpson in the long-running animated comedy The Simpsons. Homer's first intentional use of "d'oh!" occurred in the Ullman short "Punching Bag" (1988).[43]

Films[edit]

Laurel and Hardy appeared for the first time together in The Lucky Dog (1921).

The first film pairing of the two, although as separate performers, took place in the silent film The Lucky Dog in 1921. The exact date the film was produced is not recorded but film historian Bo Bergulund dated it between late 1920 and January 1921.[44] The association was casual, based upon interviews given in the 1930s, and both of them had forgotten it entirely.[45] The plot sees Laurel's character befriended by a stray dog, which after some lucky escapes, saves him from being blown up by dynamite. Hardy's character is a mugger attempting to rob Laurel.[46] Several years later both comedians separately signed with the Hal Roach film studio and next appeared in the 1926 film 45 Minutes From Hollywood.[47]

Hal Roach was considered to be the most important person in the development of their film careers. Along with bringing the team together they worked for Hal Roach Studios for over 20 years.[48] Charley Rogers worked closely with the three men for many years and said, "It could not have happened if Laurel, Hardy and Roach had not met at the right place and the right time."[49] Their first "official" film together as a team was the 1927 film Putting Pants on Philip.[50] The plot involves Laurel as Philip, a young Scots man newly arrived in the United States, in full kilted splendor suffering mishaps involving the kilt. His uncle, played by Hardy, is shown trying to put trousers on him.[51]

Laurel and Hardy with Lupe Vélez in Hollywood Party (1934).

Laurel said to John McCabe "Of all the questions we're asked, the most frequent is how did we come together? I always explain that we came together naturally."[52] Laurel and Hardy were joined by accident and grew by indirection.[53] In 1926 both were part of the Roach Comedy All Stars which was a group of actors of similar standing who took part in a series of films. Quite unwittingly Laurel and Hardy's parts grew larger and parts of their fellow stars diminished because Laurel and Hardy were considered to be great actors.[54] Their teaming up was suggested by Leo McCarey who was their supervising director from 1927 and 1930. It was during this period that McCarey and Laurel jointly devised the team's format.[55] After teaming up they played the same characters for 30 years.[56]

Although Hal Roach employed writers and directors such as H. M. Walker, Leo McCarey, James Parrott and James W. Horne on the Laurel and Hardy films, Laurel would rewrite entire sequences or scripts. He would also have the cast and crew improvise on the sound stage and then he meticulously reviewed the footage during the editing process.[57] By 1929 Laurel was the head writer and it was reported that the writing sessions were gleefully chaotic. Stan had three or four writers who joined in a perpetual game of 'Can You Top This?'[58] As Laurel obviously relished writing gags Hardy was more than happy to leave the job to his partner and was once quoted as saying "After all, just doing the gags was hard enough work, especially if you have taken as many falls and been dumped in as many mudholes as I have. I think I earned my money".[33][59] From this point Laurel was an uncredited film director for their films. He ran the Laurel and Hardy set no matter who was in the director's chair but never felt compelled to assert his authority. Roach remarked "Laurel bossed the production. With any director, if Laurel said 'I don't like this idea,' the director didn't say 'Well, you're going to do it anyway.' That was understood."[60] As Laurel made so many suggestions there was not much left for the credited director to do.[61]

Laurel and Hardy in the 1939 film The Flying Deuces

In 1929, the silent era of film was coming to an end, and many silent-film actors saw their careers decline with the advent of sound.[62] Many silent film actors failed to make the transition because they decided their prime duty was to tell stories in words or they overemphasized their speech. Laurel and Hardy avoided this pitfall because they continued making primarily visual films.[63] They did not ignore sound but were not ruled by it.[63] As a team they proved skillful in their melding of visual and verbal humor and made a seamless transition to the talking era in their first sound film Unaccustomed As We Are from 1929.[64] The title took its name from the familiar phrase "Unaccustomed as we are to public speaking".[65] In the opening dialogue Laurel and Hardy began by spoofing the slow and self-conscious speech of the early talking actors which became a routine they would use regularly.[66]

The first feature film starring Laurel and Hardy was Pardon Us from 1931.[67] What is considered the most memorable Laurel and Hardy is the 1932 film The Music Box. The footage of the duo forever pushing a piano up an endless flight of steps seems to have stuck in the public consciousness for decades.[68] The film won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Subject in 1932.[69] While many enthusiasts claim the superiority of The Music Box their 1929 silent film Big Business is by far the most consistently acclaimed.[70] The plot of this film sees Laurel and Hardy as Christmas tree salesman involved in a classic tit-for-tat battle with a character played by James Finlayson that eventually destroys his house and their car.[71] Big Business was added to the Library of Congress in the United States as a national treasure in 1992.[72] The film Sons of the Desert from 1933 is considered to be Laurel and Hardy's best feature length film.[73] A number of their films were reshot with Laurel and Hardy speaking in Spanish, Italian, French or German.[74] The plots for these films were similar to the English-language version although the supporting cast were often native language speaking actors. While Laurel and Hardy could not speak these foreign languages they received voice coaching for their lines. The film Pardon Us from 1931 was reshot in all four foreign languages while the films Blotto, Hog Wild and Be Big! were made in French and Spanish versions. Night Owls was made in both Spanish and Italian versions and Below Zero along with Chickens Come Home were only made in a Spanish version.

Laurel and Hardy in their final film, Atoll K (1951)

The 1934 film Babes in Toyland retains a timeless appeal and remains a perennial on American television during the Christmas season.[75] When interviewed Hal Roach spoke scathingly about the film and Laurel's behavior during the production. Laurel was unhappy with the plot, and after an argument, was allowed to make the film his way.[76] The rift damaged Roach-Laurel relations to the point that Roach said that after Toyland he no longer wished to produce Laurel and Hardy films. However, their association continued for another six years.[57] Hoping for greater artistic freedom, Laurel and Hardy split with Roach and signed with major studios 20th Century-Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[33] However, the working conditions were now completely different as they were hired simply as actors, relegated to the B-film divisions, and were initially not allowed to improvise or contribute to the scripts.[33] When the films proved popular the studios allowed the team more input and Laurel and Hardy starred in eight features through 1944. These films, while not considered the team's best work, were financially very successful. Each film was budgeted from $250,000 to $300,000 each and the films earned millions at the box office. The films were so profitable that Fox kept making Laurel and Hardy comedies after discontinuing its other "B" series films.[77]

In 1951, Laurel and Hardy made their final feature length film together, Atoll K. This film was a French-Italian co-production directed by Leo Joannon, but was plagued by problems with language barriers, production issues, and the grave health issues of Laurel and Hardy.[76] During the filming, Hardy began to lose weight precipitously and developed an irregular heartbeat. Laurel was experiencing painful prostate complications as well.[78] Critics were disappointed with the storyline, English dubbing and Laurel's sickly physical appearance in the film.[35] The film was not a success and it brought an end to Laurel and Hardy's film careers.[78] Most Laurel and Hardy films have survived and have not gone out of circulation permanently. Three of their 107 films are considered lost and have not been seen in their complete form since the 1930s.[79] The silent film Hats Off from 1927 has vanished completely. The first half of the 1927 film Now I'll Tell One is lost and the second half has yet to be released on video. In the 1930 operatic Technicolor musical The Rogue Song, Laurel and Hardy appear in 10 sequences and only one of which is known to exist with the complete soundtrack.[80]

Final years[edit]

Following the making of Atoll K Laurel and Hardy took some months off so Laurel could recuperate. Upon their return to the European stage in 1952 they undertook a well-received series of public appearances performing a short sketch Laurel had written called "A Spot of Trouble". Hoping to repeat the success the following year Laurel wrote a routine entitled "Birds of a Feather".[81] On September 9, 1953 their boat arrived in Cobh in the Republic of Ireland. Laurel recounted their reception:

The love and affection we found that day at Cobh was simply unbelievable. There were hundreds of boats blowing whistles and mobs and mobs of people screaming on the docks. We just couldn't understand what it was all about. And then something happened that I can never forget. All the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song "Dance of the Cuckoos" and Babe (Oliver Hardy) looked at me and we cried. I'll never forget that day. Never.[82]

Laurel and Hardy on NBC's This Is Your Life December 1, 1954

On December 1, 1954 the team made their only American television appearance when they were surprised and interviewed by Ralph Edwards on his live NBC-TV program This Is Your Life. Lured to the Knickerbocker Hotel as a subterfuge for a business meeting with producer Bernard Delfont the doors opened to their suite #205 flooding the room with light and the voice of Edwards. This telecast was preserved on a kinescope and later released on home video. Partly due to the positive response from the television broadcast the pair was renegotiating with Hal Roach, Jr. for a series of color NBC Television specials to be called Laurel and Hardy's Fabulous Fables. However, plans for the specials had to be shelved as the aging comedians continued to suffer from declining health.[81] In 1955 Laurel and Hardy made their final public appearance together while taking part in the program This Is Music Hall. This was a BBC Television program about the Grand Order of Water Rats that is a British variety organization. Laurel and Hardy provided a filmed insert in which they reminisce about their friends in British variety. They made their final appearance on camera in 1956 in a home movie titled "One Moment Please". The film was shot by a family friend at Laurel's home and it contains no audio and is three minutes in length.[83]

In 1956, while following his doctor's orders to improve his health due to a heart condition, Hardy lost over 100 pounds (45 kg; 7.1 st). However, he suffered several strokes that resulted in the loss of mobility and speech. Despite having a long and successful career it was reported that Hardy's home was sold to help cover the cost of his medical expenses during this time.[76] He died of a stroke on August 7, 1957 and longtime friend Bob Chatterton stated that Hardy weighed just 138 pounds (63 kg; 9.9 st) at the time of his death. Hardy was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood.[84] Following Hardy's death, Laurel and Hardy's films were returned to movie theaters as clips of their work were featured in Robert Youngson's silent-film compilation The Golden Age of Comedy.

For the remaining eight years of his life, Stan Laurel refused to perform and even turned down Stanley Kramer's offer of a cameo in his landmark 1963 movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.[85] In 1960, Laurel was given a special Academy Award for his contributions to film comedy but was unable to attend the ceremony, due to poor health, and actor Danny Kaye accepted the award for him.[86] Despite not appearing onscreen after Hardy's death, Laurel did contribute gags to several comedy filmmakers. During this period most of his communication was in the form of written correspondence and he insisted on answering every fan letter personally.[85] Late in life, he hosted visitors of the new generation of comedians and celebrities including Dick Cavett, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers, Marcel Marceau and Dick Van Dyke. Laurel lived until 1965 and survived to see the duo's work rediscovered through television and classic film revivals. He died on February 23 in Santa Monica and is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.[87]

Supporting cast members[edit]

Laurel and Hardy's films included a memorable supporting cast, some of whom appeared regularly.[88]

  • Harry Bernard played bit parts as waiter, bartender and cop.
  • Mae Busch played a formidable Mrs. Hardy, and other characters, particularly sultry female pests.
  • Charley Chase, the Hal Roach film star and brother of James Parrott, Laurel and Hardy writer/director, made four appearances.
  • Baldwin Cooke played bit parts as a waiter, bartender and cop.
  • Richard Cramer appeared as a scowling, menacing villain or opponent
  • James Finlayson, a small, balding, moustachioed Scotsman known for displays of indignation and squinting "double takes", made 33 appearances and is perhaps their most celebrated foil.
  • Anita Garvin was a memorable Mrs. Laurel.
  • Billy Gilbert made many appearances, most notably as bombastic, blustery characters, and also notably in the classic The Music Box (1932).
  • Charlie Hall, who usually played angry "little men", appeared nearly 50 times.
  • Jean Harlow, the "Blonde Bombshell" had a small role in their short Double Whoopee (1929) and two other films, before her breakout stardom.
  • Arthur Housman made memorable appearances as a comic drunk.
  • Isabelle Keith, the only actress to appear as wife to both Laurel and Hardy (in Perfect Day and Be Big!, respectively)
  • Edgar Kennedy, master of the "slow burn", often appeared as a cop, hostile neighbor, or relative.
  • Walter Long played grizzled, physically threatening villains, similar to Richard Cramer.
  • Sam Lufkin appeared several times.
  • Charles Middleton made a handful of appearances, usually as an adversary.
  • Daphne Pollard was featured, mostly as Oliver's shrewish wife.
  • Viola Richard appeared in several early silent films, most notably as a cave girl in Flying Elephants (1928).
  • Charley Rogers, the English actor, appeared several times.
  • Tiny Sandford was a tall and burly man who played authority figures, notably cops.
  • Thelma Todd appeared several times.
  • Ben Turpin, the cross-eyed actor, made two memorable appearances.
  • Peter Cushing, well before becoming a star in many memorable Hammer Horror Films, made an appearance in A Chump at Oxford.

Music[edit]

The duo's famous signature tune, known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku" or "The Dance of the Cuckoos", was composed by Roach musical director Marvin Hatley as the on-the-hour chime for the Roach studio radio station.[89] Laurel heard the tune on the station and asked Hatley to use it as the Laurel and Hardy theme song. The original theme, recorded by two clarinets in 1930, was recorded again with a full orchestra in 1935. Leroy Shield composed the majority of the music used in the Laurel and Hardy short sound films.[90] A compilation of songs from their films, titled Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was released in 1975. The title track was released as a single in the UK and reached #2 in the charts.

Influence and legacy[edit]

Silhouette portrait of the duo in Redcar, England

Posthumous revivals and popular culture[edit]

Since the 1930s, the works of Laurel and Hardy have been released again in numerous theatrical reissues, television revivals (broadcast, especially public television and cable), 16 mm and 8 mm home movies, feature-film compilations and home video. After Stan Laurel's death in 1965 there were two major motion-picture tributes: Laurel and Hardy's Laughing '20s, Robert Youngson's compilation of the team's silent-film highlights and The Great Race that was a large-scale salute to slapstick which director Blake Edwards dedicated to "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy". For many years the duo were impersonated by Jim MacGeorge (as Laurel) and Chuck McCann (as Hardy) in children's TV shows and television commercials for various products.[91] Numerous colorized versions of copyright-free Laurel and Hardy features and shorts have been reproduced by a multitude of production studios. Although the results of adding color were often in dispute many popular titles are currently only available in the colorized version. The color process often renders the print into an unwatchable state with some scenes were altered or deleted depending on the source material used.[92] Their film Helpmates was the first film to undergo the process and was released by Colorization Inc., a subsidiary of Hal Roach Studios, in 1983. Colorization was a success for the studio and Helpmates was released on home video with the colorized version of The Music Box in 1986. The technology for this process was inferior compared to today's digital colorization technology. There were numerous continuity errors and garish color design choices used in the production process. However, the most significant criticism these versions received revolved around their editing with complete scenes being altered or deleted altogether which changed the character of the film.

Statue of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy outside the Coronation Hall Theatre, Ulverston, Cumbria, England

There are two Laurel and Hardy museums with one in Laurel's birthplace, Ulverston, United Kingdom and the other in Hardy's birthplace, Harlem, Georgia, United States.[93][94] Maurice Sendak showed three identical Oliver Hardy figures as bakers preparing cakes for the morning in his award-winning 1970 children's book In the Night Kitchen.[95] This is treated as a clear example[by whom?] of "interpretative illustration" wherein the comedians' inclusion harked back to the author's childhood.[N 1] The Beatles used cut-outs of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the cutout celebrity crowd for the cover of their 1967 album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A 2005 poll by fellow comedians and comedy insiders of the top 50 comedians for The Comedian's Comedian, a TV documentary broadcast on UK's Channel 4, voted the duo the seventh greatest comedy act ever making them the top double act on the list.[7]

Merchandiser Larry Harmon claimed ownership of Laurel's and Hardy's likenesses and has issued Laurel and Hardy toys and coloring books. He also co-produced a series of Laurel and Hardy cartoons in 1966 with Hanna-Barbera Productions.[98] His animated versions of Laurel and Hardy guest-starred in a 1972 episode of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies. In 1999, Harmon produced a direct-to-video feature live-action comedy entitled The All-New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy: For Love or Mummy. Actors Bronson Pinchot and Gailard Sartain were cast playing the lookalike nephews of Laurel and Hardy named Stanley Thinneus Laurel and Oliver Fatteus Hardy.[99] The Indian comedy duo Ghory and Dixit was known as the Indian Laurel and Hardy.[100]

The Sons of the Desert[edit]

The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as The Sons of the Desert, after a fraternal society in their film of the same name (1933).[101] It was founded in New York City in 1965 by Laurel and Hardy biographers John McCabe, Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, Chuck McCann and John Municino with the sanction of Stan Laurel.[102] Since the group's inception, well over 150 chapters of the organization have formed across North America, Europe and Australia. An Emmy-winning film documentary about the group, Revenge of the Sons of the Desert, has been released on DVD as part of The Laurel and Hardy Collection, Vol. 1.

Around the world[edit]

Laurel and Hardy are popular around the world, but are known under different names in various countries and languages.

Country/Language Nickname
Iran "Chagh va Laghar" (The Fat and the Skinny)*
Poland "Flip and Flap" (Flip i Flap)
Germany "Dick und Doof" (Chubby and Dumb)*
Brazil "O Gordo e o Magro" (The Fat and the Skinny)*
Sweden "Helan och Halvan" (The Whole and the Half)*
Spanish "El Gordo y el Flaco"
Italy "Stanlio e Ollio"* also as "Cric e Croc" up to the 1970s
Hungary "Stan és Pan" (Stan and Pan)
Romania "Stan și Bran" (Stan and Bran)
The Netherlands "de dikke en de dunne" (The Fat One and the Skinny One)
Denmark "Gøg and Gokke" (Gøg og Gokke)
Portugal "O Bucha e o Esticado" (The Fat and the Skinny)
Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia "Stanlio i Olio"
Greece "Hondros kai Lignos" (Χοντρός και Λιγνός) (Fat and Skinny)
India (Marathi) Jaadya Aani Radya (जाड्या आणि रड्या) (Stout and Worrywart)

Filmographies[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sendak described his early upbringing as sitting in movie houses fascinated by the Laurel and Hardy comedies.[96][97]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Laurel and Hardy." Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved: June 12, 2011.
  2. ^ Rawlngs, Nate (July 20, 2010). "Top 10 Across-the-Pond Duos". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Laurel and Hardy to ‘Make ’em Laugh’ in silent film benefit". The Catalina Islander. May 3, 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Smith, Leon (1984). Following the Comedy Trail. Pomegranate Press Ltd. p. 24. 
  5. ^ a b McGarry, Annie (September 1, 1992). Laurel & Hardy. London: Bison Group. p. 67. 
  6. ^ Seguin, Chris. "Forgotten Laurel &Hardy film emerges on French DVD". The Laurel & Hardy Magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Cook voted 'comedians' comedian'". BBC News. 2 January 2005. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 11.
  9. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 14.
  10. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 22.
  11. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 200.
  12. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 25.
  13. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 159.
  14. ^ Louvish 2001, p. 18.
  15. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 26.
  16. ^ McCabe 1987, pp. 42–43.
  17. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 169
  18. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 158.
  19. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 113.
  20. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 170.
  21. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 182.
  22. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 249.
  23. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 117.
  24. ^ Louvish 2001, p. 37.
  25. ^ a b Bergen 1992, p. 26.
  26. ^ Cullen et al. 2007, p. 661.
  27. ^ McIver 1998, p. 36.
  28. ^ a b McCabe 1989, p. 19.
  29. ^ Everson 2000, p. 22.
  30. ^ McCabe 1989, p. 30.
  31. ^ Louvish 2001, pp. 107–108.
  32. ^ McCabe 1989, p. 32.
  33. ^ a b c d Nizer, Alvin (Summer 1975). "The Comedian's Comedian". Liberty Magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  34. ^ a b c d e Bann, Richard W. "The Legacy of Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy". Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  35. ^ a b Mitchell, Glenn. The Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia. London: Batsford, 1995. ISBN 0-7134-7711-3
  36. ^ St. Mark, Tyler (2010). "Laurel & Hardy: The Hat Facts (Part 1)". Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  37. ^ a b c d e Chilton, Martin (5 December 2013). "Laurel and Hardy: it's still comedy genius". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  38. ^ McCabe 1975, p. 18.
  39. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 123.
  40. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 124.
  41. ^ Gehring 1990, p. 5.
  42. ^ Andrews 1997, p. 389.
  43. ^ "What’s the story with... Homer’s D’oh!". The Herald, Glasgow, July 21, 2007, p. 15. Retrieved: July 25, 2010.
  44. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 181.
  45. ^ Barr 1967, p. 9.
  46. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 180.
  47. ^ Gehring 1990, p. 273.
  48. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 98.
  49. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 100.
  50. ^ Gehring 1990, p. 62.
  51. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 229.
  52. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 117.
  53. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 118.
  54. ^ McCabe 1987, p. 120.
  55. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 188.
  56. ^ Skretvedt 1987, p. 54.
  57. ^ a b Mitchell 2010, p. 28.
  58. ^ Skretvedt 1987, p. 50.
  59. ^ Skretvedt 1987, p. 52.
  60. ^ Skretvedt 1987, pp. 59–61.
  61. ^ Skretvedt 1987, p. 61.
  62. ^ Sagert 2010, p. 40.
  63. ^ a b McCabe 1987, p. 153.
  64. ^ Gehring 1990, p. 42.
  65. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 305.
  66. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 252.
  67. ^ Gehring 1990, p. 23.
  68. ^ Skretvedt 1987, p. 230.
  69. ^ McCabe 2004, p. 73.
  70. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 39.
  71. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 38.
  72. ^ "Big Business awards." IMDb. Retrieved: December 19, 2011.
  73. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 268.
  74. ^ Fullerton, Pat. "Laurel & Hardy Overseas." patfullerton.com. Retrieved: April 20, 2011.
  75. ^ Mitchell 2010, p. 27.
  76. ^ a b c Lawrence, Danny (2011). The Making of Stan Laurel: Echoes of a British Boyhood. McFarland. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  77. ^ McCabe 1987, pp. 214–215.
  78. ^ a b McGarry 1992, p. 73.
  79. ^ Dorman, Trevor. "A Guide to the Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy - Update". The Laurel and Hardy Magazine. Retrieved April 20, 2011. 
  80. ^ Haines 1993, p. 13.
  81. ^ a b McCabe 1975, p. 398.
  82. ^ Baker, Glenn A (March 13, 2011). "History's harbour". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  83. ^ Rascher, Matthias (May 13, 2011). "1956 Home Movie: Laurel & Hardy Together for the Last Time". Openculture.com. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  84. ^ Smith 1984, p. 191.
  85. ^ a b Bowen, Peter (February 23, 2010). "Stan Laurel Dies". Focus Features. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  86. ^ "Letters from Stan.com 1961". The Stan Laurel Correspondence Archive Project. 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  87. ^ Smith 1984, p. 187.
  88. ^ "Laurel and Hardy Films: The People." laurelandhardyfilms.com, Retrieved: April 3, 2011.
  89. ^ Louvish 2001, p. 267.
  90. ^ Louvish 2002, p. 268.
  91. ^ McCann, Chuck. "Laurel & Hardy Tribute." chuckmccann.net: Chuck McCann, November 30, 2007. Retrieved: March 1, 2010.
  92. ^ Tooze, Gary. "Laurel & Hardy - The Collection (21-disc Box Set)." dvdbeaver.com. Retrieved: April 20, 2011.
  93. ^ "Laurel & Hardy Museum: Ulverston akedistrictletsgo.co.uk, June 2004. Retrieved: March 1, 2010.
  94. ^ Root, Robin. "Laurel and Hardy Museum and Harlem, Georgia Visitor Info Center." www.laurelandhardymuseum Retrieved: March 1, 2010.
  95. ^ Lewis,Peter. "In the Night Kitchen." commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved: April 20, 2011.
  96. ^ Lanes 1980, p. 47.
  97. ^ Salamon, Julie. "Sendak in All His Wild Glory." The New York Times, April 15, 2005. Retrieved: May 28, 2008.
  98. ^ Krurer, Ron. "Laurel and Hardy cartoons by Hanna-Barbera." toontracker.com. Retrieved: March 1, 2010.
  99. ^ "The All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in 'For Love or Mummy'". The Internet Movie Database (IMDB). 1999. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  100. ^ Pednekar, Aparna (21 September 2013). "Bollywood comedy comes of age". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  101. ^ MacGillivray, Scott. "Welcome to Sons Of The Desert The International Laurel & Hardy Society". Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  102. ^ Rense, Rip (November 9, 1989). "A Fan Club Just for 'The Boys' : Films: The Sons of the Desert has been meeting since 1965 to honor Laurel and Hardy.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 

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External links[edit]