Best known as one half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, the American comedian and actor Oliver Hardy sadly died August 7, 1957. He was born 18th January 1892 in Harlem, Georgia. The family moved to Madison, Georgia in 1891, before Norvell’s birth. Emily Hardy owned a house in Harlem. As a child, Hardy was sometimes difficult. He was sent to Georgia Military College in Milledgeville as a youngster and then attended Young Harris College in north Georgia in the 1905-1906 school year fall semester (September–January) when he was 13. He was in the junior high component of that institution of the time (the equivalent of high school today). Hardy had little interest in formal education, although he acquired an early interest in music and theater, His mother recognized his talent for singing and sent him to Atlanta to study music and voice with singing teacher Adolf Dahm-Petersen. Hardy skipped some of his lessons to sing in the Alcazar Theater, a cinema, for US$3.50 a week. He subsequently decided to go back to Milledgeville. Around 1910, Hardy began using the name “Oliver Norvell Hardy”, adding the first name “Oliver” as a tribute to his father. He appeared as “Oliver N. Hardy” in the 1910 U.S. census, and he used “Oliver” as his first name in all subsequent legal records, marriage announcements, etc. Hardy was initiated into Freemasonry at Solomon Lodge No. 20 in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1910, when a movie theater opened in Hardy’s hometown of Milledgeville, he became the projectionist, ticket taker, janitor, and manager. He soon became obsessed with the new motion picture industry and was convinced that he could do a better job than the actors he saw. In 1913, Hardy moved to Jacksonville, Florida, And began as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night, and at the Lubin Manufacturing Company during the day. He then met Madelyn Saloshin, a pianist, whom he married on November 17, 1913, in Macon, Georgia. In 1914 he made his first movie, Outwitting Dad (1914), for the Lubin studio. He was billed as O. N. Hardy. In his personal life, he was known as “Babe” Hardy, AndIn many of his later films at Lubin, he was billed as “Babe Hardy.” Hardy was a big man at 6’1″ tall and weighing up to 300 pounds. His size placed limitations on the roles he could play. He was most often cast as “the heavy” or the villain. He also frequently had roles in comedy shorts, his size complementing the character.
By 1915, Hardy had made 50 short one-reeler films at Lubin. He later moved to New York and made films for the Pathé, Casino and Edison Studios. After returning to Jacksonville, he made films for the Vim Comedy Company. He also worked for the King Bee studio, which bought Vim and worked with Bill Ruge, Billy West (a Charlie Chaplin imitator), and comedic actress Ethel Burton Palmer and continued portraying “heavies” for West, often imitating Eric Campbell to West’s Chaplin.) In 1917 Hardy moved to Los Angeles, working freelance for several Hollywood studios. Hardy made more than 40 films for Vitagraph, mostly playing the “heavy” for Larry Semon. In 1920 he divorced his wife and in 1921, Hardy married again, to actress Myrtle Reeves. In 1921, he appeared in the movie The Lucky Dog, produced by G.M. (“Broncho Billy”) Anderson and starring a young British comedian named Stan Laurel. Oliver Hardy played the part of a robber, trying to stick up Stan’s character.
In 1924, Hardy began working at Hal Roach Studios with the Our Gang films and Charley Chase. In 1925, he starred as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and in the film Yes, Yes, Nanette!, starring Jimmy Finlayson and directed by Stan Laurel. He also appeared in films featuring Clyde Cooke and Bobby Ray. In 1926, Hardy was scheduled to appear in Get ‘Em Young. But was hospitalized after being burned by a hot leg of lamb. So Laurel, who had been working as a gag man and director at Roach Studios, appeared instead. in 1926 Laurel and Hardy both appeared in the film , 45 Minutes from Hollywood,
In 1927, Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup (no relation to the 1933 Marx Brothers’ film of the same name) and With Love and Hisses. They began producing a huge body of short movies, including The Battle of the Century (1927) (with one of the largest pie fights ever filmed), Should Married Men Go Home? (1928), Two Tars (1928), Unaccustomed As We Are (1929, marking their transition to talking pictures) Berth Marks (1929), Blotto (1930), Brats (1930), Another Fine Mess (1930), Be Big! (1931), and many others.In 1929, they appeared in their first feature, in one of the revue sequences of Hollywood Revue of 1929, and the following year they appeared as the comic relief in a lavish all-color (in Technicolor) musical feature entitled The Rogue Song. In 1931, they starred in their first full-length movie, “Pardon Us” and the 1932 short film”The Music Box” which won them an Academy Award for best short film. In 1936, Hardy and Myrtle Reeves divorced and in 1939 Hardy made Zenobia with Harry Langdon. Then In 1939 Laurel and Hardy made The Flying Deuces and Hardy met Virginia Lucille Jones, a script girl, whom he married the next year. In 1939, Laurel and Hardy made A Chump at Oxford (1940) (which features a moment of role reversal, with Oliver becoming a subordinate to a temporarily concussed Stan and Saps at Sea. They began performing for the USO, supporting the Allied troops during World War II. They teamed up to make films for 20th Century Fox and later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer including The Bullfighters in 1945.
In 1947, Laurel and Hardy went on a six-week tour of the United Kingdom Which was lengthened to include engagements in Scandinavia, Belgium, France, as well as a Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. They continued to make live appearances in the United Kingdom and France for the next several years, until 1954, often using new sketches and material that Laurel had written for them. In 1949, John Wayne, asked Hardy to play a supporting role in The Fighting Kentuckian. Hardy had previously worked with Wayne and John Ford in a charity production of the play What Price Glory? and Frank Capra later invited Hardy to play a cameo role in Riding High with Bing Crosby in 1950.
During 1950–51, Laurel and Hardy made their final film. Atoll K (also known as Utopia) in which Laurel inherits an island, and the boys set out to sea, where they encounter a storm and discover a brand new island, rich in uranium, making them powerful and wealthy. Oliver Hardy, along with Stan Laurel, made two live television appearances: In 1953, on a live BBC television broadcast of the popular show “Face the Music” with host Henry Hall and in December 1954, on NBC’s This Is Your Life. They also appeared in a filmed insert for the BBC-TV show This Is Music Hall in 1955, which was their final public appearance together. Following This Is Your Life they were asked to produce a series of TV shows based on the Mother Goose fables with Hal Roach, Jr. However the series was postponed when Laurel suffered a stroke and Hardy suffered a heart attack and stroke from which he never physically recovered.
In total they appeared together in 107 films including 40 short sound films, 32 silent films and 23 full-length feature films, and made 12 guest or cameo appearances, including the recently discovered Galaxy of Stars promotional film (1936). Their silent film Big Business (1929) was added to the Library of Congress as a national treasure in 1992. The works of Laurel and Hardy have been re-released in numerous theatrical reissues, television revivals, 16mm and 8mm home movies, feature-film compilations, and home videos since the 1930s. They were voted the seventh greatest comedy act in a 2005 UK poll by fellow comedians. The duo’s signature tune, known variously as “The Cuckoo Song”, “Ku-Ku”, or “The Dance of the Cuckoos”, played on the opening credits of their films. The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as The Sons of the Desert after the film of the same name. A biopic featuring John C.Reilly and Steve Coogan has also been made.