Laurel and Hardy – great comedy film duo, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
Laurel and Hardy. Stan and Ollie. Skinny and Fatty. In Italy, they are known as Stallio and Ollio. In Germany, they are known as Dick und Doof (“Fatty” and “Stupid” ). Whatever they are called, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are two of the best-known clowns in film history.
Laurel and Hardy were almost perfect examples of opposites. Stan was thin, Ollie was fat. Laurel was English, Hardy was a southern gentleman hailing from Georgia. Stan’s character was nearly perpetually happy, while Oliver’s character was constantly being exasperated by “my friend, Mr. Laurel.” But the lynchpin of their comedy was the friendship of the two mismatched characters, which under-girded the relationship, and made possible so many of their comedic moments.
Laurel and Hardy were one of the few silent film teams to make the transition to sound films – and they seemingly made it effortlessly. Although Charlie Chaplin’s famous tramp character couldn’t talk and remain in character, the two characters played by Laurel and Hardy could, and did. “I’m sorry, Ollie!” and “Why don’t you do something to help me?” became their respective catchphrases, know worldwide. In addition, they were able to make the transition from short films to feature films as well, making both for a time.
Laurel and Hardy’s famous signature tune is known as the Cuckoo Song, composed by T. Marvin Hatley (1905-1986) and first used in Night Owls (1930). The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as Sons of the Desert after a fraternal society in the film of the same name. It was founded in New York in 1965 with the sanction of Stan Laurel, and now has branches (known as tents) worldwide. In a 2005 poll The Comedian’s Comedian, Laurel and Hardy were voted the 7th greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders, making them the most popular double act on the list.
Books about Laurel and Hardy
- Stan and Ollie: The roots of comedy. by Simon Louvish (2001) [Very detailed double biography – essential reading]
- Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. by John McCabe (1961)
- The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia. by Glenn Mitchell (1995) London: Batsford. [“Encyclopedia” is no idle boast – Laurel and Hardy from A to Z]
- Laurel and Hardy: The magic behind the movies (rev. 2nd ed.) by Randy Skretvedt (1996). [The definitive filmography – highly recommended]
- Laurel or Hardy: The solo films of Stan Laurel and Oliver “Babe” Hardy. by Rob Stone (1996) [The many films done by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy before they became the world-famous team of Laurel and Hardy]