On August 7, 1957, actor Oliver Hardy died. He was born on January 18, 1892 in Harlem, Georgia. He was best known as one half of the famous comic duo of Laurel and Hardy. Whixh began in silent films and lasted nearly 30 years, from 1927 to 1955. In 1910, a movie theater opened in Hardy’s home town in Georgia, and he became the projectionist, ticket taker, janitor and manager. He soon became obsessed with the new motion picture industry, and became convinced that he could do a better job than the actors he saw on the screen. A friend suggested that he move to Florida, where some films were being made. In 1913, he did just that, where he worked as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night. The next year he made his first movie, Outwitting Dad, for the Lubin studio.
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. In 1917, Oliver Hardy moved to Los Angeles, working freelance for several Hollywood studios. Later that year, he appeared in the movie The Lucky Dog, which starred a young British comedian named Stan Laurel. Between 1918 and 1923, Oliver Hardy made more than forty films for Vitagraph, mostly playing the heavy. In 1924, Hardy began working at Hal Roach Studios working with the Our Gang films.
Laurel and Hardy
In 1927, Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup (no relation to the 1933 Marx Brother’s film of the same name) and With Love and Hisses. Roach Studios, realizing the audience reaction to the two, began intentionally teaming them together, leading to the start of a Laurel and Hardy series late that year. With this pairing, he created arguably the most famous double act in movie history. They began producing a huge body of short movies. They made their transition to talking pictures with Berth Marks (1929), Blotto (1930), Brats (1930), Another Fine Mess (1930) and many others.
In 1929, they appeared in their first feature, in one of the revue sequences of Hollywood revue of 1929 and in 1931, they made their first full length movie, Pardon Us although they continued to make features and shorts until 1935. The Music Box, a 1932 short, won them an Academy Award for best short film, their only such award. During 1950—51, Laurel and Hardy made their final film. Atoll K (also known as Utopia) and both suffered serious physical illness during the filming.In 1955, the pair had contracted with Hal Roach, Jr., to produce a series of TV shows based on the Mother Goose fables. However, this was never to be. Laurel suffered a stroke, which required a lengthy convalescence. Hardy had a heart attack and stroke later that year, from which he never physically recovered.
During 1956, Hardy began looking after his health for the first time in his life. He lost more than 150 pounds in a few months which completely changed his appearance. Hardy was a heavy smoker, as was Stan Laurel. Hardy suffered a major stroke on September 14, 1956, which left him confined to bed and unable to speak for several months. He suffered two more strokes in early August 1957, and slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. Oliver Hardy died on August 7, 1957 and was buried at the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood. His friend Stan Laurel was too ill to go to his friend's funeral. He stated, "Babe would understand."
www.michaelthomasbarry.com, author of Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950