Oliver Hardy: Wikis


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Oliver Hardy
Born January 18, 1892(1892-01-18)
Harlem, Georgia, U.S.
Died August 7, 1957 (aged 65)
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, Film director
Years active 1914–1951
Spouse(s) Madelyn Saloshin (m. 1913–1921) «start: (1913)–end+1: (1922)»"Marriage: Madelyn Saloshin to Oliver Hardy" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hardy)
Myrtle Reeves (m. 1921–1937) «start: (1921)–end+1: (1938)»"Marriage: Myrtle Reeves to Oliver Hardy" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hardy)
Virginia Lucille Jones (m. 1940–1957) «start: (1940)–end+1: (1958)»"Marriage: Virginia Lucille Jones to Oliver Hardy" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hardy)

Oliver Hardy (born Norvell Hardy; January 18, 1892 – August 7, 1957) was an American comic actor famous as one half of Laurel and Hardy, the classic double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted over 31 years, from 1926 to 1957. Hardy’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 1500 Vine Street, Hollywood, California.



His father, Oliver, was a Confederate veteran wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. After his demobilization as a recruiting officer for Company K, 16th Georgia Regiment, the elder Oliver Hardy assisted his father in running the vestiges of the family cotton plantation, bought a share in a retail business and was elected full-time Tax Collector for Columbia County. His mother, Emily Norvell, the daughter of Thomas Benjamin Norvell and Mary Freeman, was descended from Captain Hugh Norvell of Williamsburg, Virginia. Her family arrived in Virginia before 1635. Their marriage took place on March 12, 1890; it was the second marriage for the widow Emily, and the third for Oliver.

The family moved to Madison in 1891, before Norvell’s birth. Norvell’s mother owned a house in Harlem, which was either empty or tenanted by her mother. It is probable that Norvell was born in Harlem, though some sources say it was in his mother’s home town, Covington. His father died less than a year after his birth. Hardy was the youngest of five. As a child, Hardy was sometimes difficult. He was sent to a Milledgeville military academy as a youngster. In the 1905/1906 school year, fall semester (September-January), when he was 13, Hardy was sent to Young Harris College in north Georgia. However, he was in the junior high component of that institution (the equivalent of high school today), not the two-year college which exists today.

He had little interest in education, although he acquired an early interest in music and theater, possibly from his mother’s tenants. He joined a theatrical group, and later ran away from a boarding school near Atlanta to sing with the group. His mother recognized his talent for singing, and sent him to Atlanta to study music and voice with singing teacher Adolf Dahm Patterson, but 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.

Sometime prior to 1910, Hardy began styling himself "Oliver Norvell Hardy", with the first name “Oliver” being added as a tribute to his father. He appears as “Oliver N. Hardy” in the 1910 U.S. census, and in all future legal records, marriage announcements, etc., Hardy uses “Oliver” as his first name.

Hardy’s mother wanted Oliver Norvell Hardy to attend the University of Georgia in the fall of 1912, to study law, but there is no evidence that he ever did or did not.

Early career

In 1910, a movie theater opened in Hardy’s home town of Milledgeville, 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 Jacksonville, Florida, where some films were being made. In 1913, he did just that, where he worked as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night, and at the Lubin Studios during the day. It was at this time that he met and married his first wife, pianist Madelyn Saloshin.

The next year he made his first movie, Outwitting Dad, for the Lubin studio. He was billed as O. N. Hardy, taking his father’s name as a memorial. In his personal life, he was known as “Babe” Hardy, a nickname that he was given by an Italian barber, who would apply talcum powder to Oliver’s cheeks and say, “nice-a-bab-y.” In many of his later films at Lubin, he was billed as “Babe Hardy.” Hardy was a big man at six feet one inch tall and weighed 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.

The Lucky Dog. Stan Laurel sits as Hardy holds him down. Jack Lloyd in center

By 1915, he had made fifty short one-reeler films at the Lubin studio. He later moved to New York and made films for the Pathé, Casino and Edison Studios. He then returned to Jacksonville and made films for the Vim and King Bee studios. He worked with Charlie Chaplin imitator Billy West and comedic actress Ethel Burton Palmer during this time. (Hardy continued playing the “heavy” for West well into the early 1920s, often imitating Eric Campbell to West’s Chaplin.) 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, produced by G.M. (“Broncho Billy”) Anderson and starring a young British comedian named Stan Laurel.[1] Oliver Hardy played the part of a robber, trying to stick up Stan’s character. They did not work together again for several years.

Between 1918 and 1923, Oliver Hardy made more than forty films for Vitagraph, mostly playing the “heavy” for Larry Semon. In 1919, he separated from his wife, ending with a divorce in 1920, allegedly due to Babe’s infidelity. The very next year, on November 24, 1921, Babe married again, to actress Myrtle Reeves. This marriage was also unhappy and Myrtle eventually became an alcoholic.

In 1924, Hardy began working at Hal Roach Studios working with the Our Gang films and Charley Chase. In 1925, he was in a film, Yes, Yes, Nanette!, starring James Finlayson, who in later years was a recurring character in the Laurel and Hardy film series. The film was directed by Stan Laurel. He also continued playing supporting roles in films featuring Clyde Cooke and Bobby Ray.

In 1926, Hardy was scheduled to appear in Get ’Em Young but was unexpectedly hospitalized after being burned by a hot leg of lamb. Laurel, who had been working as a gag man and director at Roach Studios, was recruited to fill in.[2] Laurel kept appearing in front of the camera rather than behind it, and later that year appeared in the same movie as Hardy, 45 Minutes from Hollywood, although they didn’t share any scenes together.

Career with Stan Laurel

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. Roach Studios’ supervising director Leo McCarey, 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, 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) (with Stan and Ollie portraying themselves, as well as their own sons, using oversized furniture to sets for the ‘young’ Laurel and Hardy), 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. This film marked their first appearance in color. In 1931, they made their first full length movie (in which they were the actual stars), Pardon Us although they continued to make features and shorts until 1935. Perhaps their greatest achievement, however, was The Music Box (1932), which won them an Academy Award for best short film—their only such award.

In 1936, Hardy’s personal life suffered a blow as he and Myrtle divorced. While waiting for a contractual issue between Laurel and Hal Roach to be resolved, Hardy made Zenobia with Harry Langdon. Eventually, however, new contracts were agreed and the team was loaned out to General Services Studio to make The Flying Deuces. While on the lot, Hardy fell in love with Virginia Lucille Jones, a script girl, whom he married the next year. They enjoyed a happy, successful marriage until his death.

Laurel and Hardy also began performing for the USO, supporting the Allied troops during World War II. They also made A Chump at Oxford (1940)(which features a moment of role reversal, with Oliver becoming a temporarily concussed subordinate to Stan) and Saps at Sea (1940).

Beginning in 1941, Laurel and Hardy’s films began to decline in quality. They left Roach Studios and began making films for 20th century Fox, and later MGM. Although they were financially better off, they had very little artistic control at the large studios, and hence the films lack the very qualities that had made Laurel and Hardy worldwide names.

In 1947, Laurel and Hardy went on a six week tour of Great Britain. Initially unsure of how they would be received, they were mobbed wherever they went. The tour was then lengthened to include engagements in Scandinavia, Belgium, France, as well as a Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Biographer John McCabe said 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.

Oliver Hardy in The Fighting Kentuckian, 1949.

In 1949, Hardy’s friend, John Wayne, asked him 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? while Laurel began treatment for his diabetes a few years previously. Initially hesitant, Hardy accepted the role at the insistence of his comedy partner. Frank Capra later invited Hardy to play a cameo role in Riding High with Bing Crosby in 1950.

In 1950—51, Laurel and Hardy made their final film. Atoll K (also known as Utopia) was a simple concept; 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. However, it was produced by a consortium of European interests, with an international cast and crew that could not speak to each other.[3] In addition, the script needed to be rewritten by Stan to make it fit the comedy team’s style, 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. They would be filmed in color for NBC. 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.


In May 1954, Hardy suffered a mild heart attack. During 1956, Hardy began looking after his health for the first time in his life. During his health watch, he lost more than 150 pounds in a few months which completely changed his appearance. Letters written by Stan Laurel, however, mention that Hardy had terminal cancer, which has caused some to suspect that this was the real reason for Hardy’s rapid weight loss.[4] Hardy suffered a major stroke on September 14, which left him confined to bed and unable to speak for several months. He remained at home, in the care of his beloved Lucille. 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, aged 65 years old.[5] His remains are located in the Masonic Garden of Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood. [6]

In 2006, BBC Four showed a drama called Stan[7] based on Laurel meeting Hardy on his deathbed and reminiscing about their career.[8][9] Although based on fact, it took great liberties with both the events and main characters.


See also


  1. ^ The Lucky Dog (1921)
  2. ^ http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL131.htm
  3. ^ Aping, Norbert. “The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy,” 2008, McFarland. ISBN 970786433025
  4. ^ http://www.lettersfromstan.com/stan_1957c.html
  5. ^ "Oliver Hardy of Film Team Dies. Co-Star of 200 Slapstick Movies. Portly Master of the Withering Look and 'Slow Burn'. Features Popular on TV". New York Times. August 8, 1957, Thursday. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60C13FF3E55137A93CAA91783D85F438585F9. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "Oliver Hardy, the fat, always frustrated partner of the famous movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy, died early today at the North Hollywood home of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Monnie L. Jones. Mr. Hardy, who was 65 years old, suffered a paralytic stroke last Sept. 12."  
  6. ^ Oliver Hardy, FreeMasonry.bcy.ca
  7. ^ STAN, BBC Four celebrates cinema's golden Silent Era
  8. ^ STAN, Neil Brand's Official Website
  9. ^ STAN (2006), IMDb

Further reading

  • McCabe, John (2004). Babe : The Life of Oliver Hardy. London: Robson Books, Ltd.. ISBN 1-86105-781-4.  
  • Marriot, AJ (1993). Laurel & Hardy : The British Tours. Hitchen: AJ Marriot.. ISBN 0-9521308-0-7.  

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Norvell Oliver Hardy (January 18, 1892 – August 7, 1957) was an American comedian, most known for his work with Stan Laurel as half of the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy.


  • A task slowly done is surely done.
  • Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!
    • Often erroneously given as "another fine mess"
  • Those two fellows we created, they were very very nice people...One of the reasons why people like us, I guess, is because they feel superior to us.

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