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 later 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 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. The Music Box, a 1932 short, 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 producer Boris Morros at General Service Studios to make The Flying Deuces (1939). 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.
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 (1940) before leaving Roach Studios. They began performing for the USO, supporting the Allied troops during World War II, and teamed up to make 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. Their last Fox feature was The Bullfighters (1945), after which they declined to extend their contract with the studio.
In 1947, Laurel and Hardy went on a six week tour of the United Kingdom. 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.
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.
During 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. 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.
Famous quotes containing the word laurel:
“Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong.”
—Oscar Wilde (18541900)