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Laurel and Hardy

July 30, 2010

Stan Laurel (1890-1965), the British-born thin one, and Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), the pompous fat one, teamed in 1926 to become one of the screen’s finest comedy teams.

In silent two-reelers, and in feature films between 1929 and 1950, the slapstick misadventures of Laurel, scratching his head, and Hardy, fiddling with his tie, found them in “one fine mess” after another, 106 films in total. Stan Laurel wrote the scripts and sometimes directed the films.

Hal Roach Studios musical director Marvin Hatley wrote the theme song "The Cuckoo Song." A British comic strip ran in Film Fun (1930-1942), and Laurel and Hardy Comics appeared in the U.S. from 1949 to 1956 and in 1962-1963.

Vintage films were edited and cut for syndication to television in 1948 and ran locally for over three decades. Five-minute animated episodes based on the films, co-produced by Hanna-Barbera and Larry Harmon, were syndicated to television in 1966 with limited success.

Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular comedy teams of the early to mid Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. Composed of thin, English-born Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and heavy, American-born Oliver Hardy (1892–1957) they became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their work in motion pictures; the team also appeared on stage throughout America and Europe.

The two comedians first worked together on the silent film The Lucky Dog. After a period appearing separately in several short films for the Hal Roach studio during the 1920s, they began appearing in movie shorts together in 1926.[1] Laurel and Hardy officially became a team the following year, and soon became Hal Roach's most lucrative stars. Among their most popular and successful films were the features Sons of the Desert (1933), Way Out West (1937), and Block-Heads (1938)[2] and the shorts Big Business (1929), Liberty (1929), and their Academy Award–winning short, The Music Box (1932).

The pair left the Roach studio in 1940, then appeared in eight "B" comedies for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1941 to 1944.[4] Disappointed in the films in which they had little creative control, from 1945 to 1950 the team did not appear on film and concentrated on their stage show, embarking on a musical hall tour of England, Ireland and Scotland.[4] They made Atoll K, a French/Italian production and their last film, in 1950/1951, before retiring from the screen. In total they appeared together in 106 films. They starred in 40 short sound films, 32 short silent films and 23 full length feature films, and in the remaining 11 films made guest or cameo appearances.

Under doctor's orders to improve a heart condition, Hardy lost over 100 pounds (45 kg; 7.1 st) in 1956. Several strokes (that some doctors partly attribute to the rapid weight loss) resulted in loss of mobility and speech. He died of a major stroke on August 7, 1957. Longtime friend Bob Chatterton said Hardy weighed just 138 pounds (63 kg; 9.9 st) at the time of his death. A depressed Laurel did not attend his partner's funeral, due to his own ill health, explaining his absence with the line "Babe would understand." Hardy was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood.

Laurel lived until 1965, surviving to see the duo's work rediscovered through television and classic film revivals. He died in Santa Monica, and is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.

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