OLIVER HARDY Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Oliver Hardy                                                                                 
Birth name: Norvell Hardy                                                                           
Born: 18 January 1892 Harlem, Georgia                                                               
Died: 7 August 1957 North Hollywood, California                                                     
Oliver Hardy (born Norvell Hardy; January 18, 1892 - August 7, 1957) was an                         
American actor who, with Stan Laurel, formed the comedic film-duo Laurel and                       
Hardy's parents were of English and Scottish descent. His father, Oliver, was a                     
Confederate veteran wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 18, 1862.                       
After the war he worked as a foreman for the Georgia Southern Railroad,                             
supervising the building of a rail line between Augusta and Madison. His mother,                   
Emily Norvell, was descended from the Norvells of Williamsburg, an early                           
Virginia family that arrived about 1635. Their marriage took place on March 12,                     
1890; it was the second marriage for the widow Emily, and the third for Oliver.                     
By the time Hardy was born, the family had moved to Harlem, Georgia. His father                     
died less than a year after his birth. Hardy was sometimes a difficult child. He                   
was not interested in education, although he acquired an early interest in music                   
and theater, possibly from his mother's tenants. He ran away from home to join a                   
theatrical group, and later ran away from a boarding school near Atlanta. His                       
mother recognized his talent for singing, and sent him to Atlanta to study music                   
and voice with a prominent musician, but Hardy skipped his lessons to sing in a                     
vaudeville house. He was sent to a military college, but ran away from there,                       
also. After toying with college and the idea of studying law, he decided to                         
follow his dream of a singing career.                                                               
In 1910, a movie theater opened in the future 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 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.                                                                       
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 Pathe, 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. The next 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. 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,                       
playing the "heavy" for Larry Semon. In 1919, he separated from his wife, ending                   
with a divorce in 1920, 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, with Myrtle eventually becoming 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, a hot leg of lamb changed the future of both Laurel and Hardy. 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. 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.                                                                                   
In 1927, Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together in Slipping Wives,                     
Duck Soup (no relation to the 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. Whilst                   
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 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.                                         
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 a boat, and the boys set out to sea, where                   
they discover and claim 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.                                                               
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. This                         
weight loss completely changed his appearance. He suffered a major stroke on                       
September 14, which left him confined to bed and unable to speak for several                       
months. He remained at home, being cared for by 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. His                       
remains are located in the Masonic Garden of Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in                     
North Hollywood.                                                                                   
In 2006, BBC Four showed a drama based on Laurel meeting Hardy on his deathbed                     
and reminiscing about their career called Stan.