Oliver Hardy Overview:

Legendary actor, Oliver Hardy, was born Oliver Norvell Hardy on Jan 18, 1892 in Harlem, GA. Hardy died at the age of 65 on Aug 7, 1957 in North Hollywood, CA and was laid to rest in Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, LA.

Early Life

Oliver Hardy was born Norvell Hardy on January 18th, 1892 in Harlem, Georgia and was the youngest of five children. His father, Oliver, was a veteran Confederate Solider who went on to be elected the Tax Collector for all of Columbia County in Georgia. He died less than a year after young Norvell's birth, causing him to take the name "Oliver" in his father's memory. Hardy's mother, Emily, was then left to take care of her five children alone, finding work as a hotel manager. Hardy was out an out-going, rebellious child with little tolerance for formal education. He was eventually sent to Georgia Military College in the town of Midgeville as a child, then Young Harris College when he was 13, but the rigidity and formality of traditional education held very sway over the free spirited young man. He grew far more interested in music and the theatre, showing a natural aptitude for both at a young age. His mother recognized her son's talents and enlisted Hardy in music and voice lessons with famed Norwegian singer Adlof Dahm-Peterson. However, the scheduled life music lessons also proved to be a bore for Hardy, as he would often skip his lesson in favor of the cinema. During this time he would make some extra spending money by performing with local vaudeville acts.

In his late teen Hardy returned to Midgeville, where luck would have it a movie theater had just opened shop. Hardy easily got a job at the movie house and quickly became the theater's projectionist, box-office receptionist, janitor and eventually manager. He became more and more obsessed with all aspect of the cinema, believing he could perform just as well, and perhaps even better, than those he saw populating the screens at his theater. After friend made the suggestion that Hardy move to Jacksonville, Florida, where a few small recording studios had just opened and soon after, Hardy made the move.

Early Career

In 1913 Hardy arrived in Jacksonville. He hit the preverbal ground running, finding work at multiple performance venues. During the day he toiled away at Lubin Manufacturing Company, a film production and distribution business while at night he could be founding singing at the local cabaret and vaudeville joints in town. In 1914 he made his film debut in the short comedy Outwitting Dad, credited as O.N Hardy. The company enjoyed his work and continued to cast him a myriad of comic shirts. Thanks to tremendous size, six-foot-one and coming in at almost 300 pounds, Hardy was more than a bit limited in the roles the studio would allow him to play and was often cast as the villain. By 1915 the hefty actor had made an appearance in over 50 one-reel comedy films. He eventually moved to New York in hopes of finding more opportunity. He was able to find work quickly with studios such as Pathe and Edison but found the work more or less the same as he was given in Florida. He eventually returned to Florida to star in some short for the Vim Comedy Company but leave soon after. Following the trend of the rest of the film industry, Hardy eventually moved west to the booming film industry of Hollywood.


When he arrived in Hollywood in 1917, Hardy quickly found work as a freelance actor. That year alone he appeared in over 20 films.  In 1918 he began working for American Vitagraph, again playing the antagonist in many of their films. Hardy worked tirelessly for the company, making over 40 films during his five-year stint with the studio, including 1921's The Lucky Dog. In the film he played a robber sticking up none other than his future creative partner, Stan Laurel. Although the two go along well on the shoot, it would be years before they would work together again. In 1924 Hardy moved to Hal Roach Studios and first was put to work on the Our Gang shorts. In 1925 worked on the Chadwick Pictures production of Wizard of Oz, starring as the Villainous Tin Man, a drastic departure from the original source material. The film was a completely flop, doing poorly at the box-office and even worse with critics. Also that year Hardy worked on the  Yes, Yes Nanette and would mark the first time he was directed by Stan Laurel, although they did not act together in it.

Laurel And Hardy

In 1927 Hardy injured himself and was forced to back out of some of his films to allow healing time. Stan Laurel, who was only directing at the time, was asked to step back in front of the camera to pick up of Hardy's slack. When Hardy returned, Laurel remained in front of the camera and was eventually paired with Hardy for the short films Slipping Wives and Duck Soup. The pair became fast friends and their comedic chemistry quickly blossomed. After appearing in a number of films together, director Leo McCarey suggested the two become an official box-office team.  Their first collaboration as the official "team" of Laurel and Hardy was with 1927's Putting Pants on Philip. The two quickly began producing a massive body of work, with Laurel taking control of the creative side of thing, working long into the night both writing and editing their material. By this time, Hal Roach had negotiated a deal with MGM studios to distribute the duos films. The studio then began to heavily promote their new comedy team and released films such as You're Darn Tooin',  Big Business and Double Whooppee featuring a young Jean Harlow. While many silent comedians saw their careers come to an end with the coming of sound, Laurel and Hardy made the successful transition with their 1929 comedy short Unaccustomed As We Are. Laurel upper-crust English accent and Hardy's thick southern accent proved to only enhance the duos comedy. That same year Laurel and Hardy appeared in their first feature length film together, MGM studio's The Hollywood Revue of 1929.   By the end of the decade the duo was so popular that some theaters would bill their films above the features.

Feature Films

After years of working in the short-film format, in 1931 Laurel and Hardy made their first feature film as first billed with Pardon Us. The next year they starred in a three reel short comedy The Music Box. The film was the first ever to win the Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Comedy in 1932. For the next four years Laurel and Hardy would star in both feature and short length films, keeping incredibly busy. In 1933 the duo not only starred in the feature film Sons of Desert but seven short films as well. The teams biggest hit came two years later with 1935's Thicker Than Water. Their massive production would come to a halt by the mid-1930s, after Laurel was let go from his contract due to a heated dispute with Hal Roach. Because the Laurel and Hardy maintained separate contract with differing stipulations, as was engineered by Roach to keep the stars from gaining too much leverage over their own careers, Hardy remained with Roach. In 1936 he starred with Harry Langdon for the comedy Zenbia. Although the film was fairly successful, the public still wished for their favorite comedic duo to be back in the spotlight.  Laurel eventually return to the studio and the pair would make two more films, A Chump at Oxford and Saps at Sea

After leaving Hal Roach, Laurel and Hardy returned to their roots: the stage, touring the nation from 1940-1941. During that time they also signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to make 10 films in five years. Although they originally hoped for some creative freedom, most of the films became increasing formulaic. With films such as A-Haunting We Go and Nothing But Trouble, it became increasing clear that the duo had lost much of creative control and were now mere props, holding together the film the best they could. However bleak their film career may have been at that moment, Laurel and Hardy did find some solace on the stage performed for hundreds of service men during World War Two. They would make their last American film together in 1945 with The Bullfighter.

Later Career

Now with their contract obligations met, the two headed east to Laurel's homeland for their first tour of England. The six-week venture was massive success and includes a Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Due to the success of the tour, they would continue to work primarily on the stage for the next seven years. Hardy also returned to the silver screen, sans Laurel, as a supporting player in the John Wayne vehicle The Fighting Kentuckian. The role showed audiences that their comedic hero could also be a fine dramatic actor. The next year he made an uncredited cameo appearance in the Frank Capra film Riding High. Hardy would make his final film with Laurel in the 1951 French production Utopia.

In the 1950s the duo remained absent from the screen but toured relentlessly as they were still popular with the stage crowds. Unfortunately, their degenerating health often got in the way of performance.  In 1953 Laurel became ill and was forced to back out of several tour dates. The next year Hardy had a heart attack and was forced to cancel their 1954 tour all together. Although Hardy began taking care of himself in 1956, much of the damage was already done and even 150 lbs of weight loss could not counteract the years of damage done to his body. Later that year, he suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and mute for months. The next year he would suffer two more before slipping into a coma he would never wake from. Oliver Hardy died on August 7th, 1957. He was 65 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Hardy was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1991. He appears on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Hardy was never nominated for an Academy Award.

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Oliver Hardy Quotes:

Ollie: We'll all go down to Dixie. Oh, for a slice of possum and yam. Mm!
Stan: Yes sir, and some good old fish and chips. I can smell 'em.
Ollie: [disgusted] Fish and chips!

Ollie Sr.: Will you brats keep quiet? How do you expect me to concentrate?

Ollie: [to Stan] Come on! Let's reconoiter.

read more quotes from Oliver Hardy...

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Oliver Hardy Facts
Billy Wilder planned on doing a film with him and Stan Laurel in the 1950s. The film would have opened with each of them sleeping in one of the letter O's of the Hollywood sign. The plot centered on a woman coming between them. The project was aborted owing to Ollie's failing health.

The annual "Oliver Hardy Festival" is held in Harlem, Georgia. http://www.harlemga.org/ohfest.htm

Oliver Hardy was born in the town of Harlem, Georgia on January 18, 1892. Although the building no longer stands, a plaque was placed in front of the city hall in his memory.

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