skip navigation
Laurel and Hardy Profile
Remind Me
,Chump at Oxford, A

Laurel and Hardy Profile
* Films in Bold Type will air on 8/23

Stardates: Laurel: Born June 16, 1890, in Ulverston, Cumbria, England; died 1965.
Hardy: Born January 18, 1892, in Harlem, Georgia; died 1957.
Star Signs: Gemini (Laurel); Capricorn (Hardy)
Star Qualities: The peerless comic rapport, the blend of visual and character-related comedy, the pure fun of their zany partnership.
Star Definition: "In 104 films they never ran out of comic ideas, insane invention, charming conceits." – Garson Kanin
Galaxy of Characters: Stan and Ollie in The Music Box (1932), Sons of the Desert (1933), Way Out West (1938), A Chump at Oxford (1939).

Film critic David Robinson wrote of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's onscreen relationship, and the often-repetitious gags they used to illustrate it, that they "gradually grow upon one until they are hilarious, irresistible, looked-for and cherished." Laurel ("Stan") was the thin, anxious, bumbling one; Hardy ("Ollie") the plump, would-be elegant lady-killer whose reaction to his pal's antics was a patented "slow burn." Together the two would sink hilariously into some "fine mess" usually initiated by Laurel but only made worse by Hardy's infuriated reactions.

Laurel (1890-1965), considered the creative half of the team, was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, England. After making his stage debut at age 16 in Glasgow, Scotland, he found steady work as an actor and music-hall performer. He became Charlie Chaplin's understudy during a 1912 tour of America by the Fred Karno company, and remained in the U.S. to work in vaudeville before making his movie debut in 1917. In his early comedy shorts, he established the character of a twitterpated misfit who wore oversized clothes. By the time he made his first film with Hardy, A Lucky Dog (1921), Laurel was a star while his future partner was still a supporting player.

Hardy (1892-1957) was born Oliver Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Ga., and was a professional performer in minstrel shows by the age of eight. Abandoning plans to study law, he toured in stock before entering films in 1914. Before teaming with Laurel, he played villains and other supporting roles, serving as second banana to such comics as Harry Myers, Billy West and Larry Semon.

The Laurel/Hardy partnership began in earnest at the Hal Roach Studios in the mid-1920s as the inspiration of director Leo McCarey. After acting together as part of the Roach stock company, they made their first short as a team, Putting Pants on Philip (1927), and remained together through more than 100 films, 27 of which were features.

The Laurel/Hardy short The Music Box (1932) won the Academy Award in the newly established category of Short Subject (Live Action), Comedy. The team's first comic romp to be extended into feature-length was Pardon Us (1931). Generally considered the best (and most lucrative) of their features are Sons of the Desert (1933), in which the boys play henpecked husbands who sneak off to attend a hell-raising convention in Chicago; and Way Out West (1937), in which they struggle with crooks over the deed to a gold mine. The latter film includes an Oscar®-nominated original musical score by Laurel/Hardy veteran Marvin Hatley.

Among the team's other features is A Chump at Oxford (1940), a spoof of MGM's 1938 Robert Taylor romance A Yank at Oxford in which they play street-sweepers who try to elevate their lives by attending night school. Shortly after this film, Laurel and Hardy ended their association with Roach and made several features for MGM and 20th Century Fox, where they failed to duplicate their earlier successes. Their last film together was an obscure 1950 French/Italian production variously known as Atoll K, Robinson Crusoe-Land and Utopia. The team was making plans for a movie comeback in the mid-1950s when Hardy suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.

by Roger Fristoe