Laurel and Hardy (series)
Synopsis of Movie
“There's another nice mess you've gotten us into!”
Slim and stout, British and Georgian, dumb and dumber… Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Comedy duos have always thrived on opposites, but Laurel and Hardy raised their oddball pairing to an art form. In a series of over 100 shorts and features from 1927 to 1950, Stan and Ollie defined what a comic tandem should be, sending audiences into laughing fits with their anarchic slapstick comedy.
Stan Laurel had gotten his start in London vaudeville, touring with the same company as Charlie Chaplin. When the tour hit America, Stan decided to stay, ending up at Hal Roach Studios, home of the Our Gang shorts and other comedy classics. Meanwhile, Oliver Hardy had been finding work as a comic heavy for the Lubin film company in Florida, and after moving to Hollywood, he too ended up at Hal Roach Studios.
Laurel and Hardy’s first on-screen pairing came in The Lucky Dog, a short from the late teens that cast Ollie in a small role as a stickup man robbing Stan, but the first true “Laurel and Hardy” short didn’t arrive until a decade later. Several comedy shorts were produced as Stan and Ollie’s partnership became official, but 1927’s Putting Pants on Philip is generally regarded as their first starring role as a team.
In this silent short, the obnoxious J. Piedmont Mumblethumber (Ollie) insists that his visiting Scottish nephew Philip (Stan) shed his kilt for a proper pair of trousers. This being a true Laurel and Hardy film, escalating slapstick mayhem results, but it in no way compared to the chaotic insanity of another 1927 short, The Battle of the Century.
The Battle of the Century casts lanky, hapless Stan as a prizefighter, with Ollie as his manager. When Ollie realizes that the real money is to be had in insurance fraud, he tries to arrange an “accident” for his pugilistic protégé. A pie delivery man accidentally slips on a banana peel intended for Stan, the pies start flying in retaliation, and soon an entire city block is engulfed in what may be the most enormous and hilarious pie fight ever committed to film.
Laurel and Hardy made literally dozens of shorts over the next few years, earning star billing in 1928’s From Soup To Nuts, another food-based frenzy that had the boys playing waiters at a high society dinner party. Later that same year, Should Married Men Go Home? (in which a golf game devolves into a mud fight) became the first short officially labeled as a “Laurel and Hardy” film.
The pair released several more silent masterpieces in the late 20’s—We Faw Down, The Finishing Touch, Two Tars, Big Business (which cast the two as disgruntled Christmas tree salesmen who end up destroying an obnoxious customer’s home) and more—and the coming of the sound era only solidified their reputation as comic geniuses. Stan’s whiny tenor and Ollie’s slow-burning bombast were perfectly suited to talkies, and the duo continued to turn out gems like Brats (which had the two playing themselves and their obnoxious sons), Men O’War, Them Thar Hills and A Perfect Day.
As Laurel and Hardy became world-famous, their work expanded into feature films, starting with Pardon Us in 1931. Released during Prohibition, the film finds Stan and Ollie jailed for selling home-brewed beer to a policeman. Stan’s loose tooth makes his fellow prisoners think he’s giving them raspberries, but a tough prisoner called The Tiger takes a liking to Stan’s sass. When their new ally makes an escape attempt, Stan and Ollie come along, but their troubles are far from over.
Laurel and Hardy continued to make features for Hal Roach Studios through the rest of the 1930’s, including the gut-busting classics Sons of the Desert (1933) and Way Out West (1937). In the former, a loose remake of the silent We Faw Down, Stan and Ollie play delegates to the Chicago convention of the “Sons of the Desert,” a fraternal lodge. When Ollie’s wife makes other plans for the family, Ollie decides to fake sickness. Stan brings in a veterinarian to prescribe a trip to Hawaii, an ocean trip that Mrs. Hardy wouldn’t be able to stomach. Smug in their “brilliance,” Stan and Ollie head for the convention, little knowing that the ocean liner they were supposedly traveling on has sunk in mid-voyage.
In Way Out West, Stan and Ollie are charged with delivering the deed to a gold mine to the orphaned waif Mary Roberts. Due to their chronic incompetence, the two are tricked into giving the deed to the wife of saloon owner Mickey Finn. When Stan and Ollie happen upon the real Mary, they decide to atone for their mistake by stealing back the deed from the unscrupulous Finn.
Even during their feature years, Laurel and Hardy continued to make short films, winning an Academy Award for what many consider to be their finest work, 1932’s The Music Box. As a pair of bumbling movers, Stan and Ollie have been hired to move a piano up a ridiculously long flight of stairs to the home of an ill-tempered professor. One wrong-headed move after another keeps the piano tumbling back down the stairs, but even after reaching the top, the piano hasn’t finished causing its share of misfortune.
After a series of contractual disagreements, Laurel and Hardy left Hal Roach Studios in the early 1940’s. The two continued to make films, acting in features like Great Guns (1941), A-Haunting We Will Go (1942), Jitterbugs (1943) and Nothing But Trouble (1944) for 20th Century Fox and Paramount. The duo’s popularity had ebbed, however, as new teams like Abbott and Costello came into vogue. By 1950, the two were forced to work in France to film their final feature, Atoll K (released in the U.S. as Utopia).
Thanks to television, Laurel and Hardy came back into popularity in the 1950’s, shortly before Oliver Hardy’s death in 1957. They have remained in the spotlight ever since, proving that as much as tastes in comedy may change, the sight of a skinny man and a fat man smacking each other around will always be funny.
Movie Release History1927 - Putting Pants on Philip (short)
1927 - The Battle of the Century (short)
1928 - From Soup To Nuts (short)
1928 - Should Married Men Go Home? (short)
8/15/31 - Pardon Us!
1932 - The Music Box (short)
9/17/32 - Pack Up Your Troubles!
1933 - Sons of the Desert
5/3/33 - Fra Diavolo ( The Devil's Brother )
11/30/34 - Babes in Toyland ( Revenge Is Sweet , March of the Wooden Soldiers )
1935 - Bonnie Scotland
2/14/36 - The Bohemian Girl
10/30/36 - Our Relations
1937 - Way Out West
5/21/37 - Pick a Star
1938 - Swiss Miss
1938 - Blockheads
10/20/39 - The Flying Deuces
2/16/40 - A Chump at Oxford
5/3/40 - Saps at Sea
1941 - Great Guns
1942 - A-Haunting We Will Go
1943 - Jitterbugs
1944 - Nothing But Trouble
1950 - Atoll K
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
Movie StudioHal Roach Studios, Pathé, MGM, 20th Century Fox
CastStan Laurel Himself
Oliver Hardy Himself