Babe Hardy began his acting career in Jacksonville, Florida, which was the center of the movie industry before it found its way to Hollywood, California.
Born as Norvell Hardy, Babe added his father’s name to his movie credits to become Oliver Hardy. His first film was a 1914 comedy called “Outwitting Dad.”
Moving to Hollywood, in 1927 he teamed up with an English comedian named Stan Laurel. They made 107 shorts and feature films together.
Standing at 6-feet-1 and weighing 300 pounds, Babe Hardy was quite a contrast to Stan Laurel’s skinny, 5-foot-8 frame.
Born Arthur Stanley Jefferson, superstitious Stan changed his name to Laurel because Stan Jefferson contained an unlucky 13 letters. He’d worked in British music halls as an understudy to Charlie Chaplin before coming to America (on the same ship as Chaplin). Charlie stayed; Stan returned a few years later, eager to break into movies.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy first appeared together for the first time in a 1921 film called “The Lucky Dog,” however they didn’t become comedy partners until a 1927 silent short titled “The Second Hundred Years.” Their chemistry clicked, Stan playing the whiny innocent man-child and Ollie acting as the oversized bully.
The pair’s familiar catch phrase – “Another Fine Mess” – came from a 1930 comedy short of the same name.
Now there’s a new biopic that tells their story in funny detail. You will find “Stan and Ollie” currently playing at Tropic Cinema.
John C. Reilly (“Holmes & Watson”) and Steve Coogan (“Philomena”) team up to impersonate the eponymous duo.
The storyline looks at Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy late in their career as they attempt a comeback with a tour of Britain and Ireland. While the 1953 trip secured their place in the hearts of an adoring public, it also turned out to be their Swan Song. Bad luck and bad health followed.
The transformation of Coogan and Reilley into Stan and Ollie took some time in the makeup chair.
“I have a fake chin, and then I had these gums on the lower teeth that pushed my jaw out slightly because he had a different face,” says Steve Coogan. “And I had the tips of my ears slightly wider, so my ears bend out slightly the way Stan’s did. And contact lenses too.” Stan had pale blue eyes; Coogan’s are brown.
But John C. Reilly had to undergo three hours in the makeup chair every morning to become Ollie. “I’ve had things that took a long time, but not like this, not every single day a complete transformation. That was another one of the reasons I was wondering if I was the right guy for this job because I last about 15 minutes in a makeup chair in general. I get very impatient. I would tell myself ‘Oliver Oliver Oliver Oliver.’ It’s for him, it’s for the legacy of this guy, this beautiful person who didn’t quite get his due when he was alive. This is a way to help people understand who he was. That discomfort was worth getting to do that.”
So what is the legacy of Stan Laurel and Oliver “Babe” Hardy?
This: Entertainment Weekly’s readers ranked Laurel and Hardy as the 45th Greatest Movie Star(s) of All Time.