Laurel and Hardy were two comedians who quickly became very famous during the time period of the American cinema. The team consisted of two people a slender man from Britain who was named Stan Laurel and a stout man from America, named Oliver Hardy. Hardy was born in America while Laurel was born in England. Stan Laurel was originally named Arthur Stan Jefferson and he was influenced by the comedic style of Charlie Chaplin. Unlike Charlie Chaplin though, their work had no political or social undertones. They were simply interested in making an audience laugh, which they were very effective at.
Stan Laurel was born in 1860 while Oliver Hardy was born in 1892. Just like Stan, Oliver changed his name for the stage. He was originally known as Norvell Hardy but later took on his father’s name of Oliver. Stan started his career in Glasgow before moving to America. Both men signed with Hal Roach studio which produced a movie short in which they both acted. They became very famous during the 1920s and into the 1940s. The comedy they played was known as slapstick. In other words it was physical comedy similar to what had been seen previously with Charlie Chaplin.
The underlying premise of their comedy was that of two friends that embodied foolishness yet optimism. While Hardy played the arrogant fussy man, Laurel played the childlike simpleton. This combination proved to be highly successful and universally appealing. In real life though their personalities were actually the reverse of the characters they played, with Stan Laurel being the more serious one of the two.
They also wore light makeup on their faces reminiscent of the pale faces of clowns. They dressed distinctively as well and both wore bowler hats. Laurel was involved in the production process and was also interested in a surrealistic approach, often using strange dialogue which functioned to increase the hilarity of the piece. In general their work consisted of physical slapstick comedy with simple plots and dialogue. Inevitably something would go wrong in their plans. The duo used their different physicality, expressions, accents and mannerisms to accentuate each situation they found themselves in.
Laurel and Hardy worked together casually until 1927 when they became an official team and comedy pair. That year they acted in their first movie together that was called The Second Hundred Years. They became very popular during the silent era of movies. The advent of sound in movies helped the two men further accentuate their act by taking on various mannerisms and sayings that added to the comedy. The fact that they had such different accents also helped add to the routine, with Laurel having an English accent and Hardy having a southern United States accent.
For many years they were in short comedy shows. Laurel and Hardy acted together in over 100 films, 23 of which were full feature films. This very successful pair remains famous today, with many Laurel and Hardy clubs being found around the world.