Between Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, it all started in 1926 with a leg of lamb. Laurel and Hardy act together in ten films, but without a scene in common. And one day, the duo’s alchemy occurs… The biographer of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Roland Lacourbe, whose reference essay was published by Éditions de l’Archipel on the occasion of the release of the biopic Stan and Ollie , tells their true story.
Laurel and Hardy, from simple friendship to filmmaking projects
Initially, Laurel was Hardy. That is, Laurel, in his burlesque shorts where he was alone, was a domineering character. And all of a sudden, along with Hardy, he finds himself under him, under the dominance of this imposing character in his stature, in his size. In most of their work, there is always a mixture of humor. One day, Hardy, who enjoys cooking a lot, burns his hand while cooking a leg of lamb. he said “help help, I hurt myself”. He is therefore forced to go to the hospital and cannot shoot the following Monday. An actor is thus missing to shoot. Laurel is asked to reprise the role. He refuses. We give him an additional stamp. He ends up accepting. They thus act in a dozen films, sometimes without even a common plan, side by side but not yet together. And then, in the movie The Two Detectives, chemistry takes hold and we see Laurel and Hardy as we know them, the comedic duo. Gradually, the interactions and the dramatic springs will develop between them, and especially with the speaking turn that they take admirably, they play with the dialogues and the staging. «
Roles are well distributed and well defined
Laurel was the brains of the couple, yes. Laurel was paid almost double Hardy. And Hardy readily admitted that Laurel was intellectually superior to him. Hardy was an extremely warm character who very much enjoyed human relationships. While Laurel was perhaps a little difficult at times. Laurel, he’s someone who doesn’t think like a human being. There’s even a sequence in Way Out West where Laurel is locked in a closet and Hardy is looking everywhere for him, can’t find him. He eventually opens the door, finds it in the closet and says, « But why didn’t you call ? » Laurel told him, “It was so dark I thought you couldn’t hear me.” It totally defines Laurel’s otherworldly personality. Laurel wrote his gags, his scripts, and when Hardy arrived in the morning, he chatted with him and showed him his finds. Hardy always thought it was great. And finally, they were rehearsing together, and they were going around like that. One of Hardy’s favorite things was the camera gaze, the look of exasperation. Laurel knew that, and took advantage of it to delay filming those shots as much as possible in the evening so that they were real looks of exasperation. During the great period of their shootings, between 1928 and 1940, they worked together, got along perfectly well, but in the evening, Laurel, at the end of the shoot, went behind her typewriter to write the gags of the next day, while Hardy, a big fan of golf, left the studio to go play golf.
A very sad ending
Laurel and Hardy didn’t really date each other until after their careers. Around 1946-47, the cinema is practically finished for them. An English producer, Bernard Delfond, will offer them a theatrical tour. They will live at the hotel for a year, and get to know each other much better. The true birth of their friendship dates from this period. It must be said that the end of Laurel and Hardy is very sad because they were sick for a long time, and lately they hardly saw each other. Laurel ended his life in 1965, and he continued to write for Laurel and Hardy throughout his life. There are pages and pages of gags, of finds, of scripts, of exchanging lines, for films that do not exist.