Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oliver Hardy

Updated Below.

August 7 is the 50th anniversary of Oliver Hardy's death. Ed Wynn once said that a comedian isn't a man who opens a funny door, he's a man who opens a door funny. Oliver Hardy could open a door, or do anything else, funny. Like Jack Benny, he was more of a comic actor than a comedian. His ability was not creating gags or directing pictures, but taking a situation and finding where the laughs were.

He had a very expressive face, one that communicated his thoughts without needing words. His hands were things of beauty, always swooping in graceful arcs, his fingers adding additional filigrees to his gestures.

As animators, we value funny movement, so naturally, we have reasons to value Oliver Hardy.

Mark Evanier contributes his thoughts on the anniversary of Hardy's death.

Update: Børge Ring wrote me the following:

In 1948 I was a young jazz guitarist freelancing on Copenhagen Radio. During a guest program I accompanied
Laurel and Hardy, Oliver Hardy stood before my music stand. He was so big that if I wanted to have a look at the studio audience I had to lean sideways. The two master comedians sang the old cowboy song "Home on the Range" (in C-major).

They were touring Europe and during their stay in Paris Stan Laurel received a letter from the (then) unknown pantomime artist Marcel Marceau who wrote: "I have learned everything from you and Chaplin. We have a tiny theatre in the suburb. Won't you come on friday afternoon at 4 and have a look?" Stan went and saw.

Next day he clapped a press conference together at Hotel Hilton where he presented Marceau to the journalists telling them what he thought about Marcel's pantomime art. This started Marceau on his successful career.


Andrew said...

I find it terribly sad that most young animators these days, if you ask them, have never even heard of Laurel and Hardy. I was raised on them, and I have made sure that my kids have also been raised on them (my kids love them). To say they were comic geniuses is an understatement; they should be required learning for anyone studying animation, or writing or directing animated films. They were pure, clean minded and humble, and I still miss them whenever I think of them.

Mark Mayerson said...

Until recently, Laurel and Hardy were not represented at all on DVD in North America. While some of their films are now available, the bulk of their films for Hal Roach (their best work) are not and the ones that are have been taken from TV prints with edits and added fade-outs for commercials.

By contrast, in Europe, the complete Laurel and Hardy films for Hal Roach have been available in German, Dutch and English in box sets.

While I agree that animators should study film comedy made prior to the present day, in the case of Laurel and Hardy the animators are not completely at fault. The rights holders have to bear the bulk of the blame.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

I can't believe that it's possible for people NOT to know them. Here in Belgium, they're part of the common knowledge, though usually not as L&H, but as "den dikke en den dunne", which means "the fat one and the thin one". The concept of "den dikke en den dunne" is actually so popular that it inspired tons and tons of jokes not directly related to their work, so that even the smallest child knows about them before even having seen one of their films. Or at least that was the case a decade ago, when I was a child.

Their work is absolutely magical, so thanks for bringing them to my attention again.