Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Doll-A-Day 63: Oscar Week: Laurel and Hardy

  Today's doll is really two. Laurel and Hardy by Hamilton.

These dolls were made in 1991. They're about 12" tall. The clothing is really well made, and all removeable---unfortunately! Oliver Hardy's pants keep falling off!
If they only talked these dolls would be just about perfect.
I really love these dolls.They really look like Laurel and Hardy.

Laurel and Hardy's 1932 short "The Music Box", a classic comedy about the pair trying to get a piano up a massive flight of stairs on a hill side, won the first Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy). Incidentally, the stairs were real,and are still there. They're in Los Angeles, and connect Vendome Street (at the base of the hill) with Descanso Drive (at the top of the hill), and are located at 923-925 Vendome Street near the intersection of Del Monte Street. A  plaque commemorating their use in the film is located on one of the steps near the bottom, and a sign at the top of the hill reads "Music Box Steps".Contrary to popular belief, they are not the same steps used by the Three Stooges in "An Ache in Every Stake", although both are in the Silver Lake district. (The Stooges try to deliver ice to the house at the top of the steps, but by the time they reach the top the huge block has become an ice cube.) The Stooges steps are about 2 miles away from the Laurel and Hardy steps, on Fair Oak View Terrace.
  In 1961 Stan Laurel won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. (Oliver Hardy had died in 1957.)

Stan at home with his Oscar.
  Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in Ulverston England in 1890. His father was a theatre manager, and eventually moved the family to Glasgow, where he managed the Metropole Theatre when Stan was very small. Stan longed to take to the stage himself, and worked up a comedy act as a boy. His father however, refused to put him on stage at his theatre. As a teenager Stan finally took his talents to a rival theatre, where he did his act, full of stolen jokes, and also stolen pants: Stan had stolen a pair of his father's best checked trousers and cut them down to fit him for his act, a typical 'baggy pants comic' act of the era. (The baggy pants, bowler hat and cane were all popular comic accoutrements.They were not only copied by Stan,but by another comic we'll talk about in a minute.) Unbeknownst to Stan, his father had come by to visit his friend and rival theatre owner only moments before Stan was to take the stage. When Stan finished his act he found his father waiting for him. He was so frightened by the sight of his father that he dropped his hat, (also his father's.), and proceeded to kick it into the orchestra pit, where it was stepped on by the orchestra leader, who had tried to retrieve it. Stan then rushed off stage, catching his father's frock coat on a hook and tearing it in half. The audience thought it was part of the act, and loved it. Afterward, the senior Mr. Jefferson had to admit that his son had talent, and Stan was encouraged to be an actor. In 1910 Stan joined the famous Fred Karno theatre troupe, working as understudy to that other 'baggy pants comic' who had stolen the bowler hat and baggy pants look, and who beat Stan to stardom in Hollywood: Charlie Chaplin.

Stan kneeling on the left, and Charlie Chaplin in the life preserver.
   Stan later changed his name to 'Laurel' because 'Stan Jefferson' had 13 letters and might be bad luck! Stan's name and number were in the phone book, and in his later years many fans, (which included the famous, such as Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis.), called, or even stopped by to talk. Stan answered all his fan mail. He typed his letters himself,on his home typewriter.
   Stan passed away in 1965. Dick Van Dyke,who had become a good friend, gave the eulogy. Dick performed his Stan Laurel impression many times on his own TV show and others. Stan said that "if they ever make a movie of my life, and I hope they don't," that he wanted Dick to play him.  

  Oliver Norvell Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia in 1892. His friends called him Babe. Originally it was thought Oliver was destined to be a  singer. He began singing professionally as a boy. In 1910 he worked as a manager (and every other job) at a local movie theatre and eventually decided acting was for him. He continued to sing throughout his career though,and sang in quite a few Laurel and Hardy films.(Laurel and Hardy even had a hit record in England in 1975, years after both had died, with "Trail of the Lonesome Pine", from their 1937 film "Way Out West". It got to number 2 on the charts.)

  In 1913 Oliver ended up traveling to Florida, which was a huge film making center in those days. He started working for the Lubin studios, usually playing the villain. In 1917 Oliver moved to Los Angeles and the same year appeared as the robber in a short called "Lucky Dog". The short starred Stan Laurel.
Oliver robs Stan in "Lucky Dog".
The two didn't work together again for several years, and then only in separate scenes in the same film. Oliver even appeared in a film Stan directed. But it wasn't until 1927 that they were put together intentionally as costars.From then on they were a team.

  Oliver appeared solo in only a couple of films after their teaming. Stan never appeared solo again, although he had had his own series of shorts before their work together.
  Tomorrow we'll continue with Oscar Week.

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