The boys conquered sound with great short subjects in 1929-35 and on to even greater popularity. Babe made use of his fine voice by singing in a number of their films. His twiddle of the tie and his “camera look” technique were all there. He had a stubborn attitude and played a know-it-all, who’s behavior always got the boys in a mess. That unmistakable genius, along with their feature films in the 30’s into the 40’s, made Laurel and Hardy the great comedy team we know and love today.
I had a brief experience in acting. Namely, I appeared in 2 plays as a kid. When I was about 13, I took part in a community play as the prince in “Cinderella” in 1983. Now, that was a pretty big part with plenty of lines to memorize. We had about three performances of the show. One of these nights, I took the liberty of incorporating some of Babe’s usual mannerisms into my performance. I think it was the same night my family came to watch me. I made some of the same facial gestures, and moved my body like Babe did. I wondered if anyone in the audience could tell. Was Ollie watching from above? He was probably laughing. After all, he was an imitator once too. As you now know, Babe was the notorious Eric Campbell imitator in the Billy West era. In february 1940, Babe divorced Myrtle and married Lucille Virginia Jones. He stayed with Lucille for the rest of his life. That year, the boys left Roach and, unfortunately, made features at MGM and 20th century fox. It was a bad situation because the boys had no say in the creative end of the films. The result, in my opinion, was a series of awful features.
Since the Laurel and Hardy teaming, Ollie appeared in a small amount films without Stan. In 1928, he played the part of a startled drunk in the MGM release “Barnum & Ringling, Inc.”. He had a cameo in the 1932 Our Gang film “Choo-Choo!”. He co-starred with Harry Langdon in the 1939 Hal Roach/United Artists film “Zenobia” and played Dr. Tibbitt who took care of a sick elephant. In 1949, he appeared with John Wayne in “The Fighting Kentuckian”. In 1950, Babe had a cameo as a racetrack gambler in “Riding High”, produced and directed by Frank Capra. It starred Bing Crosby with Coleen Gray. The last Laurel and Hardy film was 1951’s disastrous “Atoll K”.
In 1956, Babe suffered a massive stroke. He died on August 7th 1957.
Oliver Norvell Hardy is recognized by Laurel and Hardy fans worldwide. There are “Tents” around the globe honoring the team’s work. In Babe’s hometown of Harlem, there’s a Oliver Hardy festival on the 1st Saturday of October each year with dances, parades, and arts and crafts.
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