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Obituaries

From the Archives: Oliver Hardy of Famous Movies Comedy Team Dies

Oliver Hardy, left, and Stan Laurel.
(File photo)

Oliver Hardy, rotund film comedian, died yesterday.

He was 65.

Death came to the portly half of the famed Laurel and Hardy comedy team from the effects of a paralytic stroke he suffered last Sept. 12. So severe was the stroke that it left him almost completely paralyzed. He was unable to speak and could hardly move one arm. He wasted away to a comparative shadow from his comical bumbling bulk which at the height of his fame bulged to 350 pounds.

Wife at Bedside

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At his bedside when Hardy died was his wife, Mrs. Virginia Lucille Hardy, whom he wed 17 years ago when she was a studio script girl. Death occurred at the home of Hardy’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Monnie L. Jones, 5421 Auckland St., North Hollywood, where the comedian and his wife had been living for the last six months.

“It was a blessing for him,” said Mrs. Hardy. “He is finally out of his suffering and he did not suffer at the end. After that stroke 11 months ago, Oliver had another Sunday, and a third yesterday which sent him into a coma. He never emerged from it. His heart just stopped beating.”

Laurel Ailing

And, in an apartment in Malibu, Hardy’s thin, lantern-jawed partner, Stan Laurel, also was ailing yesterday.

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“He’s not well,” reported Mrs. Ida Laurel. “He’s in bed. He heard yesterday that Mr. Hardy had taken a turn for the worse and he was upset about it.”

Laurel is now 67 and his wife said at first she preferred not to ask him to make any statement about the death of his old partner.

Later, however, she quoted him as saying: “What’s there to say? He was like a brother. That’s the end of the history of Laurel and Hardy.”

Suffered Stroke

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Laurel suffered a stroke himself in 1955, but is reported to have almost completely recovered from its effects.

Although they had not made a picture in Hollywood since 1945 when they appeared together in “The Bullfighters,” a comedy that was pieced together with scenes from “Blood and Sand,” popularity of the slapstick team has been soaring again on television.

Their old comedies have received a warm welcome on TV as a new generation chuckles at the antics and situations that tickled theater audiences a quarter of a century ago.

But the arrival of their old films on TV has not netted the slapstick team a nickel it was reported, because, of course, their contracts contained no provisions for television royalties.

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Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in "The Music Box."
(File photo )

Made 200 Films

Over a 20-year period Laurel and Hardy fumbled their way through some 200 films. They began with two-reelers at the Hal Roach Studios and eventually graduated into full-length features. These included “Pardon Us,” “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “Sons of the Desert,” “Babes in Toyland,” “Bonnie Scotland,” “The Bohemian Girl,” “Our Relations,” “Way Out West,” “Great Guns” and many others.

And always the format was the same: Hardy was the elephant on tippy-toe, who always got stuck in upper berths, daintily fingered his necktie, twitched his ridiculously tiny mustache, lost his too-small derby and rushed clumsy gallantry to the distress of fair damsels—only to trip over a broom the simple-minded, open-faced Laurel had left in the way.

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Fair Colleagues

Some of the fair damsels, then just youngsters, whom Laurel and Hardy helped launch to film fame were Lupe Velez, Jean Harlow, Paulette Goddard and Vivian Blaine.

Born in Atlanta, Ga., Hardy spent high school and college vacations trouping through neighboring Southern states with vaudeville acts and minstrel shows. His father insisted that he study law and Hardy graduated from the University of Georgia Law School—and went into show business.

He was in stock for four years and toured the South with his own singing act. He happened to be in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1913 when a movie company was there. They needed a fat comedian. And that was that.

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Team’s Beginning

The die was not permanently cast, however, until Hardy teamed with Laurel in 1927. He had come to Hollywood in 1918, codirecting pictures with Larry Semon and directing a few himself. It was Hal Roach who finally recognized the comedy possibilities of Laurel and Hardy. Laurel, born of an English vaudeville family, had been kicking around the lot as an actor for a few years when the combine was formed.

In their pictures Laurel called him Ollie, but away from the cameras and to everyone the blimplike Hardy was always Babe. Down through the years Laurel and Hardy had always been close friends, being almost psychic in their understanding of each other.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in "Babes in Toyland."
(File photo )
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World-wide Fans

Besides their tremendous following in this country, they command an even wider and deeply loyal world-wide army of fans. Much of their comedy was in pantomime, which always delighted foreign audiences.

In addition to his widow, Hardy leaves only a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Hardy Sage of Atlanta.

Masonic funeral service will be conducted tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Pierce Bros. Beverly Hills Mortuary, followed by cremation and inurnment in Garden of Hope, Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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