Oliver Hardy was born to Scottish/English parents in Harlem, Georgia on January 18, 1892.
His father died less than a year after his birth and this undoubtedly added to his problems as he grew up. Oliver Hardy was an often unruly child, rebellious and prone to running away. He was not interested in education although he showed an early talent for singing and was interested in acting as well. However even when his mother sent him to a prominent musician to be tutored Hardy skipped his lessons to perform in a vaudeville house. After a stint in a military college and toying with the idea of continuing onto law school he decided to instead pursue his singing.
In 1910 a movie theater opened in his hometown of Midgeville and Oliver Hardy soon became a projectionist, ticket-taker, janitor and manager.
He became enthralled with the movie industry but believed he could do a better job than the actors he watched. When a friend suggested he move to Jacksonville to get into movies himself he did just that. Working as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night he worked days at Lubin Studios. It was here Hardy met his first wife, Madelyn Saloshin a pianist.
The next year Oliver Hardy made his first film for Lubin, in which he was billed O. N. Hardy in memorial of his father. He was often called “Babe” Hardy in real life owing to an Italian barber who liked to powder his checks and say “nice-a-baby” after. He was billed a couple times as Babe Hardy as a result. Hardy was no baby though, at one inch over six foot and up to three hundred pounds he was hard to mistaken as anything but a grown man. However his great bulk placed limitations on the roles he could play which lead to plenty of roles as “the heavy” and often villain. In comedy shorts his bulk was used to compliment the character he played.
Oliver Hardy made fifty-one short films at Lubin by 1915 before moving to New York.
In New-York Oliver Hardy worked for Pathé, Casino and Edison Studios before returning to Jacksonville to work for Vim and King Bee studios. He worked with Charlie Chaplin impressionist Billy West during this time, playing “the heavy” often imitating Eric Campbell. In 1917 he moved to Los Angeles working freelance for several studios out there. Later that same year he appeared in ‘The Lucky Dog’ starring Stan Laurel. He played a robber who tried to stick up Laurel’s character. Between 1919 and 1923 he made forty short films for Vitagraph, continuing to play “the heavy” although he had enough time for the infidelity that would lead to his 1920 divorce from his wife. The very next year however Hardy married actress Myrtle Reeves.
In 1924 Oliver Hardy began working for Hal Roach studios. In 1925 he appeared in the film Yes, Yes, Nannette directed by Stan Laurel. In 1926 he was scheduled to appear in a film but was hospitalized by a hot leg of lamb. Stan laurel was recruited to fill in despite having been behind the camera for some time. Later that year they once again appeared in a movie together 45 Minutes from Hollywood.
Photos from http://laurel.hardy.free.fr/
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