It is over seventy years since the heyday of Laurel and Hardy yet their movies are still popular, still make us laugh, still surprise us with their brilliant inventiveness. The essence of their humor is the physical differences between the two men. Stan Laurel was the thin one, seemingly short, although actually of average height but short compared to the six feet two inch, 300lb bulk of Oliver Hardy. Their mannerisms also made uks laugh. Stan with his ‘fright’ hair and tendency to high pitched crying, Ollie with his slow, pompous manner, nervous tie twiddling and slow, burning looks directly at the camera, bringing us, the audience into the action.
For thirty years from the mid 1920’s when they were first paired up (initially by accident until the producer, Hal Roach realised how funny they were together), they made over seventy short comedies together and over twenty feature length films. Their one Oscar was for ‘The Music Box’ in 1932, which became one of their best known images – the two men pushing a piano up a seemingly endless staircase.
One of their best known comic routines, which became one of their trademarks, was the ‘Tit for Tat’, controlled violence routine. The best example of this is in one of their earliest works, ‘Big Business’ in 1929. The pair destroy a house gradually as the home owner gradually destroys their car. The escalating violence is genuinely funny.