( United States: Stan Laurel: 1890- 1965; Oliver Hardy: 1892- 1957)
The team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy is generally considered the greatest screen comedy team; the precision of their timing, the exquisiteness of their acting, and the surprisingly subtle nuances they achieved in their contrasting characters has made them respected -- hallowed, almost -- in a way Abbott and Costello (skillful, though decidedly lowbrow) or Martin and Lewis (occasionally clever, overly commercial, a bit crass) are not. They managed this without ever slipping into the artsy pretentiousness that sometimes undercuts Chaplin's appeal or reaching Buster Keaton's pinnacle of art in front of, as well as behind, the camera.
The idea of such a Fat and Skinny team was nothing new when Laurel and Hardy paired off for the first time at Hal Roach's studio in 1926. In fact, Hardy himself had tried just such a routine with the all-but-forgotten Bobby Ray several years earlier. Their films were mediocre, so each went his separate way. Oliver Norvell Hardy, born in Harlem, Georgia, in 1892, had earlier considered careers as everything from soprano to lawyer to professional soldier, eventually managing a movie theater. Watching others act, he wondered whether perhaps he could do it too. So he headed for Jacksonville, Florida, finding work with the local Lubin film company. Then, touring in such roles as the Tin Woodsman in a 1925 Wizard of Oz, he landed a job with Hal Roach.
Arthur Stanley Jefferson, born in Ulberstone, Lancastershire, England, in 1890, came from England with the Fred Karno Company, the same troupe of