Laurel and Hardy

Laurel and Hardy: Ollie the Athlete

Although both comics played golf, Hardy had a passion for the game and was considered one of the better golfers in Hollywood, often playing with Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Chico Marx, and even Babe Ruth when Ruth was visiting on the west coast.

He won over two dozen area golf tournaments and two gold cups.

Stan Laurel factoid: few people known that the comic was an amateur hydroponist.
Stan Laurel factoid: few people known that the comic was an amateur hydroponist.

Stan Laurel the Kitchen Chemist

While Oliver Hardy’s passion was golf, Stan Laurel loved to fish, raise ducks, and experiment with hydroponic gardening, the process of growing plants and vegetables in liquid solutions instead of soil.

He once cross bred an onion and a potato, but abandoned the project when he couldn’t convince anyone to sample his new creation.

“If any of you cry at my funeral, I’ll never speak to you again!”

— Stan Laurel

Goodbye Stan and Ollie…

The Stan & Ollie movie showed the pair of comedians during their 1952 tour to England. Oliver Hardy is played by veteran actor John C. Reilly, familiar to many movie-lovers for his roles in The Perfect Storm, Chicago, Boogie Nights, and many other films. British actor Steve Coogan plays the part of Stan Laurel.

When the real Laurel and Hardy undertook their 1952 tour, they were in their 60s and facing financial difficulties and health problems. Both men had been heavy smokers during their lives, and the long term effects were beginning to surface. Stan had been diagnosed as a diabetic in 1947 and would struggle with the affliction for the rest of his life.

Stan had spent much of his fortune on his health problems, ex-wives and failed marriages, and Ollie had lost many thousands of dollars betting on horses.

John C. Reilly stars as Oliver Hardy in Stan & Ollie.
John C. Reilly stars as Oliver Hardy in Stan & Ollie.

In May 1954, Ollie suffered a mild heart attack, but recovered. In the spring of 1955, Stan suffered a stroke that left him weak and partly paralyzed on his left side, but he largely recovered by year’s end. The duo were considering going back to work, but in 1956 it was Ollie who suffered a major stroke that left him unable to speak and paralyzed him to the point he was bed-confined for the rest of his life. Stan later revealed that Hardy was also fighting cancer during the last few years of his life.

Oliver Hardy died in bed on August 7, 1957. Stan was devastated and his doctors, fearing for his own health, told him to rest at home and not attend his beloved partner’s funeral. Stan reluctantly followed their counsel, telling friends Ollie would understand.

Stan, without his best friend and comedic partner, went into a deep depression, suffering a nervous breakdown. He never performed again, and never wore his trademark bowler hat.

Stan lived out his final years in a small apartment in Santa Monica, largely staying out of the public view. He did, however, engage in regular correspondence with his fans who’d tracked him down, always taking the time time personally respond with a typed letter or signed photo.

On February 23, 1965, nearly nine years after the death of his lifelong best friend, Stan Laurel had a heart attack and passed away a few days later.

Questions & Answers

Question: Did Stan write material for Abbott and Costello?

Answer: Although Stan Laurel was friendly with other comedians such as Jerry Lewis and Dick Van Dyke, I’m not aware of him being particularly close to, or writing material for Abbott and Costello.

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