Oliver Hardy

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Oliver Hardy (January 18, 1892 – August 7, 1957) was an American comic actor famous as one half of Laurel and Hardy, the classic double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted nearly 30 years, from 1927 to 1955.

Contents

Childhood

Oliver Hardy was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia. His father, Oliver, was a Confederate veteran wounded at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. After his demobilization as a recruiting officer for Company K, 16th Georgia Regiment, the elder Oliver Hardy assisted his father in running the vestiges of the family cotton plantation, bought a share in a retail business and was elected full-time Tax Collector for Columbia County. His mother, Emily Norvell, the daughter of Thomas Benjamin Norvell and Mary Freeman, was descended from Captain Hugh Norvell of Williamsburg, Virginia. Her family arrived in Virginia before 1635. Their marriage took place on March 12, 1890; it was the second marriage for the widow Emily, and the third for Oliver. He was of paternal English American descent and maternal Scottish American descent.

The family moved to Madison in 1891, before Norvell’s birth. Norvell’s mother owned a house in Harlem, which was either empty or tenanted by her mother. It is probable that Norvell was born in Harlem, though some sources say it was in his mother’s home town, Covington. His father died less than a year after his birth. Hardy was the youngest of five. As a child, Hardy was sometimes difficult. He was sent to a Milledgeville military academy as a youngster. In the 1905/1906 school year, fall semester (September–January), when he was 13, Hardy was sent to Young Harris College in north Georgia. However, he was in the junior high component of that institution (the equivalent of high school today), not the two-year college which exists today.

He had little interest in education, although he acquired an early interest in music and theater, possibly from his mother’s tenants. He joined a theatrical group, and later ran away from a boarding school near Atlanta to sing with the group. His mother recognized his talent for singing, and sent him to Atlanta to study music and voice with singing teacher Adolf Dahm-Petersen, but Hardy skipped some of his lessons to sing in the Alcazar Theater, a cinema, for US$3.50 a week. He subsequently decided to go back to Milledgeville.

Sometime prior to 1910, Hardy began styling himself "Oliver Norvell Hardy", with the first name “Oliver” being added as a tribute to his father. He appeared as “Oliver N. Hardy” in the 1910 U.S. census,[N 1] and in all subsequent legal records, marriage announcements, etc., Hardy used “Oliver” as his first name.

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