Oliver Hardy: movie memorabilia, autographs and the birth of a screen legend

Today in history, 1892, Norvell Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia, US. You may know him better as Oliver Hardy, one of the greatest cinema legends of the early-20th century. Given his legacy, it's incredible to think that Hardy had no real aspirations to act in his younger years.

Norvell wasn't born into a show business family. His father, a lawyer, died when he was 10. Yet Hardy became fascinated by the travelling show business performers who stayed at the hotel owned by his mother.

At age eight, Hardy ran away to join a minstrel troupe, but soon became bored with it. This boredom continued during his time at Georgia Military College. The young man seemed to be more interested in sports than anything else, often entertaining the crowds at baseball games.

Nevertheless, in 1910, Hardy opened the first movie theatre in Milledgeville, Georgia. Once again, the young man became intrigued by the lives of the performers onscreen.

A few years later, in 1913, Hardy travelled to Jacksonville, Florida and secured work with the Lubin Film Company. He was often cast as a comic villain due to his 250-pound frame. Screen appearances with Billy West, Jimmy Aubrey and in 1925's The Wizard of Oz followed.

Now established as an actor, Hardy signed with the Hal Roach studios and considered retreating into writing and directing. That is until he met Englishman Stan Laurel at the studios. This - and the promise of a larger pay cheque - lured Hardy back onto the screen. The rest, as they say, is history.

Laurel & Hardy - Hollywood movie legends are born

Laurel & Hardy would star in more than 100 films together during the 1920s and '40s. The duo's 1932 film the Music Box, which shows the pair trying to move a piano up a flight of stairs, won them the first Academy Award for a Live Action Short Film.

Thanks to the duo's strong legacy, it's no surprise that their collectibles have sold for huge sums at auction. Big auction appearances included at last year's mammoth sale of Debbie Reynolds's movie memorabilia collection.

Among the sale's top lots was a rare 1918 Ford Model T used in the Laurel & Hardy films. Restored by Debbie's father, Ray Reynolds, the car is understood to be one of the few Model Ts that withstood Laurel & Hardy's comic abuse. It sold for $35,000.

Also among the most fascinating Oliver Hardy collectibles are those which offer clues about the 'man behind the Hollywood legend'. Examples we've handled here at Paul Fraser Collectibles include this signed document relating to Oliver Hardy's divorce.

The man behind the legend – we have this signed document relating to legendary American comedian Oliver Hardy's divorce for sale


The rare manuscript details Hardy's ex wife's follow-up suit for more alimony after their divorce. In the document, Myrtle Lee Hardy claims that Oliver has fallen short with his yearly alimony payments. We have this small piece of history for sale priced at just £2,950.

Thanks to the duo's strong legacy, photographs autographed by both Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel are especially valued by collectors. Even more so if they bear a personal inscription. Like the example pictured above which includes the note "OUR KIND THOUGHTS ALWAYS, ELMA & FRED, SINCERELY".

We have this rare and historic piece for sale priced at £6,900. This item also qualifies for our unique 120% guarantee - you can find out more about our unique guarantee here.

Given that the average price of a Laurel & Hardy signed photo rose in value from £3,500 to £3,750 in the last 12 months (that's a rise of 7.14%), you can bet that these autographs will be worth more in future years - especially as new generations of movie fans enjoy the duo's classic films.

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