Laurel & Hardy Museum
250 North Louisville Street
Harlem, Georgia 30814
888-288-9108 or 706-556-0401
Saturday 10:00am - 4:00pm
OLIVER NORVELL HARDY
Norvell Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia on January
18, 1892 at his mother’s parents' home. He was the youngest of
five children to Emily Norvell Hardy. Norvell’s father died of
a heart attack, just three days before Thanksgiving in 1892 (Norvell
was only 10 months old) and was buried in the Harlem Memorial Cemetery.
Emily Hardy and her children moved throughout Georgia many times
and finally settled in Milledgeville, Georgia when Norvell was about
11 years old. She became the manager of the Baldwin Hotel and
that is where young Oliver spent the remainder of his childhood. The
young Norvell never knew his father, only the tales his mother Emily
told him. As soon as Norvell turned 18, he changed his name to that
of his father, and became known as “Oliver Norvell Hardy”.
Oliver was enthralled by the visiting troupes of
performers who stayed in the hotel his mother managed. The young Oliver
worked as the projectionist and manager of the Milledgeville’s first
movie house, the Electric Theatre, in 1910 and performed regularly.
Oliver attended Georgia Military College, Atlanta Conservatory of Music
and for a short time the University of Georgia. Oliver left Georgia
in 1913 for a newly established film colony in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1918, he left for Hollywood, where he worked at various studios.
Oliver worked for several years as a supporting actor
until he was accidentally teamed with a young Englishman, Stan Laurel.
Oliver and Stan seemed to gel into a single organism, a perfect stand-up
comedy team. They always remained constant while everything around them
changed. Laurel & Hardy made 106 movies and in 1932 “The Music Box”
won an Oscar for Best Short Film. Stan and Oliver remained partners
and friends until Oliver’s death in Hollywood in 1957.
Oliver Hardy Festival Facts:
In 1989, the Mayor, office staff and residents of
the City of Harlem formed a committee to keep Oliver Hardy’s legacy
alive. The festival was started to help assist Harlem in building a
Community Center. It was to be held on the first Saturday of October
every year. When the festival started there were only approx.
30 to 45 crafters and vendors. Gradually, through the years a parade
was added, entertainment, a street dance and more. Not to mention several
Laurel and Hardy fans began to frequent the festival and started sending
Laurel & Hardy memorabilia, which was displayed in the City Hall
during every festival. “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself
into!” Oliver Hardy would have most likely said about the Festival honoring
him. The festival now brings over 30,000 people to the City of Harlem
annually. We have grown to over 300 crafters and vendors, kiddie
rides, two stages of live entertainment, look-a-like contest, parade,
movies and much more! Fortunately, our collections have grown to such
an extreme, we ran out of room in the City Hall.
The fact that Oliver Hardy was born here in Harlem Georgia
has helped us to promote tourism. Over the years, we have collected,
purchased and received so many items from near and far. A couple from
Germany being great fans of Laurel & Hardy, wanted to be married
in Oliver Hardy’s birth place. The couple came to Harlem, Ga. stood
by our historical marker, said their vows with a local reverend and
walked away a married couple. It was a memorable event for the
City of Harlem.
There are many people of Harlem that have an eye open
constantly to Laurel & Hardy treasures. Many are more than happy
to donate these treasures to the city. We have found pictures, movies,
toys, books, even a suit worn by a Look-a-like and so much more.
We put the word out that we were looking for posters for the theater
we call “Babe’s Bijou” and fans from all over the world have sent us
posters to fill up the walls! The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Ulverston,
England has been in complete support and also sent items to us. Incidentally,
Ulverston, England is also our sister city. We are always welcoming
donations and treasures to display in our Museum.
Laurel & Hardy Museum Facts: