Back to Silent Stars Who Transitioned to Talkies
Laurel & Hardy
It's impossible to think of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy without each other, but both were established comedians - Laurel with 50 appearances in movies and 22 directing credits, Hardy with 250 roles in shorts - before they started working together in 1926 as contract players at Hal Roach's comedy studio. Laurel played the more dimwitted member of the duo, but behind the camera, he was writing most of the gags and directing. They made many shorts and features (notably, 1929's 'Big Business') before transitioning to sound. Their emphasis on broad visual humor (as in the 1932 Oscar-winning short 'The Music Box,' with the famous sequences of the pair trying to push a piano up a long flight of steps) made the shift a painless one, though it turned out they excelled at verbal comedy as well. Throughout the 1930s, they enjoyed such hits as 'Sons of the Desert,' 'Way Out West,' and 'Babes in Toyland' (still a Christmastime favorite today). In the 1940s, they left Roach and made movies for 20th Century Fox that were less memorable, since they didn't get to play their beloved Stan and Ollie characters. They called it a day in 1951, having made 32 silent shorts, 40 sound shorts, and 23 features together.