On Dec. 28, a new biopic, Stan & Ollie, about the famous comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy hits theaters in the U.S., and it's bound to inspire as many tears as it does laughs. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly star as Stan and Ollie, respectively, in the movie that focuses on a 1953 U.K. tour that the duo embarked on in order to reinvigorate their declining comedy career. You'll probably walk away from the theater feeling flabbergasted that a pair of hilarious comedy actors could face so many somber setbacks, but since Stan & Ollie is a true story, it had to portray the events as they happened in real life.
As the trailer for Stan & Ollie portrays, the comedic duo began facing a waning of popularity in the U.S. following their popular film career of the 1930s. According to The Los Angeles Times, the real-life comedic duo made 27 full-length films and "about 100 shorts." One of those short films, The Music Box, won the Academy award for the Best Short (Comedy) in 1933. But, as BBC confirms, the two's comedy career dwindled in popularity following the high of the '30s, so they set off on a U.K. tour in 1953.
According to the L.A. Times' 1965 obituary for Laurel, the duo's film career ended in the '40s, with a few films that flopped. "Those films were terrible... We quit too late," Laurel had said, according to the L.A. Times.
BBC confirmed to the U.K.'s British Comedy Guide that Laurel and Hardy's comedy tour across the pond succeeded in enticing an audience for the American pair's shows, but it didn't exactly help return their career to its 1930s heyday. Laurel and Hardy didn't return to Hollywood after their 1953 tour to star in any more hit movies, and they faced great setbacks along the tour due to Hardy's health problems.
In the trailer for the upcoming movie, you see Hardy doubting his abilities to perform on stage due to heart problems, and in fact the comedian passed away just four years after the U.K. tour, in 1957. In fact, aside from the cold truth that their U.S. fans weren't turning up for live performances, the greatest conflict that the comedy duo faced centered around Hardy's ailing health that jeopardized their physically-demanding performances while touring in 1953.
Reilly's performance as the debilitated Ollie Hardy earned the actor a nomination for the 76th Golden Globe Awards, which airs on Jan. 6 in the category of Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, the Washington Post reports. In an interview with The Associated Press, Reilly said that he'd felt intimidated by the task of portraying a legendary comedian like Hardy. "Those are some very big shoes to fill, no pun intended. I didn’t know that it was going to work out so well. It was really an act of faith," Reilly said, according to the Washington Post.
Despite the setbacks that Laurel and Hardy had during their career as a comedic duo, they made an important mark on history by inspiring laughter among countless audiences. Stan & Ollie will likely give you a new appreciation for the hilarious pair, and you'll laugh until you cry — and vice versa.