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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just An Apple-Cheeked Boy Managing Milledgeville's Palace Theatre at Age 18

Oliver Hardy --- Exhibitor

Here is today's bold pronouncement that I invite anyone to correct: Oliver Hardy was the first major film star to have come out of exhibition, and was in fact, the only major film star to have ever come out of exhibition. By exhibition, I mean, of course, operating a theatre, projection, ownership of a venue ... any of these. The notion came to me after reading a splendid article by Robert J. Wilson III that appeared in The Georgia Historical Quarterly in its Fall/Winter 2003 issue. Mr. Wilson is a professor of history at Georgia State University and did the best research I've seen so far on Hardy's pre-movie life. Oliver Hardy in Georgia, 1903-1913 tells of that period, inclusive of when Babe managed Milledgeville's Palace Theatre, his job starting at age 18 in November 1910. Hardy was referred to by the local census as an "electrician," which, according to Wilson, indicates he was operating an electric movie projector among other duties at the Palace Theatre.

L&H Drop In On a 16mm Rental House During Their Late 40's British Isles Tour

Babe Shows Off His "Fun Factory" Booth to Visiting Stan
In fact, Babe sold tickets, ushered, swept up, and served as out-front barker for Palace shows. In a pinch, he'd even sing with projected slides featuring song lyrics. The young manager's most strenuous duty was likely projection, with its sweat-booth and flammable film that often arrived in rough shape, Milledgeville being down the exhibition line and well behind houses that had handled (or mishandled) prints. Hardy would certainly have got a crash course in 35mm presentation and ample opportunity to expect the unexpected. The Palace sojourn lasted more or less until 1914 (some possible breaks as Babe took shorter term jobs elsewhere) before permanent move to Jacksonville, Florida and lifelong from there career as a movie actor. Like riding a bicycle, however, you never forget how to operate a projector once it's learned. Babe might well have retained sentiment for days exhibiting, as he built, in the early 40's, a home theatre called "The Laurel and Hardy Fun Factory," fully equipped with 35mm projection, Babe the operator as in Milledgeville yore.

Major tips of the derby to Scott MacGillivray and Jeff Missinne, longtime Sons Of The Desert and experts in all things Laurel and Hardy. Jeff shared with Greenbriar the wonderfully rare image of Stan and Babe at the UK film rental facility, and Scott provided the fine quality still of Babe demonstrating home 35mm projection for Stan.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

I like how Stan is smoking a cigarette right next to a reel of inflammable celluloid in a little projection booth, like an outtake from "Busy Bodies."

2:57 PM  

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