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Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

The Laurel & Hardy Museum

Harlem, Georgia is a sleepy little southern town.  If you blinked, you’d miss it.  On January 18, 1892 Oliver Norvell Hardy was born in this town and his success in Hollywood gave the town an eternal claim to fame.  They are clearly very proud of this and it shows.  The town seemed full of sincere people and great southern hospitality. 


I found information about the Laurel & Hardy Museum online shortly before my Christmas trip home to Georgia to see my parents. I pleaded with them to take me there for a little day trip and they agreed.  I really love these little “Mom and Pop” type museums, as they are always run by such devoted, passionate people.  When we first arrived in Harlem, I noticed “The Columbia Theatre”.  The marquee looked beautiful and there was a large Laurel & Hardy mural on the side of the building.  Unfortunately the interior of the theatre was complete gutted and empty.  I later found out this is a work in progress.  The town is trying to raise money and get grants to re-open the theatre with an eye to showing Laurel & Hardy films along with other silents and talkies from Hollywood’s Golden Age.  I wish I was wealthy, as I would have written a check for that on the spot.  This would really be a great thing for this town and would provide them with a nice cultural and social hub.


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Painted wall on the side of the theatre


The museum itself was small but filled with all sorts of memorabilia, displays and information.  They had all sorts of books, resources, historical documents and photographs.  Fans from around the world have generously donated items to the museum throughout the years.  The docent was a very nice lady named Linda who volunteers for the museum and has an incredible passion for Laurel & Hardy.  She has even been to the Laurel & Hardy museum in England where Stan Laurel was born and also runs the local Harlem Fan club called “BerthMarks”.  She guided us around the museum and was very helpful.


The front of the museum

The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

The screening room at the Laurel & Hardy Museum


In the back of the museum they had a screening room with several of their films on VHS and DVD…but the image was really bad.  I have been so fortunate to see all of the Laurel & Hardy films on the big screen at various events.  I had no idea that the home video offerings were that scant and that poor in quality.  I promised the lady at the museum that I would do my best to locate cleaner copies.  If ANY of you out there have nice, clean DVD recordings of any Laurel & Hardy films, please let me know.  I want to donate it to the museum.  Often times if someone’s first exposure to old movies is a bad one, then they will often assume that all old films looks that way.  I’m always trying to dispel that notion.  The museum hosts a huge Laurel & Hardy Festival every year and they also do many educational programs that teach children about film and local history.  I was so pleased to hear that these films will keep being discovered by younger generations, thus assuring that the boy from Harlem GA will never be forgotten.


I’ve always been a Jean Harlow fan and I was thrilled to see they even had a little display at the museum featuring information about her appearances in Laurel & Hardy films.  These films were a great springboard that helped to launch her legendary career.


Jean Harlow part of the exhibit at the Laurel & Hardy Museum


I had such a great time at the museum and my enthusiasm ran wild .  I even posed with several Laurel & Hardy statues.  I had to!!!


Me with Laurel & Hardy


These photos may look silly, but I couldn't help myself!  I was having fun! 


On the way out of town I walked across the railroad tracks to a vacant lot filled with green grass and a plaque.  It is the exact lot where Hardy was born.


the lot where Oliver Hardy was born


The town as also painted their watertower in tribute to him as well.


The Harlem, GA water tower


So if you are a Laurel & Hardy fan, I highly recommend taking a trip to Harlem.  I plan to keep tabs on how the theatre is progressing and hopefully I’ll get to come back and watch some films when it has been re-opened. 



To see more of my pictures, click HERE for my flickr page.



Written by Karie (site owner) on 03/15 at 03:15 PM

5 Comments:

  1. Just did the slideshow of your flckr page.  Very, very charming. My favorite L & H film is “Way Out West.”  That one has Hardy singing “Shine On Harvest Moon” and the unofficial third member, James Finlayson at his funniest.
    Hardy actually co-starred with John Wayne in “The Fighting Kentuckian” a fun Western set in New Orleans.  Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

    Posted by Karie (site owner)  on  01/22  at  05:26 PM
  2. Unfortunately, lots of Laurel & Hardy are in public domain, and thus, bad home video.  Turner Classic Movies released a double feature of “Bonnie Scotland” and another one.  I rented that.  It was good quality.  Maybe you can get ahold of that one and donate it.  Also, Kino released a version of “Flying Deuces.”  Maybe they did a good job?

    Posted by Karie (site owner)  on  01/22  at  07:08 PM
  3. Even today, their movies are still so funny.  The silents were great.  May God Bless them.  It’s really something to be remembered after all these years.  I love them and always will.

    Richard

    Posted by Karie (site owner)  on  08/21  at  01:52 PM
  4. I just came upon your site. You are probably aware of this, but a box (more book-like, actually) was released a couple of years ago. All of the films are beautifully restored. It’s called “The Essential Collection,” and can be confused with other products of inferior quality. Be sure you get the right product!

    The set excludes the silent shorts and some features, but the vast majority of their work is these. For whatever reason, it was not issued on Blu-Ray, but the DVD quality is top-notch.

    Thank you for the article. I hope to get to Harlem one of these days to take a look at it live and in person.

    -MJ

    Posted by Karie (site owner)  on  01/06  at  01:41 PM
  5. I will certainly place the L&H Museum on my Mother-Daughter trip list. Thanks

    Posted by Karie (site owner)  on  08/17  at  12:14 AM