OLIVER started his career at 8 years old singing with a minstrel show. He had a singing act in which he toured the South. He enrolled at the University of Georgia to begin law studies because his father was a lawyer. However, he lost interest and opened a small movie theater in 1910. He joined the LUBIN company in Jacksonville, Florida and began a film career, usually as a villain, in comedies. He would direct and also write gags every once in a while. He also played parts in feature films which included BUCK JONES Westerns.
He basically began his film career in 1914 when he appeared in the short flick, OUTWITTING DAD. He used the name, O. N. HARDY and played a character named, REGGIE KEWP. Starting in 1916, using the name, BABE HARDY, he was in over 35 shorts playing a character named, PLUMP. From 1916-1917 he played characters named BUNGLES and BABE. Starting in 1918, he started to play a variety of characters.
He didn't have much success until he was teamed with STAN LAUREL in 1926 at the suggestion of Director LEO MCCAREY of the HAL ROACH STUDIOS. In 1919, he had been in a short comedy flick, LUCKY DOG, with LAUREL as the lead and him with a small, but important part. They usually played two naive guys who kept getting into trouble, usually because of one of STAN's dumb stunts. What made them funny is that the more they tried to get out of trouble, the deeper they got in. The fact that LAUREL was thin and HARDY was fat made an interesting contrast on the screen that kept people laughing. Along with LAUREL's famous gestures, such as scratching his head in bewilderment, HARDY also used facial expressions, especially his eyes, to keep audiences laughing. He also had what has been described as a round cherubic face and that small moustache to go along with his bulky body. A lot of LAUREL and HARDY's success can be attributed to their physical features and the way they used them to promote their brand of comedy. HARDY and LAUREL left HAL ROACH thinking they would have more freedom to express themselves more in the movies. But, their association with 20th Century-Fox and MGM didn't produce the good films they were used to making and they quit making movies in 1945. They did make one final movie, ATOLL K in 1950, but it failed. In the early 50's they were planning to make a comeback in color films. However, HARDY suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. He died in 1957. The combination of LAUREL and HARDY was probably the best comedy duo ever created.