Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Stan Laurel short Hickory Hiram (1918). This was one of Laurel’s earliest films, made for Universal’s Nestor brand. Also featuring Neal Burns, Teddy Sampson, et al, Hickory Hiram was an attempt to establish Laurel as a rural character, a gambit which failed due to a lack of interest and bookings, and Laurel was quickly released from his contract. After this early high profile attempt to make a star of Laurel (who had, after all, been Charlie Chaplin’s understudy with Karno’s Speechless Comedians), he went on to support Larry Semon in comedies at Vitagraph, and to star in his own comedies for the smaller studios of Hal Roach, Joe Rock and others. The stardom everyone had banked on for the talented Stan wouldn’t arrive until a decade later, when he finally clicked in his comedies with Oliver Hardy.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.