The University of Minnesota Libraries have received a gift of stills, scripts, press books, posters, autographed photographs, articles and other memorabilia related to comedy film greats Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The collection is a gift from university alumni Drs. David and Minette Ponick and is considered to be the largest single known collection of Laurel and Hardy memorabilia. It will be housed in Elmer L. Andersen Library on the university's west bank campus and available for all to see and use.
Highlights of the Ponick Collection, which will be available to the university community and the general public for research and study, include two handwritten postcards from Stan Laurel, the original pressbook for the Laurel and Hardy film Swiss Miss (1938), original posters from Way Out West (1937) and Air Raid Wardens (1943), plus thousands of other items.
After their marriage in the mid-1960s, donors David and Minette Ponick discovered their mutual love of black-and-white films of the 1920s and 30s. "We particularly enjoyed their routines on television, such as 'The John Gallos Comedy Hour,�? which aired Sundays on WCCO-TV throughout the 1960s and into the 70s. The collection began with the purchase of three 8�? x 10�? black-and-white photographs in 1968 and grew from there.
A large portion of the collection came from late actor George Jessel (1898-1981), known for his roles on Broadway (The Jazz Singer), in film and on television ("The George Jessel Show"). Jessel sold the collection to a West Coast collector who in turn sold the collection to the Ponicks in the 1970s. After they acquired the collection, the Ponicks corresponded with the widows of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; those letters are included in the collection.
Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson) and Oliver Hardy started their comedy work together for the Hal Roach studio in 1926, becoming an official team by 1927. By 1940 the team had starred in 62 shorts together, including the Academy Award-winning The Music Box(1932). Highlights from the 13 feature films of Laurel and Hardy include Pardon Us (1931), their full-length film debut, and Babes in Toyland (1934). In the 1940's the two worked for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during which time their comedy is said to have suffered due to a lack of creative input from the team, and they retired from the film industry after shooting Atoll K (1950) in France. Laurel and Hardy continued their work together in a stage show until Hardy's death in 1957. Laurel, who died in 1965, was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1960, and he and Hardy were hailed by Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello) as "the funniest comedy team of all time.�?