Combine the Archies with Laurel and Hardy and you’ve got a winning combination!
Contrary to their on-screen personas, Oliver Norvell “Babe” Hardy was the easygoing one in real life, while Arthur Stanley “Stan” Jefferson was the idea man who wrote most of the gags and was often the de facto director despite on-screen credits. And it is true that after his retirement Stan Laurel was still listed in the phone book and fans would call up, amazed to reach him. He personally answered all of his fan mail and was such a close friend of Ollie’s that he refused to perform ever again after Hardy passed away in 1957.
Dick Van Dyke befriended Stan in his late years and famously imitated him on his television show. He later talked to Stan about the homage and Stan pointed out some inconsistencies in the costuming, including how the brim of the hat wasn’t flat. Dick confessed he couldn’t get the hat to look just right and Stan said, “Why didn’t you ask to borrow mine?” Dick was flabbergasted and it is fitting that he would give the eulogy at Stan’s funeral in 1965.
In his will Stan left his hat to Dick and as part of the eulogy, Dick Van Dyke read The Clown’s Prayer:
As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,
dispense more cheer than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.
Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.
Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy, and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.
And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
“When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile.”
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