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Happy Hooligan
#1
Anyone who has seen the otherwise entertaining documentary - Laurel and Hardy, A Tribute To The Boys - will know it contains several mistakes.  One of these is the mention of "Helpful Henry" which is as baffling as it is original.

The reference was actually to Happy Hooligan, often cited as the model for Babe Hardy's on-screen character. Hardy himself referred to the well-intentioned bumbler as a major influence, along with John Bunny, his Aunt Susie and his school teacher Effie Moore.
Happy Hooligan was originally a newspaper cartoon character created by Frederick Burr Opper in 1900. It was first published in a Hearst Sunday newspaper but rapidly became a national phenomena and spread to other titles. Opper was perhaps the greatest cartoonist of all time, producing several discrete cartoon characters and stories every day, plus books and adaptations.
It was one of these adaptations that also originated another screen career, and yet another that made movie history; Frederick Burr Opper was nothing if not versatile.
Happy Hooligan was so popular and successful that it was read all over the USA with great enthusiasm and enjoyment. Not surprisingly, theatrical producers tried to capitalise on it, and a showman (unknown to me, but hopefully identifiable) adapted some of the cartoon adventures to the vaudeville stage. The main player of the iconic character was a young man of French descent named Ben Turpin. It was whilst playing Happy Hooligan on the vaudeville stage that he suffered a serious injury which permanently affected his vision and left one eye at an alarming angle in normal position. As we know, Turpin turned this "misfortune" to his enormous advantage and built a career in the movies upon it.
The other epoch-making aspect of Happy Hooligan was that it became the world's first cartoon series to be made into films. It fell to an Englishman - J. Stewart Blackton - to adapt some of the simple adventures to the screen, and predictably the followers of the genre migrated to the screen adaptations and the movies were very successful. Blackton himself played the title role, but Happy had two brothers - Gloomy Gus and Montmorency - and there is no record of who played those characters.
Alongisde all this, Blackton casually founded the Vitagraph movie company, where Griffiths did most of his momentous work. Billy Bitzer also filmed the Happy Hooligan movies.
So film history owes a lot to this seemingly insignificant character, and we can imagine a young schoolboy named Norvell Hardy in Georgia hastening to the newsagents in time for the new adventure of the character who was to become his inspiration as the universally loved Ollie Hardy.
The only known footage of a clip from this movie series, with Blackton playing Happy Hooligan, is on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqTGQa2giZ8
 
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#2
Impressive fact finding!
 
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