Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Chic Johnson & Ole Olsen

John “Ole” Olsen and Harold “Chic” Johnson appeared together in nine feature-length movies from 1930 through 1945. They also appeared in multiple short features during this period and, subsequently, appeared as themselves or in character in nearly a dozen TV shows from the 1950s.

For their screen personae, they were a comedy team of the zany, frenetic, and corn ilk. Their partnership began, however, with music in 1914, making the circuit as members of a musical quartet, Mr. Olsen playing violin and Mr. Johnson the piano. Eventually, the two discovered they shared an affinity for getting laughs with their antics on stage and set out to hone that skill in vaudville. Once radio came along, their popularity grew. They even took their act to the Broadway stage, creating in 1938 a long-running revue they called Hellzapoppin’. By 1941, the show was so popular that Universal Pictures made it into a movie, starring Chic Johnson and Ole Olsen with appearances by an assortment of stock players: Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Richard Lane, and Shemp Howard among many others. Like the Broadway show, the movie presented an almost nonexistent plot fraught with non-sequiturs and overall zaniness. It has been lauded as a precursor, and some would say inspiration, to the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in (1967-73).

Chic Johnson and Ole Olsen were born a little more than a year apart, in 1891 and 1892, respectively. They first met when both were in their early 20s, and, for nearly 50 years onward, they remained a team on stage, over radio, in the movies and on TV, until, that is, Mr. Johnson died in February 1962. He was just 70 years old. Eleven months later, Mr. Olsen was also gone, having also just turned 70. Fortunately, we do not have to miss them; in addition to their combined efforts in other recorded media, the following legacy of movies remains and can be included in anyone’s bucket list of what not to miss:

Oh, Sailor Behave (1930)
50 Million Frenchmen (1931)
Gold Dust Gertie (1931)
Country Gentlemen (1936)
All Over Town (1937)
Hellzapoppin’ (1941)
Crazy House (1943)
Ghost Catchers (1944)
See My Lawyer (1945)

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