Laurel & Hardy
Well for my last post before Xmas, and to bring a smile to Cats faces, I can think of no better topic than to discuss the most beloved comedy duo in cinema history in Laurel & Hardy.
Stan Laurel (1890-1965) and Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) started their career as a duo in the silent movie period, they later successfully transitioned to talkies. From the late 1920s to the mid-1950s they appeared as a team in over 100 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films.
They became internationally famous for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy, childlike friend to Hardy’s pompous bully.
To describe their magic would be like trying to explain the genius of Mozart or Shakespeare – somethings are just beyond words; so I offer the following bits and pieces about them.
They often had physical arguements which were quite complex and involved a style of violence that was almost cartoonish. A brilliant example of this would be their silent short masterpiece Big Business (1929) in which they play two Christmas tree salesman trying to sell Xmas trees in July. The film then resolves itself into a tit-for-tat vandalism between them and James Finlayson who doesn’t want to buy a Xmas tree.
Their ineptitude and misfortune precluded them from making any real progress, even in the simplest endeavors. Much of their comedy involves “milking” a joke, where a simple idea provides a basis for multiple, ongoing gags without following a defined narrative. An example of this would be Perfect Day (1929) where two families embark on a pleasant Sunday picnic in their Ford Model T, but manage to run into a variety of issues with the temperamental automobile. Each incident requires repeated exits and reboardings by everyone.
Other favourite shorts of mine include Laughing Gravy (1931) where they try to keep their pet dog hidden from their landlord; The Music Box (1932) where they attempt to move a piano up a long flight of steps; Towed In A Hole(1932) where they renovate a boat in order to catch their own fish; and, Tit For Tat (1935) where they establish an electrical goods store.
By the mid-1930s they had moved away from shorts and concentrated on features (which were more profitable). They had a big hit in 1933 with Sons Of The Desert, but they hit the jackpot in 1937 with the timeless comedy masterpiece Way Out West.
Here they are entrusted to deliver the deed of a old mine to a deceased prospector’s daughter. The film features one of the most beloved songs/routines ever performed in Trail Of The Lonesome Pine.
Incredibly in 1975, Trail Of The Lonesome Pine was released as a single in the UK and reached No.2 in the charts !
But by the end of the decade their best films were behind them, and they left Hal Roach Studios for 20th Century Fox but their films now were but a shadow of their former glories.
In the 1950s they then embarked on a number of tours re-enacting their routines which proved tremendously successful with the public who still adored them. This period was affectionately depicted in the excellent 2018 film Stan & Ollie with Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy.
The film also re-created another favourite routine from Way Out West, in At The Ball, That’s All, although, as always, the original is still priceless.
Laurel & Hardy are timeless and will be beloved forever for those who value their comedy and artistry.
Enjoy . . . and a Merry Xmas to you all !
15 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #50”
I loved them as a child in the 1940’s at the sixpenny ‘picture show’ in the Mechanics Hall in St. Marys in Sydney’s outer western suburbs. How we all laughed and fell about, rolling Jaffa lollies down the aisles to signal our appreciation of such silliness. The Fat Man and the Thin Man. We cheered them on, for in those days kids were a tribe unto themselves on Sat’dy arvo in the hot summer days of yore. We’d follow it up getting tadpoles out of the billabong holes of South Creek. The only thing to rival Sat’dy pictures and the Superman vs the Evil Spiderwoman Serial that went from week to week was when The Circus was in town. With real elephants, lions, a tiger, performing dogs, clowns and a mysterious moustachio’d Ringmaster. We’d beg the money or crawl unseen under the back of the tent to get in and save the shilling if we had it to buy ice cream and fairy floss to share. You had to share.
The 2018 movie about Stan and Ollie was very good too, showing the men behind the magic and some of their hard times.
I was always a Marx Brothers fan. Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon as well. SBS had the Great Dictator on the other night with Charlie. The characterisations brilliant. Thanks Wolfman for reminding us when film was entertainment and not a lecture on being worse than we already are.
I read that after retiring Hardy went on a crash diet for health reasons but, unfortunately, that put so much stress on his body it likely killed him.
On a more touching note I also read that after after Hardy died Laurel refused to perform again. Regardless of who it was trying to induce him he just had no heart for it without Hardy.
You read about the final acrimonious breakdowns of other duos like Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis, and see just how special and close a relationship Laurel and Hardy had.
Ah, Saturday afternoons in the 1950s, and the matinee at the Savoy Cinema in East Victoria Park. We loved the comedy duos — Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and of course, Laurel and Hardy. Often, the movie would stop, the houselights come up, and the manager would come on stage to inform us that if we all kept throwing lollies around the theatre he would shut the matinee down and we could all go home.
When there had been a Western as the main feature, my brother and I would gallop up the back lane to our house, making “dang-de-dang” music noise and slapping our own backsides to spur us on. And if it had been something more swashbuckling, we’d “liberate” some bamboo from the lane to make ourselves swords, inflicting a terrible justice on any evil plant or tree we passed.
There’s now a City Farmers store there, and my old primary school, directly opposite, is the carpark of a very large shopping complex. I guess I am looking back 60+ years!
I am a bit surprised that I am not the only Laurel & Hardy fan here.
I have all their extant shorts and films from the 1920s and 1930s, including the now 90% or so complete The Battle of the Century (the second reel, containing the famous massive street pie fight scene, was thought long lost, until it turned up in 2015).
Not a fan of their MGM and 20th Century Fox films of the 1940s though, when Stan lost most control over the films and the direction.
Of course Stan was the creative genius as he pretty much ran the show in terms of developing and fine-tuning the gags. In most of the films they made up to the last 30s he was the defect director as well.
As for Ollie, he was quite happy to leave the writing to his partner. He said, “After all, just doing the gags was hard enough work, especially if you have taken as many falls and been dumped in as many mudholes as I have. I think I earned my money.”
Another reason why they are still beloved their were the best of friends throughout their partnership.
For many years there were rumours or stories (calumnies I call them) circulating that they had a bitter breakup or were even enemies in the end.
None of which was true.
Rather more amusing (except possibly to the people involved) was the claim first put forward many years ago that Clint Eastwood was actually Stan’s son!
Also, not true of course, but I remember some years ago a woman rang up radio talkback here in Melbourne and stated it for a categorical fact!
Yes I agree with everything above, but I always notice how old assumptions contrast with later ones.
What about their movies about marriage? It seems in those days every man needed to escape from his nagging wife!
Unless she was Carol Lombard – I just watched ‘True Confessions’ in which she brilliantly portrays a wife with a screwball gift for fantasy, which gets her in all sorts of trouble. Her movies with Fred MacMurray have a special chemistry, and Confessions may be the best.
The 2018 movie is extremely good, I didnt expect to like it, but it was done well.
Not seen True Confessions – I’ll have to give it a look.
Yes it is, especially as it’s been made in our current woke, non-entertaining times.
Steve Coogan is one of my favourite actors.
Sadly, a rabid leftie and a totally self-involved narcissist in “real life”.
Well, that’s another nice mess you’ve got us into, Wolfman.
Merry Christmas to you and your family. 🙂
I’ve never listened to (or been aware of) a word he’s ever uttered outside of his roles.
For “Hi” Alan Partridge alone, he’s earned a place in the Pantheon.
We had a dunce hat at school. We tried our hardest to get to wear it.