WolfmanOz at the Movies #50

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.

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.

At The Ball, That’s All

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 !