Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Stan & Ollie

I loved the new movie, STAN & OLLIE about the longtime comedy team of Laurel & Hardy. In the '30s and '40s they were the biggest comedy movie stars in the world.  Steve Coogan was amazing as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly did a nice job capturing Oliver Hardy. The two recreated some of Laurel & Hardy’s classic bits and I found myself laughing out loud.

But the movie also made me very sad.

Why? Because I figure that 99% of people under 40 have no idea who Laurel & Hardy were. Not that I blame them. You rarely see their movies or shorts on TV anymore. And practically everything they did was in black-and-white and good luck getting a Millennial to watch something in black-and-white.

And it’s a shame because Laurel & Hardy were really funny. Yes, it was slapstick but the attitudes and timing was just priceless. And it was all Stan who wrote their material, essentially directed, and edited the films. Hardy would play golf and come in when Stan said they were ready to shoot. Both gentlemen made me laugh but Hardy was my favorite. His slow burn kills me. And his attempt at all times to preserve his dignity in the face of utter humiliation made him the perfect comic foil.

So I recommend the movie. But more than that, I recommend you see the real thing first. Even if you are loathe to watch black-and—white, if you are a serious student of comedy or even just someone who loves to laugh, I implore you to watch the following video and be introduced to Laurel & Hardy.

The short I'm featuring is famous. It won an Oscar. Please treat yourself to the Music Box by Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. Set aside a half-hour and enjoy.

50 comments :

Max said...

A master at the slow burn, and also at breaking the third wall and getting the audience's sympathy in his long-suffering tolerance of Stan.

Markus Ponto said...

I once attended a screening of a dozen slapstick-shorts (Stan&Olli and a few other comics) at a local movie theatre. There was no sound track at all. No live music. Just the silent films. And the laughter of the audience. I've never seen and heard such a wild audience in my life. People were falling off their chairs and when the night was over, people stumbled - still laughing - onto the streets. O what a glorious night.

stephen catron said...

I gotta be honest. It's not really very funny. A one gag bit padded for about 22 minutes too long. And I'm 60 years old, so I've seen a fair share of B&W films. I'll take the Marx Brothers any day.

Pat Reeder said...

I've loved Laurel and Hardy ever since I was a kid and got an 8mm copy of "Two Tars" that I used to watch over and over. I was thrilled when I first saw a trailer for this movie. But now, I'm hesitant to see it after reading Mark Evanier's review. Like me, he's a major Stan & Babe fan, and while he loved the performances and the look of the film, he was really turned off by the inaccuracies, like conflicts between Stan and Babe that never occurred and making people like Hal Roach look like villains when they really weren't. I'm sure I'll see it, but with a lot of wincing. I also hope it will help turn more young people on to L&H, but I hope they will then seek out a more accurate recounting of their lives and careers.

Steve said...

Always a good idea to start kids when they're young on silent film comedies. My now 23 year old daughter is still a big Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd fan. https://offspring.lifehacker.com/why-you-should-watch-silent-movies-with-your-kid-1825826161

Michael said...

Ken, you touched a deep nerve. Buster Keaton once said Stan Laurel was the greatest of them all. That's good enough for me.

Laurel really was a genius. Beyond the writing and editing, he had shoes specially made so he'd walk the way he did in the movies, had them make him up to emphasize his look of doltishness (of course he was anything but), and ... remember the great "slow burns" for which Hardy was justly famous? Laurel would have them filmed at the end of the day when Hardy was desperate to get to the golf course, so he really was aggravated. Whenever Hardy would be asked what they were working on, he'd say, "Ask Stan," but he also said he figured he got thrown into enough mud puddles to justify his salary.

There's a plaque, as I understand it, by the staircase in The Music Box, and I still need to get there!

Joseph Scarbrough Puppet Productions said...

Just for the record, I'm a so-called "Millennial" (born at the tail-end of the 80s, grew up in the 90s, so the term really doesn't accurately label me), and even I think it's a travesty how so much old black-and-white shows and movies are being digitally colored for modern audiences. But, I'm more offended by how everything that was originally filmed or taped in 4:3 is being cropped in 16:9 widescreen (pilarboxing is more forgivable though).

kitano0 said...

Moviegoers of course have the right to dislike b&w, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate.

...Roger Ebert

Anne said...

Loved seeing The Music Box, thanks! That led me to research The Battle of the Century, because I remembered hearing that they found the original footage of The World's Biggest Pie Fight. (The second reel that was lost for 60 years or something.)

I found an extended clip on YouTube that was so funny I laughed my MacMuffin out my nose. But if anyone knows the provenance of the original 3,000 pie masterpiece, please post here if you can? Thank you!

Clip ref.-- The Pie Fight (1927): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHY5SM0YFv0

Jeff Boice said...

I don't know what happened- in the late 60's- early 70's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used to show Laurel & Hardy silent movies on Saturdays after the hockey season had ended. And the PBS stations used to show silent films- comedies and dramas- I remember watching The Big Parade.

Plus Paramount had that block of Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields pictures that independent stations ran under the "Comedy Classics" banner. Now today independent stations have no interest in running old movies. But we have all those cable channels showing reruns of Perry Mason and Wagon Train. They don't have a problem with Black & White programming. But you never see any old movie comedies on those channels- just old TV shows. Why? Is it the way studios handle film broadcasting rights now? Seems they consciously chose to remove them from TV.



William said...

Living in Europe, I've loved Steve Coogan for 20 years. It is nice to see the rest of the English-speaking world waking up to what an amazing performer/actor/comedian he is.

tavm said...

I fell in love with Stan and Ollie since first seeing them in Way Out West at the local library in '79 when I was 11 years old...

Eric said...

"Good luck getting a Millennial to watch something in black-and-white."

Several of my friends and co-workers are what you'd call Millenials and many of them have a great knowledge and appreciation of classic old movies that are in black and white. Some of them are even fans of (gasp!) silent movies. Don't use stereotypes like that to write off an entire generation. They're lazy and hacky, and you should be better than that.

Paul G said...

I loved L and H as a kid, and was excited to introduce them to my children, now 12 and 15. Unfortunately, seeing them on YouTube and even in a movie theater left them bored. The pacing was too slow for them and the physical gags too far apart for a generation raised on video games and Marvel movies. I wish it were not so. The only "old time" comic act I showed them that they appreciated was, of course, the Three Stooges. Getting your eyes poked is funny no matter what age you are.

VP81955 said...

Another L & H gem is the recently discovered and restored 1927 "Battle Of The Century" (aka the ultimate pie fight). More than 3,000 pieces of pastry were used: https://youtu.be/ePtf286hGtE

To the person who cited Harold Lloyd: Has your daughter seen "Girl Shy" (1924) yet? To me, it's his greatest feature, more so than the previous year's "Safety Last!" The film concludes with a multi-modal chase through that era's Los Angeles, where Harold uses everything from a Pacific Electric streetcar to horses to reach a church on time and stop the girl he loves from marrying a bigamist. Pure brilliance.

Peter said...

I'm just over 40 and I loved watching Laurel & Hardy as a kid. Their films were regularly shown on British TV in the 80s. However, I'm not sure about seeing Stan & Ollie, as I've never warmed to Steve Coogan.

Laurel & Hardy were hilarious. The polar opposite of hilarious was Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross announcing the Oscar nominations today. Wow. What a truly painful experience. Kumail began with a weak joke about how early it was, but it was brief and he quickly moved on to the first set of nominations.

Then he made another joke about how early it was. More nominations.

Then Tracee joined in on a further joke about how early it was. More nominations.

Then ANOTHER joke about how early it was.

And on and on it went, each "joke" unfunnier than the last. Bad comedy doesn't usually make me physically uncomfortable, but the longer this went on, I felt anger rising in the pit of my stomach. If anyone thinks I'm exaggerating, watch the full stream on youtube. It's agonizingly unfunny and irritating.

Is this really the man who gave us The Big Sick? Anyone who hasn't seen that film can be forgiven for thinking Nanjiani is the most talentless person on the face of the planet.

For future nominations, can they just show the names on screen and forego two hosts with stupid, painful banter.

Donald Benson said...

There's a single DVD set, "The Essential Laurel and Hardy", that has all the sound shorts and most of the Hal Roach features. It IS essential.

The Roach features "The Devil's Brother" and "Bonnie Scotland" are on Warner Archive, as are the unfortunate late MGM releases "Air Raid Wardens" and "Nothing But Trouble". The eight Fox pictures are in two DVD sets; the commentaries and special features offset the weakness of the movies. "Flying Deuces" and "March of the Wooden Soldiers" (aka "Babes in Toyland") are public domain and available in releases of wildly varying quality.

The Hal Roach silent shorts are out of print in America; you have to spring for high-priced used copies of an old, uneven series of discs or buy a European release and an all-regions player.

There are plenty of discs of Laurel and Hardy working separately in the silent era. The best ones I've seen are the "Slapstick Symposium" series from Kino; there are also lots of cheapos that combine poor quality (or swiped restorations) with misleading package images of Laurel and Hardy as a team.

I also strongly encourage everybody to look into Charley Chase's Hal Roach shorts. There are several releases of his silent work (sometimes featuring a pre-team Oliver Hardy), and last year a set of the sound shorts appeared. Chase also worked on Columbia shorts; he directed the Three Stooges and also starred in several shorts of his own, but they frankly aren't in a class with the Roach work.

E. Yarber said...

Just to clarify the restoration of "The Battle of the Century." Long ago there was a documentary filmmaker named Robert Youngston who put together several feature films consisting of clips from silent comedies. When he got a print of "Battle of the Century," he lopped off the first half of the two-reeler and saved only the second part, which consisted of the massive pie fight. Since the studios were pretty lax about restoring silent film, the footage Youngston tossed away was literally tossed out of the archives, period. Thus the pie fight has always been with us, but the lead-up has only survived in fragmentary form until a complete 16mm copy was found in 2015..

The "new" footage includes well-known character actor Eugene Pallette, looking much thinner than you're used to seeing him, as a con man whose swindle leads to the pie fight. The title refers to the famous (and then-topical) Tunney/Dempsey boxing match that ended in the contentious "long count." The story begins with a parody of the bout, featuring Stan as the Dempsey figure. If you look at the extras serving as the fight crowd, you can see a young Lou Costello, who hams it up as he exits with the other spectators.

With this recovered footage, the only missing L&H short is a silent version of "The Music Box" called "Hats Off." Same stairway, same general premise, but with a washing machine instead of a piano. It made sense to switch the delivery to a musical instrument when the story was remade in sound.

Janet Ybarra said...

I think a lack of appreciation is at least one of the worst traits of the post-Gen X crowd.

Performers and media consumers alike would do well to appreciate b&w, to appreciate the masters, whether L & H or Hitchcock or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Kevin from VA said...

Love Laurel & Hardy, always have and always will. It's true that broadcast tv (except of course, TCM) shows little or none of the old L&H movies or shorts. However, Youtube does have many of thei rmovie shorts available for viewing.

As far as tv stations showing the old black & white Perry Masons and Wagon Trains, I hope they continue to do so as I still enjoy them as well. In fact, the old B&W Gunsmokes are still MSTV for me.

A curious thing though about the old B&W Gunsmokes. Like me, a few of my friends here lean left politically. Those that do like Chester better than Festus, as I do. Most here where I live however lean right, and they all seem to favor Festus?

We are in agreement that we're all old though!

VP81955 said...

Several of those Chase two-reelers co-star the talented, and gorgeous, Thelma Todd.

Astroboy said...

Even though it isn't pertinent to your article and the comments, when ever I see a Laurel & Hardy or other a 'silent era' comedy, I always wind up thinking at some point about the 1969 movie "The Comic," a Carl Reiner film starring Dick Van Dyke as Billy Bright, an old, bitter, forgotten, once famous, silent screen comic. the movie's not perfect, but I've always remembered it and Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney are excellent. To me the highlight is Dick Van Dyke in the old Billy Bright clips you see in the film. If anyone from today could do silent comedy it's Dick Van Dyke. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it.

Anonymous said...

“There's a plaque, as I understand it, by the staircase in The Music Box, and I still need to get there!”
Yes, the steps - the attempted climbing of which has caused more cardiacs than Oliver Hardy’s diet- still exist, but now, on either side, they’re abutted by cheapish housing for their entire vertiginous length.

“making people like Hal Roach look like villains”
Not only did he exploit L+ H by not having their contracts start/end concurrently, not only did he too often stick them into operetta-ish musicals where they were the comic relief - as was done with the Marx Bros. at MGM - but there’s also the little matter of his partnering with the Mussolini family.

“plus Paramount had that block of Marx Brothers and WC Fields pictures...”

Paramount sold ownership of these films in 1949
FROM WIKIPEDIA
“few years after the ruling of the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. case in 1948, Music Corporation of America (MCA) approached Paramount offering $50 million for 750 sound feature films released prior to December 1, 1949 with payment to be spread over a period of several years. Paramount saw this as a bargain since the fleeting movie studio saw very little value in its library of old films at the time. To address any anti-trust concerns, MCA set up EMKA, Ltd. as a dummy corporation to sell these films to television. EMKA's/Universal Television's library includes the five Paramount Marx Brothers films, most of the Bob Hope–Bing Crosby Road to... pictures, and other classics such as Trouble in Paradise, Shanghai Express, She Done Him Wrong, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Double Imdemnity, The Lost Weekend, and The Heiress.”

Thomas Mossman said...

The Music Box Steps are in Silver Lake; more information about them can be found here:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-music-box-steps-los-angeles-california

KB said...

That's a $3 million house now.

Tom said...

I once lived above the Laurel & Hardy museum in Ulverston, Cumbria, Stan's home town. Yet I've never enjoyed a whole short; slapstick just isn't my thing. I tend to think of Keaton as the best of the silent era for doing a lot more with physicality than mere pratfalls, though Laurel & Hardy are several orders of magnitude above the really tired and unambitious stuff like The Three Stooges.

I shall see the movie, as Coogan is usually entertaining, and Reilly is impressive when he tries. That is, even though I'm less than 40.

Anonymous said...

@VP81955
The famous chapel scene in The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman peering in the church was taken almost exactly from one of the last scenes in Girl Shy.
Harold Lloyd advised Mike Nichols on the shooting.

david kelly said...

Thank you so much for standing up for the oft maligned Millennials. I grew up on TCM and many of my favorite films are B&W--the enchanted cottage. It gets tiring when people make generalizations about of group people. It's intellectually lazy and beneath someone like Mr. Levine

Anonymous said...

Festus for the restus?

Anonymous said...

“There's a plaque, as I understand it, by the staircase in The Music Box, and I still need to get there!”
Yes, the steps - the attempted climbing of which has caused more cardiacs than Oliver Hardy’s diet- still exist, but now, on either side, they’re abutted by cheapish housing for their entire vertiginous length.

“making people like Hal Roach look like villains”
Not only did Hal exploit L+ H by not having their contracts start/end concurrently, not only did he too often stick them into operetta-ish musicals where they were the comic relief - as was done with the Marx Bros. at MGM - but there’s also the little matter of his partnering with the Mussolini family.

“plus Paramount had that block of Marx Brothers and WC Fields pictures...”

Paramount sold ownership of these films in 1949
FROM WIKIPEDIA
“few years after the ruling of the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. case in 1948, Music Corporation of America (MCA) approached Paramount offering $50 million for 750 sound feature films released prior to December 1, 1949 with payment to be spread over a period of several years. Paramount saw this as a bargain since the fleeting movie studio saw very little value in its library of old films at the time. To address any anti-trust concerns, MCA set up EMKA, Ltd. as a dummy corporation to sell these films to television. EMKA's/Universal Television's library includes the five Paramount Marx Brothers films, most of the Bob Hope–Bing Crosby Road to... pictures, and other classics such as Trouble in Paradise, Shanghai Express, She Done Him Wrong, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Double Imdemnity, The Lost Weekend, and The Heiress.”

Pat Reeder said...

Anonymous Kevin from VA said...

"A curious thing though about the old B&W Gunsmokes. Like me, a few of my friends here lean left politically. Those that do like Chester better than Festus, as I do. Most here where I live however lean right, and they all seem to favor Festus?"

But what about the moderates? Is there a Festus for the rest of us?

Buttermilk Sky said...

A good place to start:

www.bnwmovies.com

L&H were masters of anarchy. My favorite (silent) is BIG BUSINESS, where they're door-to-door Christmas tree salesmen. By the time they're finished their car and Jimmy Finlayson's house have been wrecked, a crowd has gathered to watch in fascinated horror, a policeman arrives...just see it.

E. Yarber said...

I hate to switch from L&H to Gunsmoke, but those on the Chester/Festus divide should check out the "Prairie Wolfer" episode from the ninth TV season that established the latter as a regular character after a couple of recurring appearances. Not only does it play up Festus, but both Chester and Quint Asper are present to welcome him in. The show was such a colossus at that point that making a major change in the cast like that was taken very seriously.

E. Yarber said...

And as long as I'm digressing, I might as well add that while John Wayne introduced the first episode of TV's Gunsmoke, Ken Curtis was John Ford's son-in-law.

Pat Reeder said...

As long as people have commented on the brilliant escalating destruction of the Christmas trees/car/house in "Big Business" and the pie fight in "Battle of the Century," let me get in a plug for the silent that first turned me on to them, "Two Tars."

They play two sailors on shore leave who pick up a couple of girls, get stuck in a giant traffic jam, and start an epic battle of systematic destruction of all the cars. The funniest moment is toward the end, when a cop orders everybody to move out, and we see a parade of one hilariously-distorted vehicle after another, as Stan and Ollie try not to crack up laughing under the stern glare of the cop. This is a classic that doesn't get mentioned often enough.

It's on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/zojQuhM52gg

DwWashburn said...

The staircase was also used in the Three Stooges short "An Ache in Every Stake" where the guys play ice men and try to figure out how to deliver ice to the top step without it melting.

In my case I think it's a "what goes around, comes around". Yes, the younger kids can't tell you who Greta Garbo, Zeppo Marx, etc. are. But the other night I saw a promo for the Grammy awards where the announcer excitedly read the list of people who would be presenters. At the end I told my wife "and many more people that you've never heard of." So the younger generation can be ignorant about early film stars and I'll be ignorant about people who think they're producing music when all they're doing is screeching or cursing while they show everyone their manicures.

Rob in Toronto said...

The steps used in the 3 Stooges short are NOT the Music Box steps.

The "Ache in Every Stake" steps are located between 2257 and 2258 Fair Oak View Terrace. About a mile away on the other side of the hill are the "Music Box" stairs.

Rich said...

An opinion that could lead to a blogpost: I have a shortlist of what I consider "perfect short comedies." These are comedies that are great all the way through, that build and build and pay off every gag, that are exactly the right length, and that continue to make me laugh every time I watch them. "The Music Box" is certainly one. Others on my list include:
"One Week" (Buster Keaton -- the "building a house" one)
"The Rat" (last and best Fawlty Towers -- sensational payoff at the end)
"Chef of the Future" (Honeymooners -- Ralph Goes on the Game Show is a close second)
"One A.M." (Chaplin -- no pathos, nothing but funny and astonishing)
"Coast to Coast Big Mouth" (Dick Van Dyke Show)

Your list?

Mr. Colorize said...

Who are we kidding. 90% of the B&W films and TV shows can and should be colorized. There is little reason to maintain the library in B&W, when the films will have a much wider audience after being colorized using the most current process.

While America watched "I Love Lucy" in B&W, the studio audience watched the show in color. I am glad CBS is colorizing the show for the new generation.

However, I am ok if certain shows like "The Twilight Zone" stay in B&W.

Michael said...

Astroboy, Dick Van Dyke did the eulogy at Stan Laurel's funeral. They became close in Laurel's later years (Laurel lived in an apartment in Santa Monica and had his name in the phone book--and he maintained a great correspondence, some of which is online). Laurel once said that if they ever did a movie of his life, and he hoped they didn't, he'd want Dick to play him.

Well, one of the great Dick Van Dyke Show variety episodes has him doing his Stan Laurel impression. When it was over, he called Stan, who said, "Oh, Dickie, it was just fine," and then spent 45 minutes on everything he did wrong, down to his heel needing to be over an inch or whatever. Van Dyke told the story in his eulogy and said he wished he'd taped the call because it was one of the greatest lectures on comedy he ever heard.

Pat Reeder, there's one L&H where they're at the dentist and get into the laughing gas. Well, they didn't actually use laughing gas, so Stan and Babe had to break each other up to make it work, and they were so good at it that they were overcome and had to quit work.

thirteen said...

They'd tried pretty hard to get John Wayne to star in Gunsmoke. His intro was a favor to the producers.

Ken, you and I are about the same age. When we were kids, L&H films were all over TV, but even we didn't get to see their silents very often. We found films in the afternoons and on weekends, but all of those slots are now occupied by infomercials and wildly extended local "news" programs. The films used to be cut for time and interrupted for commercials, but even that was better than the trackless void we're getting now from local TV. I don't know how a modern audience is supposed to find these old films. TCM can't carry all that weight.

I also want to say something about Marion Davies. She was freakin' hilarious. Cf. "Show People" from 1928 for just one example.

D McEwan said...

Stan & Ollie is full of factual errors and misrepresents their relationship. I find insulting to them, especially to Stan, and it downright libels Hal Roach, despite it clearly being a labor of love. Yes, Hal had contract disputes with them and had creative differences with Stan, but he was not the monster he's portrayed as in this nearly fact-free movie. The filmmakers manufactured imaginary conflicts to provide "Drama" where they felt there was insufficient drama. They didn't have public arguments, nor are they known to have ever thrown recriminations at each other. Gee, it's too bad that two performers with a long time working relationship actually got along with each other. How boring.

I have loved L&H since birth. The two occasions when I ascended the Music Box Steps in Silverlake (Less than a mile from where I was born) are the only times I've ever felt like I was walking on Holy Ground.

Ignore the fakes. Watch the real boys. Laurel & Hardy, accept no substitutes.

E. Yarber said...

D McEwan pretty much sums up what I've heard about STAN AND OLLIE, which was reason enough for me to decide to skip it. I've reviewed many biopic screenplays in my time and often find them to have less understanding of the subjects themselves than whatever baggage the writers want to project onto their histories.

There's an outrageous interview with Jerry Lewis on the L&H box set in which Lewis completely trashes Hardy as some lunk workman Stan saw on the set and decided to mold into a comic foil. It completely ignores that Hardy had a more extensive career pre-Laurel and had even been in comedy teams before they were paired for Roach. Lewis's point seemed to be that Hardy was like Dean Martin, dead weight for his fellow genius Stan (who begged off working with Lewis and couldn't bring himself to tell the needy guy that he found Lewis's movies awful). I can't bring myself to sit through THAT again, nor do I need to go out of my way to get annoyed.

I don't opine about movies I haven't seen, but I'll quickly debunk one claim that has been reported in STAN AND OLLIE. While Stan was sidelined, waiting for Hardy's contract to run out so they could sign as a team for Roach, Roach announced projects for Hardy alone that were never made. Hardy finally wound up in a period comedy called ZENOBIA, which had been developed as a spinoff of the TOPPER series. Harry Langdon, who had been writing with Stan, had a minor role and Roach exaggerated that into the idea that a Langdon and Hardy series would ensue.

In the feature, this is apparently presented as a never-to-be forgiven betrayal by Hardy. Yet when Stan reported back to work, he continued keeping Langdon on his writing staff and had ZENOBIA's director helm SAPS AT SEA, while the former film's female lead also worked with L&H. This is hardly the behavior of a man who felt stabbed in the back by the solo film. Later on, Stan was happy to encourage Ollie to take character roles with John Wayne and Frank Capra while Stan was too ill to perform. In later years, Stan tended to speak of Roach like any worker who rolled his eyes when mentioning the boss. He only lapsed into anger when recalling the executives at Fox and MGM who humiliated him and Babe while making pictures he wished had never been released.

Did the current film need this shrill edge? When Stan spoke of the English tour, he always noted that it was the first time he and Babe really spent time together and got to know each other after years working together and parting at the end of shooting. Even when they went on tour for War Bonds, they were in a group of stars and roomed with Groucho Marx. Now they felt they were at the end of their tether and finally developed a personal relationship. A story exploring that angle could have been a sensitive, touching account very much in line with the gentle characters the team embodied.

Hard to say what the real comedians would have said about the film, but I'm reminded how Buster Keaton approved a mess called THE BUSTER KEATON STORY and worked with Donald O'Connor in recreating some of his classic routines. When the project was over, Keaton made no bones about the result having nothing to do with the facts of his life, but they'd paid him enough money that he could afford a little chicken farm in the Valley, which he'd wanted for years and was where he lived the rest of his life. That's show biz.

Donald Benson said...

Thelma Todd's two-reelers were released on disc last year. One set has her teamed with Zasu Pitts; the second with Patsy Kelly. They're a mixed bag, perhaps because nobody was sure how to write comedy for a team of attractive, not-dumb young women. Thelma's comic talent is on display throughout, as is her parters'.

Terrence Moss said...

Millennials get a bad rap for not knowing the great performers and movies of the b&w era.

The problem is in the assumption that they wouldn't be interested or take to something because it's old or in a now-defunct format.

They should be given the exposure and allowed to decide for themselves.

Laurel, Hardy and Eve Arden can find a new life. I'm 40 and have known about them since I was a teenager because of exposure which sparked an interest.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Lucky Luciano didn't find thelma Todd so funny.

Bob Gassel said...

Just to clarify E. Yarber's clarification...

Although Youngson did have the entire pie fight at his disposal for "The Golden Age of Comedy", he heavily edited the scene for use in that film, so now is the first time we are seeing the original uncut version in probably 70 years....

E. Yarber said...

Good catch, Bob. I guess I was too dazzled by the sight of a thin Eugene Pallette.

Kirk said...

Just want to say I love Laurel and Hardy, but might skip this film because of the inaccuracies I've heard about.

People who don't know Laurel and Hardy all that well have this mistaken impression that Hardy was the straight man, a la Bud Abbott. Reading E. Yarber's comment, I wonder if Jerry Lewis also thought that. Hardy could be every bit as dumb (and thus every bit as funny) as Laurel, but he ASSUMED he was the smarter of the two, and that assumption was where much of the comedy lay. The breaking the fourth wall and looking directly into the camera was not just a way of expressing his disgust with Laurel, but also of asserting his imagined-superiority over Laurel. At least that's how I interpret it.

estiv said...

Just saw it and agree with the positive sentiments expressed here. I'll add that Steve Coogan's willingness to disappear into his role impressed me because, even though he does play characters in his usual work rather than just do himself or some shtick, he has such a strong personality that he often dominates a scene. That's fine for his previous work but would have damaged this movie. So he didn't do it. Like Stan Laurel, he knew that the film was bigger than him, so kudos.
As far as how well it stuck to the facts, years ago I saw a movie filmed in my home town that had a chase scene. The city's geography was so distorted it took me out of the movie. If I had been ignorant of the facts I would have been fine. For Stan and Ollie I was ignorant, so no problem. It is a little weird how movies can rewrite history. A lot of people think they know Watergate because they've seen All The President's Men, which means they have no idea who John Sirica was or how important his role. That's not good.