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Laurel and Hardy

The Pocket Essential Guide

Laurel and Hardy by Brian J. Robb
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Who are Laurel and Hardy? Only the most recognisable comedy team that cinema has ever produced. British-born Stan Laurel and American Oliver Hardy were teamed up at the struggling Hal Roach studios in the 1920s and embarked on a series of hilarious short silent films. They soon established a classic screen partnership and became instantly recognisable comic icons in their crumpled suits and bowler hats. Laurel and Hardy were the most successful of all the film comics who made the difficult transition from silent shorts to sound and then to feature films, enjoying unparalleled success from the 1920s through to the 1950s, when they undertook a series of triumphant tours of Britain. Regular and repeated screenings of their work through the 1970s and 1980s on television brought shorts like the Oscar-winning classic The Music Box to new generations, while in recent years the entire rarely-seen back catalogue of silent Laurel and Hardy films has become available to film buffs, comedy fans and collectors on a series of DVD releases. Everyone knows and loves Laurel and Hardy, and their everlasting appeal to new generations of fans shows no sign of ending, over 80 years on from their first work together. As well as an introductory essay and biographies of both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the book covers each Laurel and Hardy short film, the move from silent movies to the sound classics of the 1930s and the feature films of the 1930s and 1940s, complete with information on the inspiration for each film and the reaction of critics and audiences. Not only that, but there's a handy reference section listing other books about Laurel and Hardy, interesting web sites and availability of their 106 films. In fact, the Laurel and Hardy Pocket Essential is the one-stop celebration of the films and lives of Stan and Ollie.
Pocket Essentials; Read online
Title: Laurel and Hardy
Author: Brian J. Robb
Laurel and Hardy. The names alone are enough to raise a smile. They made 106 films together, not always recognisable as the team that audiences would come to know and love. It’s an amazing body of work, as much for its consistent quality as for the endless laughs the films contain. The characters of ‘Stan and Ollie’, whom Laurel and Hardy created as their screen personas, have struck a chord with generation after generation of viewers, whether through cinema screenings, 8mm home movie releases, television screenings, video releases or newly restored films on DVD. Every technology developed in the almost 80 years since Laurel and Hardy began making movies has featured them, including copious websites on the Internet. Kids today still find the innocent slapstick, verbal dexterity and command of comedy of Laurel and Hardy hilariously funny. The Laurel and Hardy appreciation society, the Sons of the Desert, has a long history and a huge international membership. All of this, of course, stems from the films and the films came from two very creative men. Stan Laurel, the creative powerhouse behind the Laurel and Hardy films, started life as Arthur Stanley Jefferson. He was born in the Lancashire town of Ulverston on 16 June 1890. With a theatre-owning, vaudeville-performing father, Laurel’s destiny was decided for him. From the moment he stepped on stage as a child in a production at Pickard’s Museum in Glasgow, owned by a friend of his father, Albert Pickard, Laurel knew the show-business life was for him. After performing in vaudeville in the UK as a teenager, he sailed to the United States in 1910 as part of the Fred Karno troupe of performers alongside Charles Chaplin. From 1914 to 1922, Laurel toured American vaudeville theatres, developing his stagecraft and comic timing. During this time, he partnered on stage and off (in a never-ratified common-law marriage) with Australian dancer Mae Charlotte Dahlberg Cuthbert. It was through Mae’s discovery of a picture of a laurel wreath that Arthur Stanley Jefferson came by his stage name of Stan Laurel. T heir stormy relationship lasted until 1925, although Mae would resurface once Laurel found fame and fortune in the movies. Stan Laurel started working in films in 1917, beginning with Nuts in May. He made over 60 solo films, often at the rate of one each week. It was an ideal training ground for a young man finding his way in the field of film comedy. From the beginning of his film career, Laurel took an active part in the writing and directing of his films for various Hollywood studios, learning the tricks of this newly developing art form on the job. Also in Hollywood in the late 1910s and learning about the movie business was Oliver Norvell Hardy, known to all as Babe. Born 18 January 1892, in Harlem, Georgia, Hardy grew up with his hotel-manager mother following the death of his father shortly after Hardy’s birth. Music was Hardy’s first love and aged eight he toured the American South as a boy soprano with a minstrel troupe. Sent to Atlanta to study music, Hardy instead got a job in a theatre singing to slides for 50¢ per day. By the age of 18, he was running the first movie theatre in Milledgeville, Georgia. Annoyed by the bad acting he saw in the movies, he set off in 1913, aged 21, to Florida where there was a burgeoning movie business, determined that he could do better. Indeed, he could. Between 1914 and 1917 Hardy appeared in over 100 film shorts, usually playing ‘heavies’ or villains (due to his size) in support of comic talents like Larry Semon and Billy West. Never having acted on stage, Hardy developed subtle film acting skills suitable for the big screen that many old vaudevillians lacked. Like Laurel, Hardy married young, to pianist Madelyn Saloshin in 1913. They were divorced by 1920, whereupon Hardy promptly married Myrtle Lee Reeves, a film actress he’d known from childhood. This was to be a turbulent marriage, which, like Laurel’s to Mae, would cause him problems in later years. Hoping to develop his film career, Oliver Hardy went to Hollywood. There he met and worked with another young, struggling movie comedian, Stan Laurel. The pair featured in a 1920 short called The Lucky Dog, their first appearance in the same movie. It would be another seven years until they appeared together again, and several more years after that before they became the recognised team of Laurel and Hardy, but in that 1920 short the seeds of long-lasting comic greatness were sown.
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