Laurel & Hardy: The eternal friendship of Stan and Ollie

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The following is my contribution to the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, being hosted Nov. 18-20, 2016 by Debra at the blog Moon in Gemini. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to some of cinema’s most memorable friendships!

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Usually, anyone who writes about Laurel & Hardy dwells on their comedy highlights (and justifiably so). But in this instance, I’d like to discuss some of their more thoughtful moments and show why, as L&H biographer Randy Skretvedt once said, they have more “depth” than most comedy teams.

It’s not for nothing that, within their fan base, Laurel & Hardy are just as likely to inspire a tear as a laugh. The most commonly cited instance is the famous softshoe dance from Way Out West (1937; embedded below), in which the deep bond of Stan and Ollie is just as obvious as their superb comic timing.

But there are plenty of other instances — not as funny, maybe, but just as touching — that illuminate Stan and Ollie’s friendship. I’d like to cite just four of them. (SPOILER ALERTS)

At the climax of their short subject Below Zero (1930), Stan and Ollie have just been, literally, knocked out and thrown out of the back of a greasy-spoon cafe for not paying their dinner tab. (They thought they had sufficient funds to pay for it, but you know, it’s Stan and Ollie.) When Ollie regains consciousness, he doesn’t see Stan anywhere, and he yells for Stan several times — first in a normal tone of voice, then with fear that his friend is missing or has been physically harmed. All of this is conveyed simply by Ollie calling Stan’s name four times, followed by Ollie grabbing a large piece of wood and rushing to the cafe’s back door to bang on it.

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This is also a tribute to Oliver Hardy’s often-underrated acting. (And of course, Stan turns out to be all right — I’ll let you discover the movie’s silly ending for yourself.)

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In L&H’s first feature film Pardon Us (1931), The Boys have been sentenced to prison for trying to sell bootleg liquor (to a cop, as it happens). Stan has a troublesome lisp that makes the end of his every sentence sound as though he’s blowing a raspberry. It’s determined that Stan needs to go the prison dentist to get a loose tooth pulled. Stan has grave misgivings about this idea, especially after seeing a couple of patients in the dentist’s waiting room who are vocalizing their agony. Suddenly, Ollie sneaks in, takes a seat next to Stan, and declares that he’ll stay with Stan all through the dental visit. It’s a tiny moment that’s not dwelled upon, but Stan’s delight at seeing a cheerful, familiar face in a hostile environment speaks volumes.

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In Busy Bodies (1933), Stan and Ollie are having a back-and-forth physical row with an antagonistic co-worker (Charlie Hall). At one point, Stan hits Ollie by mistake. Charlie laughs and starts to make friends with Stan, telling Stan he has “a kind face.” Stan starts to get chummy with his new buddy and offers him a cigar. Ollie’s look to the camera — a device that always conveys Ollie’s exasperation to the audience — has an undertone of pity in this instance, as Ollie fears that Stan has turned on him. (Not to worry. Stan gets Charlie ejected from work — theirs is a “No Smoking” place of business.)

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The most profound instance of Stan and Ollie’s loss-and-regaining of friendship occurs at the end of their feature film A Chump at Oxford (1940). (Major spoilers follow.) Stan and Ollie are attending Oxford University on a scholarship. Unbeknownst to them, Oxford once had a brilliant professor named Lord Paddington who, one day, inexplicably walked away from Oxford for good. Paddington’s former servant notices Stan’s resemblance to the former genius and declares that Stan is Lord Paddington returned to his old stomping grounds. Ollie laughs derisively at the idea.

OLLIE: Why, I’ve known him for years, and he’s the dumbest guy that I ever saw. Aren’t you, Stan?

STAN: I certainly am.

But when Stan leans out a window and is conked on the head by the window’s pane, Lord Paddington’s memory returns — as does Lord P. in all of his snobby glory.

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There follows a delicious scene in which Ollie is justly punished for all of his years of condescending treatment of Stan, as Ollie is demoted to being Lord P.’s lackey. At one point, Paddington instructs Ollie on how to behave with more poise. “Lift your chin up,” he tells Ollie. When Ollie duly lifts his chin, Stan instructs him, “No, no, no, both of them!”

Ollie eventually loses it, telling Paddington that he’s had enough and that he’s returning to America without him. As it happens, some of Lord P.’s followers are singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” outside his window. Lord P. goes to the window to listen, the window pane does its business again, and Stan is returned to his old self.

Ollie is still on a rampage when Stan starts to cry at the thought of Ollie deserting him. Eventually, it dawns on Ollie that Stan is back to normal. Ollie laughs in happiness and throws his arms around his old buddy, briefly looking down at his derided double-chin before resuming his joy at the return of his old friend.

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You have to think that Stan Laurel, as the uncredited co-creator of most of Laurel & Hardy’s movies, felt compelled to add these subtle grace notes to L&H’s characterizations. They’re minor, but they’re there for anyone who looks for them, and they add a little emotion to what could have simply been (superb) slapstick comedies.

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The 2nd Annual ‘ONE’ OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE CARTOONS BLOGATHON is here!

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Grab some cereal and pretend it’s Saturday morning. Our three-day blogathon devoted to bloggers’ favorite animated films is underway!

If you are one of the participating bloggers:

  1. Please post the names and URLs of your blog and the cartoon you are blogging about, in the “Comments” section below, so that we can link to them.
  2. The only deadline is that we request you post your blog entry by the end of the day on Sunday, Nov. 13 — and the sooner, the better. (Inquiring cartoon buffs want to know!)

If you are one of our visitors, click on the appropriate blog and/or cartoon title below to link to the blogger’s entry about said cartoon. Keep us bookmarked, as we will continue to update the list below throughout the weekend as bloggers submit their entries. This blog will also be doing end-of-the-day wrap-ups of blog entries submitted on each day.

So sit back this weekend, and enjoy a guilt-free line-up of classic cartoons on us!

Below are the blogathon entrants:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Mickey’s Garden (1935) and A Single Life (2014)

Once Upon a Screen – Swooner Crooner (1944)

BNoirDetour – Key Lime Pie (2007)

Film Music Central – My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Bambi (1942)

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – The Lego Movie (2014)

Cinema Shame – Perfect Blue (1997)

Caftan Woman – A Christmas Carol (Richard Williams, 1971)

Pop Culture Pundit – Frozen (2013)

Epileptic Moondancer – Akira (1988)

Wide Screen World – Hanna-Barbera’s World of Super Adventure (1980-84)

The Midnite Drive-In – Heavy Metal (1981)

Moon in Gemini – Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Silver Scenes – To Spring (1936)

Dell on Movies – The Brown Hornet (1979-84)

Just two weeks until The 2nd Annual ‘ONE’ of My Favorite Cartoons Blogathon!

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Do you have a favorite cartoon that you’d want to take with you to the proverbial desert island? Join our blogathon and tell everyone about it! Click on the above Betty Boop-based banner for the blogathon rules!

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from Laurel & Hardy.

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The following is my entry in the Things I Learned from the Movies Blogathon, being hosted Oct. 14-17, 2016 by Kristina and Ruth at, respectively, the blogs Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Click on the above banner, and read a variety of life lessons learned by bloggers through their study of cinema!

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Don’t run away — THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON is here!

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To honor the 47th (!) anniversary of the world premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” this blog is spending the next few days letting bloggers chime in on their favorite movies (group and solo) from members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Join us as we celebrate this groundbreaking comedy team!

If you are one of the blogathon entrants, please post the URL to your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will link to it as soon as possible. Please have your entry posted by the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 3 (and if I may, the sooner the better!).

If you are just stopping by for some great reading, please give this blog bookmarked, as entries will continue coming in for the next three days. Enjoy the silliness!

Here are the blogathon’s entrants:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

 

Just one week until THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON!

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Only one week remains until we launch The Monty Python Movie Blogathon!

The blogathon is open to anyone who wants to write about movies made by the members of Monty Python, either as a group or individually. Thus far, the only “team” movies that have been taken are Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life, so there are still plenty of choices up for grabs.

Click here for the complete rules of the blogathon, and be sure to check back next Saturday to read some great blog entries!

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And now for something completely different — announcing THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON!

 

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(DISCLAIMER: This blogathon is not in any way connected with or endorsed by Python [Monty] Pictures Ltd. or any member of Monty Python.)

On Oct. 5, 1969, the British comedy collective soon to be known as Monty Python first made its presence felt when “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” made its world premiere on the BBC. As the show was the final broadcast for BBC’s Sunday-evening programming, Python member Michael Palin said that their original audience consisted of “burglars and insomniacs.” From those humble beginnings sprang forth a laugh factory that influenced generations of British and American comedy makers.

To honor this hallowed anniversary, I announce The Monty Python Movie Blogathon. I know it’s ironic that I’m creating a film blogathon for a comedy troupe that began in TV — but let’s face it, if we allowed the Pythons’ TV entries into this ‘thon, it would be running for months! So here are the rules.

No duplicate entries about the same movie. You are about to be provided with a menu of choices generous enough that no blogs should have to overlap.

Do’s – You may blog about:

  • obviously, any of the Pythons’ team films, from And Now for Something Completely Different through The Meaning of Life. (Although not all of the Pythons participated in the three Secret Policemen’s Ball concert films, these can be included as well. If you wish, you may also review the DVD of Monty Python Live [mostly], the 2014 reunion concert of the surviving Python members.)
  • any movie — comedy or drama — in which a Python member played a starring or supporting role.
  • any movie in which a Python member participated in the writing and/or directing. (This obviously includes the vast filmography of Terry Gilliam.)
  • any filmed biography of the Pythons.

Don’ts – Please, no reviews of any of their TV work, as a group or separately, or as I mentioned, we’d be here for days. That said, I will make two exceptions to this rule: (1) any aforementioned Python biographies that happened to appear on TV; and (2) The Rutles (1978), Eric Idle’s irresistible mock-biography of The Beatles.

How Do I Join the Blogathon?

In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for the ‘thon. Grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.

The blogathon will take place from Sat., Oct. 1, through Mon., Oct. 3. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update up to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).

I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on Oct. 3, I will be satisfied. (That said, the earlier the better!)

Again, be sure to leave me a comment and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry!

Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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