from the blog Serendipitous Anachronisms
Hello, darling readers, today’s post is part of the Nuts in May Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog, a fantastic event dedicated to the comedy of Laurel and Hardy. I love Laurel and Hardy, so naturally, I had to sign up!
Today, I share one of my favorite films of all times, Liberty, which stars Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. On top of being brilliant comedians, they were also excellent actors. And what makes Laurel and Hardy truly unique as comedy team is the genuine affection they have for one another, despite their ever-mounting frustration, they bicker like siblings, you know they will always support one another, no matter what.
It is this unique blend of affection that inspired Samuel Beckett’s classic play Waiting for Godot and Laurel and Hardy often influence the play’s production design.
I realize that many people consider silent films an acquired taste, but when people say they don’t like silent films, I say, “Watch Liberty,” because Liberty is awesome!
Our film opens with an overly stiff and stale salute to liberty, but don’t let this opening stop you, just sit through it, and buckle up, and get ready for the funniest silent film of all time.
Stanley and Oliver are in yet “another fine mess,” this time they have broken out of prison! Their gang shows up in a getaway car, and they bring a change of clothing, and the trouble begins.
In the rushed change, they accidentally trade pants.
At this point, they are dropped off from the getaway car and are on the run, when they notice they are wearing the wrongs pants. Stanley’s pants are ten sizes too big, and Ollies pants are ten sizes too small.
They decide to exchange pants, but where to go?
What follows is a hysterical sequence of increasing humiliation as the two men try to swap pants in the backs of alleys, and hidden behind corners… Even a fish market, where Stanley accidentally picks up a crab in his trousers!
Now imagine, being on the run, trying to look inconspicuous and a crab pinches you. When you are on the run, fresh out of prison, the last thing you want is police attention. And the crab pinches Stanley again, and again and again!
The first thing anyone is going to want to do is to get those pants off, right? Back to square one, where does one take off one’s pants in the middle of downtown Los Angeles?
Finally, they find the perfect spot for the exchange, an elevator on a construction site.
And this is where Liberty transforms from amusing to horrifying, and we find Stanley, Oliver, and the very “pinchy” crab, together on a scaffolding, on top of a skyscraper.
And in case you imagine that the shot above is some studio effect, it is not! Laurel and Hardy are on the roof of the Western Costume Building located at 939 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles; the scaffolding is an actual three-story high set on the roof of that 150-foot building!
OH. MY. GOD!
What makes this scene even more terrifying is knowing that, like myself, poor Stan Laurel was afraid of heights. According to the Laurel and Hardy Museum blog, Stan began having a panic attack while shooting the scene. I totally understand I have panic attacks just watching the scene.
According to Wes Gehringer’s book Laurel & Hardy: Bio-bibliography:
“During the skyscraper production of Liberty (1929), Hardy attempted to relieve the high-rise anxiety of Laurel by demonstrating the effectiveness of the safety platform some fifteen-twenty feet below their scaffold set. He jumped down to the platform– which he crashed through, falling an additional twenty feet to the ground. Somehow he escaped serious injury. Though the film was eventually finished, Hardy’s good deed could not have been much comfort to Laurel” (Gehringer 230).
The stomach dropping stunts from ladders to beams, elevate our heroes to abject terror as they struggle with a fear of heights, a frightening landscape, and a less than friendly crab, oh yes, and evading the police.
So if you are going to watch only one silent film in your lifetime, please promise me, dear readers you will watch Liberty.
My understanding is there will be prizes, including my favorite Laurel and Hardy dolls! Good luck to all my fellow bloggers, and thanks to Steve from Movie Movie Blog Blog for hosting this event!
Ciao for now, dearies!