Announcing NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

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Spring cleaning at the ol’ Movie Movie Blog Blog has yielded some interesting surprises — which, in the generous spirit of spring season, I’d like to pass along to you. Therefore, it is with bated breath (for which I’m seeing a doctor) that I happily announce…

NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

(Yes, I know — Nuts in May is the title of a Stan Laurel solo film, not a Laurel & Hardy team film. But I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.)

Let me start by saying that if you’re interested in participating, you’re going to have work fast on this one. For, as befitting the ‘thon’s title, it will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017.

So now you’re saying, “Prizes, schmizes! I can’t enter a blogathon that’s coming up so soon!” Well, hold on, snootie, we haven’t announced the prizes yet!

(Fifth- and fourth-place prizes were added to this blogathon after I published this initial announcement about the ‘thon. Click here to read what those prizes are.)

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Third prize is the Kino Video/Lobster Films 2004 DVD of Laurel & Hardy’s 1939 film The Flying Deuces. (NOTE: This is not a Blu-Ray edition.) This is a restored, uncut version of the movie that was transferred from a nitrate 35mm negative discovered in France. The DVD also includes:

  • The Stolen Jools, a 1931 all-star short subject made for charity. Laurel & Hardy have a short but funny cameo in it.
  • The Tree in a Test Tube, a 1943 educational short subject featuring Laurel & Hardy in color, performing pantomime.
  • The notorious 1954 segment of “This Is Your Life” in which Hardy and a polite but reluctant Laurel are featured.
  • 1932 newsreel footage of Laurel & Hardy’s trip to the United Kingdom.
  • Copies of stills and promotional material for the movie.

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Second prize are the 1997 Laurel & Hardy “70th-anniversary” dolls featured in the above photo. (NOTE: The prize is the dolls [as shown above] and their props. The dolls are no longer in their original packaging.) Props include an umbrella for Hardy, a suitcase for Laurel, and small doll stands that contain replicas of Laurel’s and Hardy’s autographs.

And now for the grand prize. Are you sitting down?

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First prize is a near-mint-condition copy of Randy Skretvedt’s Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies – The Ultimate Edition. Yes, this is the 632-page hardback book that was released to huge critical acclaim last year. It’s loaded to the max with updates from Skretvedt’s initial 1987 book, including tons of photographs and trivia to savor.

So here are the rules — read them carefully!

  1. Blogathon participants are asked to write a review of one of the 106 films in which Laurel and Hardy were paired from 1926 to 1951. (That includes the early Hal Roach/Pathe productions in which Laurel & Hardy co-starred in the same film but were not featured as a team.) Please choose only from this list of movies — no “This Is Your Life,” compilation films, TV specials, or anything that deviates from said list. (A listing of this group of films can be found here.)
  2. No duplicate entries are allowed for this blogathon. At the bottom of this blog is a list of blogathon entries that will be regularly updated. Please check the list before you begin writing your entry, to see if someone has already taken your choice.
  3. Your review does not necessarily have to be positive — for example, if you want to review a L&H/20th Century-Fox film that you don’t like, that’s fine. All I ask is that the review be well-written, thought-out, reasoned, and entertaining.
  4. I will be the sole judge of the blogathon entries and will determine which entries win first, second, third, fourth, and fifth prize. So re-read Rule # 3 if necessary.
  5. Banners to promote the blogathon are posted at the bottom of this blog. Once you have written and posted your entry at your blog, grab a banner, post it with your entry, and link the banner back to this blog. Also, please leave your blogathon entry’s URL in the “Comments” section below so that I can read your entry.
  6. Your entry must be posted at your blog by 12:00 midnight Eastern Time on Monday, May 1, 2017. I will announce the blogathon winners as soon as possible after that time, possibly the next day. All blogathon entries will be linked here, and I will post the first- through fifth-prize-winning entries at this blog.

So for my and Laurel & Hardy’s sake, think hard, write well, and have fun! Here’s the line-up so far:

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Liberty (1929)

The Movie Rat – The Music Box (1932)

CaftanWoman – Me and My Pal (1933)

thoughtsallsorts – The Live Ghost (1934)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – A Chump at Oxford (1940)

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Laurel & Hardy and horses

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The following is my contribution to The Animals in Film Blogathon, being hosted May 26-28, 2016 by the blog In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ comments about a variety of contributions made by acting animals to the history of motion pictures!

For this blogathon, rather than talking about a single movie, I chose to discuss the supporting roles that horses have in a large number of comedies starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. Horses are so frequently Stan & Ollie’s co-stars that one can’t help but draw the conclusion that it’s because Stan and Ollie appear to share the same level of brainpower as their animal supporting actors.

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Surely the peak of Laurel & Hardy’s relationship with horses occurs in Way Out West (1937), where their co-star is Dinah the Mule (who even gets a screen credit, and deserves it). At one point in the movie, in an attempt to get Ollie up to the second floor of Mickey Finn’s Saloon in the middle of the night, they get Dinah up there instead. This scene alone shows that perhaps a single member of the equine community has more intelligence than Stan and Ollie combined. However, there are plenty of other such incidents worth noting in the Laurel & Hardy canon.

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First, the more benign examples. In Fra Diavolo (a/k/a The Devil’s Brother; 1933, shown above) and Swiss Miss (1938), horses are simply the sources for transportation, not gags. In the later 20th Century-Fox feature Great Guns (1941), a horse provides humiliation, but not for Stan and Ollie. Instead, it is their commanding officer, Sgt. “Hippo,” who gets bucked off a wild horse when he tries to imitate the rough-riding mannerism of Stan and Ollie’s ward, Dan Forrester; The Boys only laugh at Hippo’s comeuppance. (That’s an adequate illustration of how L&H’s later, Big Studio movies put them on the sidelines and let the supporting players get the laughs.)

In another of L&H’s Big Studio feature films, Jitterbugs (1943), The Boys and their car and wagon are stranded in the desert. Ollie tells Stan to get out and push the behemoth while he steers. Moments later, with the car still moving, Stan idles alongside Ollie and gets into the car beside him. Ollie is surprisingly nonchalant about this — in a Hal Roach feature, Ollie would have reacted to this with a huge double-take — but when he asks Stan about this, he finds that Stan has commandeered a nearby donkey to do the moving. Ollie, in another of his insults that goes over Stan’s head, is philosophical about this: “A mule is just as good as a donkey in this kind of situation.”

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In Laurel & Hardy’s Oscar-winning short subject The Music Box (1932), Susie — the horse who is a major part of The Boys’ “transfer company” (i.e., moving van) — is, at most, passive-aggressive. When Stan is trying to unload a crated piano onto Ollie’s back, Susie moves forward just a step too soon, giving Ollie a major backache. Ollie rectifies this situation later when he unchains Susie from the back of the wagon, though this does little to prevent further mishaps with the piano.

One of L&H’s more extended routines with horses appears to have occurred in a long-unavailable feature film, The Rogue Song (1930). As described in the 1975 book Laurel & Hardy, bandit’s assistants Ali-Bek and Murza-Bek (Stan and Ollie by any other name) have major trouble mounting and dismounting their horses with, naturally, the major indignities befalling Ollie.

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Besides Way Out West, Laurel & Hardy’s best-remembered horse maneuverings occur in the silent short Wrong Again (1929). Stable workers Stan and Ollie overhear that a local man of means is offering a $5,000 reward for the return of his Blue Boy. The rich man is referring to the famous Gainsborough painting, but unluckily there is a horse in the stable bearing the same name. Of course, Stan and Ollie reach entirely the wrong conclusion, and when they bring the horse to the man’s mansion, the man (who is at an upper floor and unable to see the Blue Boy in question) instructs The Boys to “take him right into the house” and “put him on the piano.”

This results in some outrageously satisfying gags and routines, and more than a little sympathy for the physical sufferings endured by Ollie (who at one point is wedged between an upright piano leg and the piano-topped-by-the-horse). And as Laurel & Hardy biographer Charles Barr succinctly puts it, “Thus, by a completely logical route Laurel and Hardy arrive at an image that irresistably recalls the donkey on the piano in Bunuel and Dali’s anti-logical Un Chien Andalou,” the famed surrealistic short that (as Barr notes) was probably unknown to any of Wrong Again‘s makers, and at whose pretensions Stan-the-filmmaker would surely have guffawed in derision.

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The last two instances of Laurel & Hardy & horse are on the cartoonish side, quite literally in one instance. Two years after Way Out West, The Flying Deuces (1939) has Stan asking Ollie how he would like to be reincarnated. Ollie replies that he’d like to come back as a horse. The film’s finale, at first leaving Stan as a lone vagabond wandering the countryside, then grants Ollie’s wish, as Stan comes across “Ollie” (a horse with a greasepaint-y moustache and Hardy’s dubbed-in drawl) once more telling Stan, “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”

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Finally, Walt Disney’s contribution to this menagerie must be noted. The Disney cartoon Mickey’s Polo Team (1935) has its rivals in the team “The Mickey Mousers” (Mickey and his usual sidekicks) versus “The Movie Stars,” caricatures of many Hollywood celebrities including Laurel & Hardy.  As you can see from the above still from the cartoon, Disney got one point right: the horses master Stan and Ollie far more than vice versa.