Author Topic: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along  (Read 11384 times)

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #240 on: April 15, 2019, 05:13:14 PM »
From Everson’s book:

 


From Skretvedt’s book:

   

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #241 on: April 16, 2019, 01:24:06 AM »
I've been keenly waiting for Big Business to come up in the watch-along, mostly to see (a) if it's as funny as I remembered, and (b) how it fits in chronologically. If anyone's been reading this thread but hasn't yet taken the plunge, this short is a great place to start, as my answer to those questions is that you can make a very strong case for this being the apex of pre-talkie comedy.

It's basically your typical Laurel and Hardy turn-based battle, but taken to the most ludicrous degree. It's not just a brief part in the middle of a film - it's as big and absurd as they possibly could have made it, and it's hilarious beyond words. It's the boys versus Jimmy Finlayson, and there are no rules, apart from not being allowed to stop your opponent in the middle of their move, and not knowing when to stop. The level of escalation is brilliant, and some of the images (the smouldering flattened car in particular) had me in stitches. All this for the sake of selling a Christmas tree! Legendary Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones once said that the definition of an idiot is someone who redoubles his efforts having long forgotten his aim, and by those standards, we're watching the biggest idiots in the history of cinema.

One observation I have is that a lot of the two-reelers up to this point were sort of split into halves, with maybe a few minutes in a boxing ring before ending up in a pie fight on the street, or a long scene with some women in an appartment before another one up skyscraper that's being built. But Big Business is dedicated to one subject and (just about) one location for its entire duration, and so maybe that makes it a sort of breakthrough moment. One of my favourite little touches was the fact that we only see the hammer that hits Babe on the head, and not the person holding it. I also got a big laugh out of Stan brazenly cutting the phone cord right under Fin's nose. (That's Fin, who was the ripe old age of 41 when this was made. Somehow, all three of them seem ageless and frozen in time.) But nothing I write can do justice to the film, or to the geniuses responsible for it - if you're put off by the fact that it's 90+ years old, well, don't be. Just watch it. It's an undoubted masterpiece of the art.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #242 on: April 16, 2019, 07:28:09 PM »
Week 32

Unaccustomed As We Are, released 04/05/1929

 


Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unaccustomed_As_We_Are


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Unaccustomed As We Are - 1929- Great print with original main titles.  The sleeve notes indicate that only one version of the soundtrack exists.  Well according the The Vitagraph Project another copy has been located and is sealed - ie. has never been played.  It's a pity this version was not restored for this DVD.  There is also an alternative colourised version of this film.
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x26g4az



http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_152.html


Here’s the US version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xm6BnJlnAoo

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #243 on: April 16, 2019, 08:23:35 PM »
This entry on Laurel and Hardy's short films indicates that Stan preferred the team's silent shorts to their talking ones:

 



Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #244 on: April 20, 2019, 09:21:21 PM »
There's only one place to start with Unaccustomed As We Are, and of course that's the fact that it marks Laurel and Hardy's sound debut. The stars of the era sort of fell into three categories: those for whom audio was an unwanted complication, those who used it for gimmicky reasons, and the third one, which is the least populated but definitely features the boys. Stan and Babe struck the balance that very few managed to find, with dialogue that was genuinely funny, sound effects that enhanced the comedy, and inventive gags such as Mae Busch's accidentally rhythmic rant. (That's a joke that literally couldn't have been made on screen before.) Down the line, we'll come across other technical tools and tricks - such as split-screens, back projection and crazy transitions - and it's a real testament to the production team and all involved that they managed to use them all to excellent effect, but never relied too heavily on anything except the performances of the stars in order to be funny.

That's not to say that this film isn't without issue. Obviously the whole industry was still finding its feet with how talkies should work, and there are occasions when sound effects either aren't loud enough or are absent altogether when expected. Not everyone's delivery is as accomplished as it would get within just a few short months, and there are a few dodgy edits (not least when we cut to a close-up of Stan for his punchline in the opening scene). And the lack of the type of orchestral score we're used to after all those silents affects the pace greatly, and this is especially noticeable in the later Edgar Kennedy scenes, which just don't have the usual great timing we take for granted. Nevertheless, it's still amazing that a first attempt - a giant great leap into the unknown - could still be so enjoyable today.

Those of us who have seen Block-Heads will know that the plot of this one is basically recycled in that. I certainly like Unaccustomed As We Are in its own right, though, and it's possible that having Mae Busch puts this a step above the remake in places. We'll gloss over the fact that I think there's a bit of a plot hole (Thelma Todd's smouldering dress is still awaiting discovery in the kitchen, isn't it?), and end on my favourite bit from each of the boys:

- I love Stan's smug/solemn/triumphant look as he makes out he's given the husband a good kicking, only to be undercut by his clumsy plunge down the stairs.
- Ollie striking the 'match' on his thigh, but ripping his trousers. It's a tiny moment, but it's a great example of a completely unexpected gag on account of it being entirely unnecessary to the action, which in turn makes it even funnier. The use of one of them new-fangled sound effect things didn't do it any harm, either. I believe there are still a few non-talkies to come, but we've definitely hit a turning point in the history of cinema.

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #245 on: April 20, 2019, 09:25:25 PM »
This entry on Laurel and Hardy's short films indicates that Stan preferred the team's silent shorts to their talking ones:

That's very interesting, especially as Stan got most of the best (read: confused) lines. In fact, isn't it usually fans who like earlier works best, while artists insist that their more recent material is the best they've ever done? Not that there's anything wrong with the silents, of course.