Author Topic: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along  (Read 13944 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.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #246 on: April 23, 2019, 05:50:23 PM »
Still a few more silent films to come, but here are the pages of Skretvedt's book that introduce the talkies:

   


Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #247 on: April 23, 2019, 05:54:03 PM »
From Everson’s book:




From Skretvedt’s book:

   

 

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #248 on: April 23, 2019, 06:16:36 PM »
Week 33

Double Whoopee, released 18/05/1929

 


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


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Double Whoopee - 1929 (silent)- Nice print with original opening and closing titles but replacement intertitles.  The soundtrack is from a rather irritating organ score.
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24v1aw


http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_60.html  (No comparison stills between DVD versions are given for this film)


Here’s the best US version I could find - a 1993 release:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKWfbaYLPxM


There is also this curious anomaly - a 1969 version with voices added by mimic Chuck McCann:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw_kQ2Jvfbs


« Last Edit: April 23, 2019, 07:34:50 PM by Replies From View »

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #249 on: April 24, 2019, 11:03:48 AM »
I just wanted to share these having only just found them online, but here are some genuine colour photos of Laurel and Hardy from the making of Blockheads in 1938. Not colourised, these were actually taken with colour film, it's very rare to find any L and H photos from this period that you can say that about.

https://twitter.com/StuartHumphryes/status/1085455565185343489

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #250 on: April 24, 2019, 08:27:34 PM »
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).

Worth pointing out, I think, that the films would have been edited with cinema audiences in mind rather than people watching alone at home.  I read several years ago that many of the Marx Brothers films were rehearsed in front of theatre audiences partly to hone the scripts but also to find a rhythm of gag timing that would have the best impact for people watching together in cinemas.  The result, the author argued, was films that work brilliantly well to this day in cinema screenings, but less well on home video where the timing can all feel a little ponderous.

So something like that may be happening with Laurel and Hardy’s films, at least at this stage.

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #251 on: April 25, 2019, 07:34:47 PM »
Worth pointing out, I think, that the films would have been edited with cinema audiences in mind rather than people watching alone at home.  I read several years ago that many of the Marx Brothers films were rehearsed in front of theatre audiences partly to hone the scripts but also to find a rhythm of gag timing that would have the best impact for people watching together in cinemas.  The result, the author argued, was films that work brilliantly well to this day in cinema screenings, but less well on home video where the timing can all feel a little ponderous.

So something like that may be happening with Laurel and Hardy’s films, at least at this stage.
Oh, yeah - I know they used to time edits according to where the biggest laughs came in the previews, and that's where a lot of Ollie's looks to camera came in handy. In fact, I've never found the ponderous timing to be a downside at all, even outside of a cinema. It was specifically this bit that stood out like a sore thumb to me:

https://youtu.be/xm6BnJlnAoo?t=77

After it cuts back to the long shot, we hold on that for ages - almost the whole gag - but then, just between 1:47 and 1:51, they insert a close-up of just the punchline. And it's like it was shot separately, with Stan delivering it right down the barrel, and it doesn't even match in terms of movement or facial expression. Rule #1 of editing is don't draw attention to the edit, but that's exactly what happens here. Far be it from me to criticise, though, as it's frankly miraculous they managed to film and cobble together these earliest talkies, given the technology of the day. They were working analogue miracles back then!

Anyway, Double Whoopee takes us temporarily back to the silent era, and it's got a bit of everything - fights, accidents, incompetence, embarrassing situations, and all the ingredients we need for a well-rounded and worthy (if not overly spectacular) entry to the catalogue. I absolutely love Stan's entrance while the camera remains focused on the prince and prime minister, and how the pair of them fail to pick up on the confusion when everyone treats them like dignitaries. All the door shenanigans are very funny and well choreographed, though it seemed a little out of character for Babe to throw Stan's tip down the drain. The running joke with the lift is one of those that manages to remain funny despite being predictable, and the oblivious look on each of their faces makes it even better. They're absolute disaster zones, but don't even realise it. Ollie's naughty schoolboy look when confronted by the policeman gave me a good laugh, as did the reveal of exactly what Stan has on under his coat. The fights and tiffs are getting better all the time, and I think the eye-poking is a new weapon in their armoury.

While most interest in this short is due to Jean Harlow's very best Miranda Hart impression, personally I think Charlie Hall is the guest star who's really coming into his own. He's a sort of everyman, if every man got irrationally angry at the slightest thing going wrong. I mean, he just wants to drive his cab and make a living. That's not too much to ask, is it? But as soon as L&H are on the scene, his whole life becomes one big trial, and he doesn't think twice about trying to set them straight by whatever force necessary. He and Fin were probably the best value of all the male co-stars, in my opinion.

All in all, not one that's in the very top echelons, but still very enjoyable. If the boys had churned out 100 of this standard, they'd still be extremely highly regarded today - yet better was still to come.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
    • Me Twitter
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #252 on: April 27, 2019, 03:27:06 PM »
This is such a beautiful thread. Hats off to Replies and everyone else for their sterling work.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #253 on: April 27, 2019, 05:59:01 PM »
From Everson’s book:

   


From Skretvedt’s book:

   

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #254 on: April 28, 2019, 10:15:17 AM »
The new edition of Skretvedt's book includes information about that 1969 version of Double Whoopee:


Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #255 on: April 30, 2019, 04:44:10 PM »
Week 34

Berth Marks, released 01/06/1929

 


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


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Berth Marks - 1929- An immediate disappointment with unnecessarily remade main and end titles and gag title.  The rest originates from the late 1930s reissue version with added 'cuckoo' music recorded in 1932.  Picture quality isn't the best and the sound is quite rough.  I would have preferred to have seen decomposing main titles than the remade titles, a curious waste of time and expense.  There is also an alternative colourised version of this film which bizarrely enough has the original silent introductory titles!
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24v3h1



http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_222.html


Here’s the US version (my apologies for the low resolution - it’s the best one I could find online.  I uploaded a decent copy myself to dailymotion but it was flagged for infringing copyright):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Kk5hi7mFW0

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #256 on: May 07, 2019, 04:55:29 PM »
From Everson’s book:

 


From Skretvedt’s book:

   

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #257 on: May 07, 2019, 07:00:01 PM »
Week 35

Men O’War, released 29/07/1929

   


Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_O%27_War


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Men O’War - 1929- Original titles and opening music restored to the opening section to approximate the original, however the bandstand shot had different music originally.  Picture quality is very good but 2 prints were used in this restoration leading to a change in picture quality mid-scene in several sequences.  Sound is quite clear.
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24v5zi



http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_172.html


Here’s the US version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t9SazmWlsQ

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #258 on: May 07, 2019, 07:03:18 PM »
I think it's strange that Berth Marks got such a panning in both books. For me, it worked better than Unaccustomed As We Are, because that was more of a theatrical farce. and too wordy at times with often very stilted delivery, while this was in large parts a two-hander concentrating on the boys' unique ability to mess things up, a physical comedy with just enough dialogue to keep things going and get in a couple of good gags along the way (the station announcer, for example). L&H's dialogue seemed ad-libbed and was all the better for it: much more natural than in UAWA.

They'd already struck a good balance and I liked it it a lot, especially the contortions and entanglement in the bunk. I don't think it dragged on at all. The orgy of clothes-ripping that they unwittedly started off and never noticed at any point in the film was a lovely sideline as well.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #259 on: May 10, 2019, 08:01:11 PM »
From Everson’s book:

   


From Skretvedt’s book:

 

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #260 on: May 12, 2019, 10:07:26 AM »
I tend to associate the L&H talkies era with the Great Depression but these Spring 1929 shorts are still the Roaring Twenties, as shown by the locations. Men O'War is notable for Babe's flirtation methods and the development of Finlayson's role, although (as the book says) the editing is still crude and there are too many mugging shots.

The next one, 'A Perfect Day', is the first short I ever saw (aged 8 or so, around 1974, Saturday morning BBC) and notable for their ability to make an entire film from just one scene. Edgar Kennedy's leg in plaster was a great comic device. 

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #261 on: May 12, 2019, 12:09:07 PM »
Hollenbeck Park, in Los Angeles, where they filmed Men O'War, still exists and is quite recognisable even today, judging from photos of it online.  The boathouse isn't there anymore and the bridges may have been rebuilt since, but it's not markedly different looking.

There were some other films around then that used it as a location.  I think there's a section of a Harold Lloyd film also recorded there, possibly Haunted Spooks, from 1919, which was also the film where he lost two fingers in an accident, that led to him subsequently wearing a prosthetic glove for all his later films.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #262 on: May 14, 2019, 10:18:37 PM »
Week 36

Perfect Day, released 10/08/1929

 


Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_Day_(1929_film)


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Perfect Day - 1929- The usual reissue version from 1936 reissue.  For this the main titles were refilmed, the gag intro was dropped and a new music score was added.  Picture quality and sound are very good.  Watch out for the scene where Ollie panics at the approach of a clergy man and Uncle Edgar lets slip an expletive!  I can see you all fast-forwarding your DVD copy now to find out which one he used! (Should this film not have been classified as PG!)  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/x24v5bj


http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_148.html  (No comparison stills between DVD versions are shown for this film)


The best alternate version I can currently find online - in the sense that it has the MGM lion and it runs at the correct speed - is this one.  Unfortunately it has subtitles stamped into it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuc1VPMRNK8

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #263 on: May 19, 2019, 04:22:54 PM »
From Everson’s book:

 


From Skretvedt’s book:

 

 

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #264 on: May 21, 2019, 06:21:09 PM »
Week 37

They Go Boom!, released 21/09/1929

 


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


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
They Go Boom - 1929- Original opening titles plus opening music Runnin' Wild - a hit at the time the movie was made.  The climactic explosion of the mattress appears to have been overdubbed with a louder explosion.  Curiously there is no colourised version of this film.
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24vbct


http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_150.html  (No comparison stills between DVD versions are shown for this film)


Here’s the US version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdvKwja2gOA

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #265 on: May 26, 2019, 03:52:37 PM »
From Everson’s book:

 


From Skretvedt’s book:

 

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #266 on: May 28, 2019, 03:55:10 PM »
Week 38

Bacon Grabbers, released 19/10/1929

 


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


Viewing options:

Regarding the version on the UK DVD boxset:
Quote
Bacon Grabbers - 1929 (silent)- Again someone has decided to dump the original pipe organ music and effects disc and use the Beau Hunks instead.  Main titles are replacements - the originals are feared lost.  The intertitles have also been replaced.  Picture quality is quite poor but this film seems to only circulate in muddy prints.
(http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html)


Sourced from the above boxset:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24vavx



http://www.lordheath.com/menu1_170.html


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

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #267 on: June 03, 2019, 04:08:36 PM »
I’ve decided that after the 1929 films I’m going to take a pause from the Laurel and Hardy thread, as I think people need more time to catch up and discuss these films before we move on to the 1930s.

It’s a very quiet thread, which I don’t bemoan, but apart from my links and photos it has all dried up recently.  I suspect it’s because people don’t have the time to watch one of these every week, which is fair enough, and some time for people to process the content of this thread would be useful.


So it’ll be:

The Hoose-Gow on 4th June
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 on 11th June
Angora Love on 18th June

Then a break of however many weeks are needed for me to regain my motivation.  When that happens I’ll start a fresh thread for 1930s Laurel and Hardy.

Replies From View

  • Rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant.
  • Golden Member
  • *****
  • Gargoyles have milk bags.
Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #268 on: June 03, 2019, 10:06:13 PM »
From Everson’s book:




From Skretvedt’s book:

 

Re: A Laurel and Hardy watch-along
« Reply #269 on: June 03, 2019, 11:18:09 PM »
That's fine regarding the short break, RFV, and don't worry: you're not talking to yourself, some of us have indeed just got a bit behind.

Please keep up the great work!