Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Laurel and Who?

Laurel and Hardy were such a twinning of names that my Dictionary of Biography says, under Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), "See Laurel, Stan". They go together. This year sees a hundred and twenty years since Ollie was born near Atlanta, Georgia, and 122 years since Stanley Jefferson - later Stan Laurel (1890-1965) - came into the world in Lancashire, England.
Stan was into showbiz early and understudied Charlie Chaplin in Fred Karno's Troupe before, just like Chaplin,  trying his luck in America.
We forget the two comedians Laurel and Hardy were such pioneers. Hal Roach brought them together on screen. They did 300 movies, making the transition from silent film to talkies, and thus we have the wonderful legacy of thirty years of classic clowning (doing dumb things cleverly) through the '20s, '30s and 40's. Wartime audiences were entertained on several continents. The humour was always clean, the characters consistent, the mayhem guaranteed. Every showbiz person they worked with - that's a big number - maintained that they were wonderful to be with, loyal to each other and brave... many of those slapstick scenes were genuinely dangerous.
This early-talkies clip from 1932 is not in the usual disaster formula as the two make plans for a bigger career as fishing-boat owners. We hear Ollie singing like a true Cajun fishseller... a nod at his first training, as singer!

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