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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Laurel and Hardy On The Job


Sound Blends Beautiful With Slapstick in Busy Bodies (1933)

How to look with fresh eyes upon something you've watched a hundred times --- is it better to just let go? Sentiment, and memory they evoke of 8mm collecting, assures my fidelity to Laurel and Hardy, renewed of late by Apple streaming the lot in HD. Busy Bodies is carpentry and mayhem extreme even by this team's reckoning, Hardy slung by machinery that would be death of a cartooned figure, let alone a portly clown passing middle age. What I noted this round with Busy Bodies was creative use of sound to punctuate slams and falls. It's the wham what am funny as it accompanies Babe's repeated meet with a passing board. Talkies were a boon to L&H not only in terms of ideal voicing, but sounds they'd employ to punctuate slapstick. Did Stan supervise as closely effects we'd hear as well as see? Roach creators built a library of noise as glue for gags that might not register at all done silent. You could argue that sound opened up whole new arenas for sight comedy, and yet visual humor took a slow sled downward once screens began to talk. Busy Bodies demonstrates what comedy could be when it addressed both senses.

6 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I love watching these with a thousand people or more. You ain't heard first rate audience response until you have been part of a huge crowd laughing itself into apoplexy.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Owl at Home said...

What Apple service are you using to stream the Laurel and Hardy shorts?

3:04 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

It was Apple i-Tunes, but they've pulled the L&H shorts since I looked at "Busy Bodies." Maybe they'll bring them back at some point ...

3:46 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson cites another instance of L&H creative use of sound:


Sound also gave us Ollie's epic "OOOOOOOOOOOO"s. Usually in anticipation of some impact (anything from a slip on a banana peel to a header off a roof); sometimes upon realizing Walter Long or a similarly unsympathetic person was closing fast; and occasionally from off camera, followed by a crash. The last were usually accompanied by Stan going about his business, blissfully unaware that he had just projected Ollie into some peril.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I haven't seen "Busy Bodies" in a while, but as I recall, Stan's only line of dialogue -- "Come in" -- appears almost at the very end of the movie. I think their best talkies are those with the least dialogue. Their last few shorts are dialogue-heavy to the point of being sitcoms. Was it easier/faster to write dialogue, or were they getting just a little too old for physical comedy?

1:52 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Very sharp observation by Kevin about how little dialogue Stan has in Busy Bodies. But it's more than one line: Stan also has some dialogue with Charlie Hall, and toward the end he has a line when he returns Ollie's hat. Kevin's right, it's one of Mr. Laurel's quietest performances.

4:25 PM  

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