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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stan and Babe Do A Crash-Out

The Second Hundred Years (1927) Among Early Laurel-Hardy Comedies

Laurel and Hardy are goal-birds in what was evidently sold as their first "true" team comedy, though I don't necessarily trust myself reciting such stats. Just when did patronage begin recognizing these two as matched pair? They dig out of a cell, tunnel into the warden's office, effect escape from there in guise of painters. Robert Youngson made hey-hey with this one in The Golden Age Of Comedy by emphasis on Stan whitewashing a flapper's pert rear. Laurel-Hardy really hit ground running, their characters fully developed almost from start. Hal Roach must have levitated on realizing the mine he'd found. Stan does chasing of a cherry round the dinner table bit that rocked houses, so good as to inspire re-do by comedienne Anita Garvin months later in another L&H, From Soup To Nuts. LA locations are used for prison exteriors, then it's to Roach backlot for street scenes charmingly simple and seeming a corner away from Chaplin's Easy Street. Wonder how many blocks Roach built on site for comics to play on --- were there more than the one shown here? This Second Hundred Years is, to my mind, among funniest of Stan/Babe's silent output; certainly it was a favorite on 8mm. Just wish prints were better. There's nitrate crumble here and there --- maybe we should just be thankful it exists at all.


Blogger Dave K said...

Just screened this one last week for an audience of 100 or so fans. Saved it for the finale of a show of several talkie and silent shorts and clips. Still rocks the house! The whole film is pretty funny, and there are big laughs in the final half, but the painting sequence is one of those great bits where the Boys' one dimensional logic wanders into the surreal and transcends just-plain-funny to become just-plain-wonderful. Terrific with a full audience!

8:23 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson notices Oliver Hardy in some comedies made around the same time as "The Second Hundred Years":

Recently revisited Charley Chase's "Crazy Like a Fox." In it, Oliver Hardy appears briefly sans mustache -- and with a shaved head, suggesting it was shot about the same time as "Second Hundred Years", although it's listed as a 1926 release.

Also in 26, Hardy plays a fun-loving villain in Chase's "Long Fliv the King", possessed of a full head of hair. So as late as those two films, he was pulling stock company duty.

Looking at the latter, was Roach contemplating a pairing of Charley and Max?

10:03 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

CRAZY LIKE A FOX was shot April 14-22 1926, with additional retakes May 29-June 1, 1926, this was when Oliver Hardy shot his bit. He had just shaved his head to play a blackface policeman in his next Roach short, GALLOPING GHOSTS, which was shot in June 1926, but not released by Pathe’ until March 1928 (Roach Comedies were seldom released in any order in which they were shot, and some shorts could and would sit on shelves for months or even years before they were released). LONG FLIV THE KING was shot February 22-March 6, 1926, way before Hardy shaved his head.

THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS was shot June 11-18, 1927 and released by MGM on October 8, 1927. Was it really the first official Laurel and Hardy Comedy, well, yes and no, technically it was shot and released as an All-Star Comedy, but it was the first Hal Roach Comedy that listed Laurel and Hardy as a team in its publicity, however, that same publicity also mentioned James Finlayson as being part of the All-Star “trio” of comedians. It took the rather big success and reception of the next short, HATS OFF to put the kibosh on the concept of starring equality for the “All-Star trio” and actually led to James Finlayson decamping from the Roach Studio for the following year of 1928 (he went to First National, where he did good supporting roles in feature like LADIES NIGHT IN A TURKISH BATH) returning to the Lot of Fun in 1929 as a supporting comic. After HATS OFF, the All-Star Comedies began being listed officially as “Laurel and Hardy Comedies”.

No, Hal Roach never contemplated pairing Charley Chase and Max Davidson, Max started out at Roach doing supporting roles in various Roach series shorts, he’s also in the All-Star Comedies DON KEY, SON OF BURRO (1925) and GET EM YOUNG (1926), and in two of Roach’s Mabel Normand Comedies, RAGGEDY ROSE (1926) and ANYTHING ONCE (1927). The first short to set up the Davidson series, WHY GIRLS SAY NO was actually shot and released as an All-Star Comedy, then Max was moved over to his own series that replaced two other departing series, the Glenn Tryon and Mabel Normand Comedies. Max was actually teamed with Oliver Hardy once, replacing a not-returned from vacation Stan Laurel in the comedy LOVE EM AND FEED EM, released after HATS OFF on November 11, 1927.

Oliver Hardy was indeed a valued member of the Hal Roach Stock Company until the Boys teaming took off, playing roles in most of the other Roach series and even doing interesting one-offs like playing a nasty genuine villain in the Roach feature NO MANS LAW (1927) starring Rex, King of the Wild Horses. When you understand the Roach shooting schedule, you can watch his hair grow back from his first head shave in June of 26 (you can see it fuzzing back in the Charlie Chase short BE YOUR AGE and the Mabel Normand Comedy THE NICKELHOPPER). As the Roach Studio usually shut-down for the month of July, it made it easier to do the head shave in June and let it grow back while he was on vacation (the only short Hardy shot after SECOND HUNDRED YEARS was he and Stan’s guest cameos in Max Davidson’s CALL OF THE CUCKOO and they’re still very buzzed-cut in that).


8:02 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Great info here, Richard. Thanks.

Richard Roberts is a leading authority on classic comedy and author of the outstanding book, "Smileage Guaranteed, Past Humor Present Laughter, Musings on the Comedy Film Industry 1910-1945, Volume One: Hal Roach."

9:27 AM  
Blogger Irv Hyatt said...

There are great shots of the Hal Roach Studios on Dave Heath's website which show the city street, amoung other parts.

(Sorry if this has repeated, new to Google)

10:40 AM  

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