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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Comics Cut Loose In A Hotel


Bobby Ray and Babe Hardy are Bumbling Bellhops in Hop To It! (1925)

Did anyone ever propose Babe Hardy for a starring series over that long decade before his team-up with Stan Laurel? Being a useful "type" kept him in  support, I guess. For Hop To It!, he's less the heavy than Frank Alexander, beside whom Hardy looks trim. Babe was, in any case, more robust than stout during the mid-twenties, and by no means "fat" as we'd conceive it today. Hop To It! is one of few occasions where he could play off a larger man who'd serve as butt for size gags. Putative lead comic in Hop To It! is diminutive Bobby Ray, less inspired than a mere cipher for gags. Ray could approximate Stan Laurel at a distance, or in really bad prints. In fact, a few of the Ray/Hardys (they teamed for a handful) have been sold on video collections as L&H, a cheat the more egregious for their stuff paling beside Stan/Babes to come (this one, however, might be their best). Hop To It! was a "Mirthquake" comedy released through Arrow Pictures, and produced by once dead-on Chaplin impersonator Billy West. Hardy had worked for the latter, so this job must have come easy. A comic of Babe's capacity needn't sit idle long in a marketplace crowded with slapstick. He'd have had a busy career even if there'd been no eventual meet with Stan Laurel. Part of the excellent Oliver Hardy Collection compiled by Lobster Films for DVD release via Kino.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Fuzzy 8mm prints of HOP TO IT and STICK AROUND (another Bobby Ray team-up) were almost always marketed as Laurel and Hardy comedies back in the day. To me, there are always little bits in Babe Hardy's early work that just jump out and foreshadow his later 'Ollie' characterization (even when he plays a bad guy) while Stan's solo stuff seems way more generic with far fewer clues to his eventual persona. Is that just me?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Since Hardy developed into the consummate comic actor of his generation, it is easy to spot his many personality quirks and mannerisms in his solo years that would take full bloom with his partnership with Laurel.

When it comes to Laurel his character that we grew to love would come later, so to track his development in his solo films one looks at the gag contents. There are embryo gag sequences here that would later re-appear full bloom in Stan & Ollie's shorts and features. The black humor, the tendency to link small jokes together to create one big laugh and Stan's child-like innocence can be seen throughout the solo films.

By the mid-Twenties the Harry Langdon influence was catching on throughout the film Industry and his greatest contribution to the teaming of L&H was showing Laurel the beauty of slowing down the comedy. From there it was just a matter of time that Laurel's man-child would appear and once he found a friend and father figure to lean on, the transformation into 'Stanley' would be complete.

I find very little generic comedy whenever I watch a Laurel solo film.

11:01 AM  

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