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Monday, July 17, 2017

Their First Starring Feature ...


A Longer Pardon Us (1931), But Is It Better?

A Laurel and Hardy feature (and first to star them) that's fifteen minutes longer than when new. Randy Skretvedt tells the whole story in his fabulous new edition of Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies. I watched an I-Tunes stream after reading his chapter on Pardon Us. Added sections help/hinder in equal measure. Situations are fleshed out, seem less choppy than before, but a chase and fire finish ported over from the Spanish version, with English dubbed over foreign speech, has more curio than entertainment value, as if this expanded Pardon Us was more for committed L&H followers than general viewership. Question becomes, who watches today beyond the L&H fraternity? TCM plays the team, but in no organized fashion. A weekly program would seem a natural, but so far nothing, despite their leasing the package for years now. Still, it's a kick having fresh L&H footage on deck, even as the briefer Pardon Us goes way of extinction, old cassettes or 16mm a presumed only way to revisit that version now, but who'll go looking for it?


Stan Laurel didn't think much of features as showcase for the team. He was also on record against sound as opposed to silent shorts. To an end of days, Stan felt silence was purest format for Laurel and Hardy. Would his fans agree? I haven't given it much thought, but will admit to enjoying their shorts more than features, though not silence to talk. What frustrated Laurel was loss of universal language the early ones spoke through titles that could be freely translated to whatever language needed. Talkies had to have been a pain by comparison, especially when multiple takes were compelled by versions specific to foreign territories. Pardon Us was recorded in five languages, according to Laurel's 1930 reply to a fan letter. That's native English plus four, from which complication one can imagine. No wonder Stan longed for simpler days of silence. Those foreign versions paid off royally in terms of team popularity outside the US. I had a Spanish teacher in high school who was raised in Cuba, got run out in wake of Castro's revolt. I asked Mr. Ferias about Laurel and Hardy, and he remembered every one of their features, saw them repeatedly through the years, several right up to leaving Havana in the late 50's. All this makes me ask if more Spanish language versions survive to this day in Cuba. Has inquiry been made, or does bureaucracy forbid proper search?


Stan Laurel was also in agreement with critics that gave L&H features a pan, but who'd argue with success? Hal Roach was wise to put the boys in multiple reels, short format given less air to breathe as double-features muscled onto bills. Pardon Us is a hodgepodge, but it's pure L&H, them motivating all of action minus burden of subplots and dullish support players, a bane upon later long ones they'd do. Laurel and Hardy were far and away the most popular comics doing short subjects in the early 30's, others having gone over to features before sound came in. The longer form was surely addressed as possibility from the moment L&H spoke on screen. Could there have been shorts before Pardon Us that they considered expanding into a feature? Subject matter of this one does lend itself to added content, though it couldn't have been easy to dream up ways of padding it beyond originally intended two reels. Laurel felt Pardon Us lacked story enough to sustain an hour's footage, and Roach went forward on production without distributor MGM's OK for release, a risk, as they would have been within rights to turn Pardon Us down. Question he likely put to the mirror, What sane company would reject a Laurel and Hardy feature?, especially in peak period that was 1930-31, season when Pardon Us was produced and awaiting release.


Don't know how Laurel and Hardy circulated elsewhere, but we had their shorts non-stop on NC stations, the features far less so. My conception of Pardon Us was based on stills in the L&H books I had, and TV's twenty-five minute chop-down known as Whatta Stir!, which starts halfway into the feature and clunks along to abrupt finish. We get the jailbreak, Stan/Babe as cotton-pickers, then the last reel riot. None of remainder, including the schoolroom with James Finlayson, a dentist office, opener stuff at the hops store, was anywhere to be seen. Stan Laurel spoke in retirement of their films being mutilated, and right he was --- all the Roach features, save Babes In Toyland, were gelded to twenty-thirty minutes for inclusion to the syndicated shorts package. I'd peruse Blackhawk catalogues and dream of seeing them complete. Two-reelers on 8/16mm came hard enough at graduating price scale --- $12 or $13 for silents, twice that for talkies, assuming you had the machine to run them on (ever see an 8mm magnetic sound projector for sale in a retail store? I didn't). Features seemed distant as the moon. My first was an "answer print" of Way Out West for $59.98 in 1971, a by-far most I'd given for any 8mm print. Now we can have that plus nine other features, along with all their talkie shorts, in a DVD box set for less than $70, in far better quality and minus aggravation of threading. Why then, was it so much a greater thrill to receive and enjoy that 8mm print?

33 Comments:

Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Part One of my comment:

"Pardon Us" is front-and-center of one of my greatest childhood memories growing up in Northern New Jersey. It was winter recess from school AND there had been a huge blizzard so mountains of snow remained on the ground for pretty much the entirety of the week off. They meant sleigh-riding every early-afternoon, followed by return for home and hot cocoa... and oh, yeah, WOR Channel 9 running Laurel & Hardy features that entire week on their afternoon movie show! "Pardon Us" is the one I have the most vivid memory of watching that week. I recall "Pack Up Your Troubles" also being run that week. My memory's a bit fuzzier on the other offerings though somehow I think "Blockheads" may have ran that week as well. Regardless, an entire week off from school, enough snow on the ground to sleigh-ride every day, limitless supply of hot chocolate AND Laurel & Hardy every afternoon?! The stuff dreams are made of!

Regarding films chopped to ribbons and how to see any L&H: I grew up in the 1970s (grammar school through 7th grade) and '80s (8th grade through college). TV in Northern New Jersey circa early 1970s meant pretty mostly-though-not-entirely New York City-based TV stations (the aforementioned WOR called itself New York but actually operated out of Jersey). My earliest memories of seeing Stan & Ollie/Babe came from WNEW Channel 5. They were running Larry Harmon Laurel & Hardy animated cartoons followed by Hal Roach L&H two-reelers. I was hooked instantly.

That ended all too soon, but somehow I found L&H whenever and wherever they were on. And they came on, on just about every channel... just in hit-and-miss fashion. WPIX Channel 11 ran "March of the Wooden Soldiers" annually around Thanksgiving, and sometimes near Christmas, too. It was on Channel 11 where I first saw "Flying Deuces," too, on the Sunday 1PM movie (which was preceded by the weekly 11:30 Sunday Abbott & Costello movie). And I saw one or two of the Robert Youngson silent compilations featuring L&H on Ch. 11, too. The CBS (Ch. 2) and NBC (Ch. 4) affiliates had the team's 1940s' features - CBS primarily Fox and NBC MGM as I recall - and those could be run at such disparate hours as weekend afternoons or weekend wee hours. (Side note: I fell in love with the much-maligned "The Big Noise" on one of those broadcasts and the memory of that film seared into my brain so much that when I saw it again over two decades later, I was shocked at how much my memory of it was on the money)

Meanwhile, the ABC affiliate had their share of Robert Youngson silent compilations that would run either on their famed 4:30 afternoon movie or in wee hours. WNEW came back into the feature at some point with Laurel & Hardy Laughtoons, extreme cut-downs of L&H silents; years later (the 1980s) WOR would pick up the "Laurel & Hardy Show" - syndicated presentation of Roach features and shorts. Last but not least, PBS Channel 13 would occasionally run a Janus print of a Roach feature, and the public domain films (at least "Flying Deuces" as I recall) would make it onto PBS Channel 50's "Matinee at the Bijou." You had to scour that TV Guide to find them, but always worth the search and subsequent viewing.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Part Two of my comment:

Home movies were my other source of Stan & Ollie goodness. I had a Super 8/8mm, sound/silent projector. I just couldn't afford the two-reelers or more. Thankfully my local library had MANY L&H shorts from Blackhawk available to be borrowed. I mean, they had both Big Business (sound with a music track) AND The Music Box (sound) with many other classic L&H's (Wrong Again, Live Ghost, etc.) in-between. The only L&H's I was able to purchase due to budget were an extreme Atlas cut-down of "Another Fine Mess" that lived up to its name as in majorly butchered form it barely made any sense; and the pie fight scene from Battle of the Century a la Blackhawk.

L&H - not the easiest to find in the 1970s and '80s (would have preferred regular broadcasts, and cheaper home movie options) but worth it for this Stan & Ollie kid in a land of Bud & Lou devotees (I love Abbott & Costello, too but trust me, being a kid in the New York/New Jersey area and preferring Laurel & Hardy to Abbott & Costello could carry the same stigma as liking the Mets over the Yankees... which I do, too).

Anyway, just wanted to share my Stan & Ollie memories. They are my all-time favorites. They are precious to me. I want to hug them. They make everything all right when I'm feeling down. God bless them! And God bless you, John, for periodically revisiting them on your wonderful blog and helping to keep their memories alive.

9:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks, Paul.

I had Laurel and Hardy within range on four different TV viewing markets, so they were somewhere every day. On Saturdays, I could see them as many as three times through morning and afternoon, this in addition to the Blackhawk prints, which our public library also had from 1969 on. There was only one station, however, that used the features, unfortunately on a sporadic basis. It was 1972 before I was able to see a number of these.

Re your reference to L&H vs. A&C in New York/New Jersey, I've talked to several folks who grew up in that area, and it does seem that Abbott/Costello had a tight grip on the local culture. Did their humor work best around those vicinity Lou called home? I wonder too if Laurel and Hardy clicked especially well in the South thanks to Babe's Georgia origin and his maintaining the accent. Regional loyalty is bound to play into our comedic preferences.

Your association of L&H with snow and school's out reminded me of a blizzard morning where our TV wouldn't pull in Channel 4's (Greenville, SC) signal, so I went in search of neighbors with a stronger pull to get my Laurel-Hardy fix. That effort was rewarded with first-time ever viewing of "Brats," the short of theirs that I had most wanted to see.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Love your Brats story, John!

Re: A&C in Tri-State - I think it was the scrappy Jersey attitude (and by extension, the attitude of NJ's "big brother," New York) that came through for viewers, who were often as brash and tenacious as Bud & Lou. I can't help but love Bud & Lou but I definitely see the difference with Laurel & Hardy being more on a Dickensian/Shakesperean/Beckett-like plateau, and therefore, more full-bodied, "flesh and blood" characters to me than Bud & Lou, who though riotously funny to me seem deadlocked into the "con man/patsy" motif - pure "types" - with rare exceptions. Life was going to kick you in the teeth no matter what, and if you were from NJ/NY you were likely to kick back, hard... just like Bud & Lou. But Stan & Ollie reminded you, hey, sometimes you were going to have to fall back on something other than a tooth for a tooth (not that Stan & Ollie didn't... OFTEN... engage in tit for tat... but still, there were levels to HOW they went about getting out of jams... and sometimes they plain just didn't, re: the "freak endings" Laurel often concocted for their films).

11:04 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Had not considered how A&C played into the NJ/NY hard-knocks and retaliation mindset, but that is certainly food for thought, as is L&H as "Dickensian/Shakesperean/Beckett-like." And I can certainly picture Bud and Lou's NJ/NY viewership being "brash and tenacious" as A&C were.

I can't help but wonder, of course, if enthusiasm for both these teams will die out with the generation that grew up with them on television from the 50's through the 70's. Or are occasional revivals on TCM renewing awareness and appreciation?

12:10 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

In Argentina, I used to see constantly the Laurel and Hardy films (silent and talkie shorts as well as the features) while we were having lunch on LS85 TV Canal 13, which aired them until 1980 when they were suppressed from television, even though they were still being shown in movie theaters. In fact, I do remember a vivid experience watching BIG BUSINESS, from a Robert Youngson compilation, in a crowded traditional non multiplex movie theater with everybody laughing a lot.

Then, although their movies kept circulating in filmotheques (Fernando Martín Peña probably still have prints and exhibit them), they were completely absent from television until VHS brought them slowly back around 1987. It took more years and eventually everything became available, even if the versions are questionable.

Nowadays, the more reliable place to find Laurel and Hardy films is not TCM but YouTube. Users from all over world are constantly uploading their films from different sources, and even their dubbed versions have been rescued.

In Spanish, there are the versions redubbed when they did a colorization that was an artistic and commercial failure. For dubbings, I prefer the older versions prepared in Mexico in the sixties by Tata Arvizu, which were far better despite some changes in the musical soundtracks and borrowings of the dubbing done for the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that the same people did at the same time.

Brazilians have rescued the "dubbed" versions for their silent shorts. These versions are ignored in the United States but the results are hilarious due to the silliness of the whole thing. Films like LIBERTY or WRONG AGAIN with dialogue are very funny and they can be seen in YouTube.

For this first feature film, Cuba played the Spanish language version DE BOTE EN BOT. In Argentina, the film was released earlier with a changed title and this is the ad that I was able to rescue for it.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/23/10/47/2310478d85b339ccbc6327af91a1f943.jpg

And this is a lobby card for the US release of the Spanish language version, I think after its Cuban premiere.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/25/57/d8/2557d806f84bcc43fa10afb2945a2901.jpg

Finally, in the late forties the Hal Roach package in Argentina was handled by Guaranteed Pictures. Since they already knew that all of their films were reissues, they wisely decided to scrap the original artwork for promotion and commercialization and prepare new elements from scratch, which frequently have much better quality. As an example, here is a poster by Osvaldo Venturi for the reissue of SAPS AT SEA.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/c8/aa/c0/c8aac0fa7d3f51858a91688ef1708c1d.jpg

12:48 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

My memories are similar to Paul's; no surprise as we share the same childhood region
of Northern NJ (my hometown was Hillsdale in Bergen County, Paul; where were you?) and TV channel options. WNEW-5 was indeed home to the L&H two-reelers, and onceuponatime, Chuck McCann hosted them. WNEW also ran a late-night (actually, early morning) program called "REEL CAMP" that would run L&H along with RKO two-reelers like Edgar Kennedy, Leon Errol and Gil Lamb.

But the Roach L&H features, except for the annual appearance of MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS, were pretty scarce. We just weren't old enough. Those came to TV, courtesy of Regal Television, back in 1948. I have national TV GUIDES going back to the first year, for several regions, and between 1953-56 (when major studio packages started appearing), there isn't an issue that doesn't list an L&H Roach feature. They must have been ubiquitous during TV's first decade.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Michael - I grew up in Pompton Plains (Morris County but the tip of it - we were practically in Wayne/Passaic County).

I was born in 1966 - I'm 51 - I may be a little younger than you as I missed all the "hosted" shows featuring cartoons and comedy shorts, like Chuck McCann, Officer Joe Bolton, Cap'n Jack McCarthy, etc. I also missed "Reel Camp." However, many of my friends are around a decade older than me and they've regaled with me tales of all of those great broadcasts.

In fact, a group of us try to get together a couple times a year in a restaurant in Jersey. They have a backroom with their own movie screen, and we bring a projector and run Super 8 films and have a "reel camp" of our own - not just the usual suspects like Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields; but also Leon Errol, Edgar Kennedy, Charley Chase, etc. Thank goodness these can still be seen in some way!

6:51 PM  
Blogger b piper said...

Paul Castiglia: I spent five fairly happy years making ultra low budget horror movies for a small company just up the road from your home town. I rather liked it there. Joisey gets a bum rap.

8:36 PM  
Blogger phil smoot said...

I saw "Pardon Us" on TCM just a few months ago.

The local on-screen cable guide listed Boris Karloff as one of the performers so I made sure to see it
(thinking that it might be the talked about French version that supposedly had Karloff).

Well, Boris was not there.

Now I'm reading all this about the film and its length --
Was TCM showing this longer version ?

9:28 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

John, your thoughtful post sent me back to the 70-minute PARDON US, which I hadn't seen since 1986. I know the standard 57-minute version cold, so it was fascinating to see what was cut from the preview print. The idea appears to have been to pick up the pacing of the feature, so most of the cuts were incidental. Little bits were trimmed from the beginning and end of certain scenes to make things tighter -- I saw one cut segment that had only two words of dialogue!

It bothers me that watered-down versions are being passed off as the original-release prints. It undermines the filmmakers' intentions and it's historically inaccurate. The worst offense is the third reel of L & H's LAUGHING GRAVY, which was wisely cut from the American version in 1931 but reinstated for TV syndication in 1986.

But does it really matter anymore except to the Laurel & Hardy diehards? Maybe not. Laurel & Hardy have been an endangered species for at least 20 years and today's public doesn't know who they are. Laurel & Hardy aren't alone: one guy I knew never heard of James Cagney. Another doesn't know Johnny Carson. So with this demographic, Laurel & Hardy hardly have a prayer!

It remains for those of us who love Laurel & Hardy to turn other people on to them. Grandparents are showing the movies to the grandkids, who eat Stan and Ollie up. The Sons of the Desert organization is reviving Laurel & Hardy movies regularly around the world. The faithful are keeping the flame alive, but in these days of specialty cable networks and "nostalgia TV" outlets going only as far back as 1951 at the earliest, Laurel & Hardy aren't getting much nationwide exposure. Turner Classic: if you're reading this, how about programming Laurel & Hardy more often?

10:26 PM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

great post...weirdly I'm just starting back on an L&H kick now. Downloaded everything from iTunes...some shorts as low as $2.99 to buy in HD...how lucky we are today!

I grew up in Baltimore. L&H played at about 3pm on saturdays or sundays, from what i recall. Channel 13 I think.

I remember my dad watching them and laughing so hard he'd literally fall off the chair. L&H were deeply revered in my house.

The local library also played them....they did classic movie screenings in basement. thats where i saw The Music Box as a kid.

I found an old 8mm reel of L&H in parents basement not too long ago...i think they got a box of movies when some relative died. No projector though. I immediately was like "maybe its the Rogue Song!".....lol...sadly nope...just some short i already had on vhs.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

On the longer / shorter version debate, I suspect most viewers want to see longer versions. This holds whether they're director's cuts (undoing edits for length or softer MPAA rating); "unrated" cuts (putting back "naughty bits"); restored roadshow, preview or precode versions of older films (Have they found the giant bat version of TARZAN ESCAPES yet?); or films actually expanded after well the fact (Disney recorded and animated a whole new production number to boost BEAUTY AND THE BEAST's re-release and video sales).

Why? Because if we like the film at all, it's hard to believe that more can be a bad thing. Especially if the film is a little wobbly on continuity, or there are clues to what's missing (nonexistent characters in the credits, bits in the trailer that aren't in the movie, stills and other evidence dug up by film scholars). And even if it's not a good thing, we're just darn curious.

A few nights ago watched the restored silent version of THE GOLD RUSH, which I've always preferred to Chaplin's own "official" sound version. The commentary makes an artistic case for why Chaplin insisted the sound version was definitive, but it also mentions how the original fell out of copyright and was circulating in a Raymond Rohauer version created from film Chaplin had ordered destroyed. Releasing a new cut with his own narration (a bit too cute and British for my tastes) and music was meant to render the original obsolete, giving Chaplin creative and financial control via the new version. Fortunately, his heirs eventually decided both versions should exist and commissioned a restoration.

A week or so prior watched Criterion's MR. HULOT'S HOLIDAY -- First, the 1953 original, which runs several minutes longer that the familiar version. Then the 1978 re-release, which Tati tweaked a bit further. The bonus features helpfully point out the differences; it's mostly a matter of tightening up (and, post-JAWS, adding a new shot of people panicking when Hulot's kayak collapses into something sharklike). I'm glad I saw the 53 version, but next time I'll probably default to Tati's streamlined cut.

After Chaplin left Essenay, they expanded his BURLESQUE ON CARMEN from two reels to four, throwing in outtakes and shooting a subplot with Ben Turpin. Haven't seen either, but when I get around to it I'll try to find both.

I'd even want to see the three-reel version of TWO TARS. I always assumed the missing footage would explain some of the bizarrely modified vehicles rumbling by when the cop orders everybody to move out. It may be awful and unfunny, but I want to see it!

4:02 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts addresses "Pardon Us" and expanded-versions the result of modern-day restorations (Part One):


John, I’m glad you said what you said about current versions of PARDON US, it exemplifies one of the paradoxes one sees in the current nonsense of some restorationists thinking between the concept of “we want to see what audience’s saw at the time” and their OCD screaming head voices shouting “we want to see every frame of this film we can find, pacing and the original maker’s intent be damned!” that has only brought us more and more convoluted and frequently inferior if longer versions of films that end up actually not being in a form that many audiences of the time saw at all, and the ones that did, didn’t like it, hence the re-editing (LOST HORIZON,A STAR IS BORN, METROPOLIS, and NAPOLEON anyone?). Some of this comes from the fact that these “restorers” don’t ever watch these things with that endangered species, an audience. To begin with, they sit alone watching these things wrapped up with only what goes on in their own little worlds and obsessions, caring not how much time they spend with these films much less how much more time they force us to in their meddling with them.

PARDON US was obviously a problem picture for the Roach studio as they learned the lessons in trying to make a comedy feature out of a padded two-reeler, it went through many preview versions and re-edits and re-shootings, which is why it was released about a year after most of it was filmed. Roach had come upon the idea of making a Laurel and Hardy feature due to making the longer foreign versions of his shorts which sold better overseas and in Central and South America, and PARDON US has some of the same patchwork feel that some of the foreign versions do, and as it took so long to be released ended up being the last of the Roach comedies to have separately-shot foreign versions. The shorter American release version of PU is the result of the extensive previewing, and frankly yes does work better than this strange hybrid that passes for the official version does now. There are some nice things in the hybrid, I like the extended version of the musical sequence with the boys hiding out in blackface, which, apart from the unfortunate political-correctness issues, has the great pleasure of Oliver Hardy singing “Lazy Moon” with the Etude Ethiopian Chorus, and Stan Laurel’s charming soft-shoe dance, but like all these so-called elongated “restorations” has so much footage that just explains itself as to why it was deleted in the first place.

Actually, the best hybrid version was the British release version that accidentally ended up on an early 3M laserdisc release back in the 90’s, which retained the longer blackface sequence and a better edited version of the prison riot, but it is now as scarce as the original release. The problem with all these so-called “restorations” is indeed their submerging of the actual original release versions, ideally one would have a DVD with the original release version, the British version, and the Spanish-language of PARDON US on it (oh, okay, throw the hybrid version on it too for good measure), but how likely is that to happen, so I just have to hang on to my lovely 16mm Blackhawk print and all the various video versions (oh, the joys of being a collector!).

4:51 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Richard M. Roberts:


My early viewing experiences with the Boys is rather different than most of the others shared, due to Stan and Babe being a rare commodity on Phoenix Television in the mid to late 60’s, remember, my first introduction to them was GREAT GUNS, which I always said was truly the way to start because the experience only went upward from there. The short films basically disappeared from Phoenix television in that period until KTAR Channel 12 bought a package in 1971 and began running them regularly on Sunday mornings, leaving only a scattered Fox or MGM feature or Robert Youngson compilation to be run on various channels, as well as the Lippert release of MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS at Christmastime on KPHO Channel 5. What was my savior and real introduction to their best work in those days came in the form of those blessed nostalgia-themed pizza parlors, Shakeys, Straw-Hat, and Village Inn, all of which ran lots of silent and early sound comedy material and of which I was especially fortunate to have one of each of these parlors with bike-riding distance to my house. I had a weekly circuit based on the knowledge of the days when each parlor changed their film program, and it was there I got to see so much Laurel and Hardy comedy for the first time on big screens uncut and un-commercialed, and sometimes even with good-sized audiences (one cherished memory was going to Straw Hat Pizza one night for dinner with my family and discovering that they were about to show SONS OF THE DESERT to packed house, I had never seen it and we stayed to enjoy it with a very appreciative audience).

Of course, I was already building up my film collection with various 8mm and later 16mm Blackhawks, and yes, our public library had many L and H’s in their own collection, so television was fortunately never the major way I was introduced to their films, but by the 70’s they were at least back on our local airwaves to introduce another new generation to them, but indeed, thanks to today’s media marginalization of all this material that we love, I find it doubtful that there will be another sizeable generation that grows to love them the way we do.

Say, it’s nice to have another subject here at Greenbriar that I have any interest in expounding on after the James Bond drought (sorry, never had much fascination for that series).


RICHARD M ROBERTS

4:53 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Paul, I've got nearly seven years on you, but that makes YOU the lucky one! My folks still live in the house I grew up in, and I get back there 2-3 times a year to visit. Are you accepting any new members for your occasional get-togethers?

Michael
MikeH0714@yahoo.com

10:05 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

As I have an all regions DVD/Blu-ray player I bought the complete box set: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/ft7/Laurel-Hardy-Collection-21-disc-Box-Set-DVD/B0001K2KE8 .

I remember the thrill of seeing my 8mm Griggs Moviedrome prints of METROPOLIS, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and more. After trying to get local cinemas to run those films (they looked at me like I was a one kid Communist plot to put them out of business) after reading about them in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND I found in the same magazine I could buy them in 8mm. My mom saw an ad for someone to cut chickens for Kentucky Fried Chicken. She sent me to apply. I did my best not to get the job so, naturally, they hired me. I put the money (2 cents a bird for cutting with a band saw, 1 cent for bagging) to getting those films. My parents were certain I was wasting my money.

Nothing has equaled the thrill of seeing those films.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I ordered the Laurel & Hardy box set here: .https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/ft7/Laurel-Hardy-Collection-21-disc-Box-Set-DVD/B0001K2KE8

10:18 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

I, too, worry that L&H are an endangered species. I grew up in them in New England, catching them on Boston's channels 38 (along with the Leon Errolls and Edgar Kennedys) and Maine's channel 8 (though the rest of their library seemed to be Paramount). As to restored/unrestored, I can't weigh in, as it's case-by-case for me, additional footage sometimes a boon and other times a pain, as others have pointed out.

Regarding L&H's work being "Beckett-like," I did want to mention that my late husband worked on -- and actually suggested the title for (though the task seems hardly Herculean in hindsight) a short 1965 Beckett film called FILM, starring Buster Keaton. The creative team was searching for a title, and had just about settled on THE EYE, when my husband pointed out to his mentor, director Alan Schneider, that Beckett had recently produced a play called PLAY, hence...

Beckett liked the idea, and when my husband told Beckett of his great admiration for WAITING FOR GODOT and asked him who his ideal "dream cast" would be, Beckett replied that he had written it with Stan and Ollie in mind.

12:44 PM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

There is one film classic where I grew up loving the 90 minute version--GUNGA DIN. I was thrilled to discover some while ago that it had been restored to its original two-hour running time. Yikes...did I hate the long version that just seemed to add unnecessary padding! I still feel that way. More IS sometimes less.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Might note that the American L&H box includes two versions of A CHUMP AT OXFORD: The four-reel "Streamliner" for American distribution, and the six-reel "feature length" version for foreign markets where the boys were top-of-the-bill attractions.

In the long version, the bulk of the added footage is in one place. For all intents and purposes, they added a freestanding and unrelated Laurel and Hardy short before the first scene of the Streamliner. Did the Roach studio consider releasing those opening reels as a new short in the U.S.? I'd be very surprised if the later television butchers didn't break it out as such.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

The four-reel A CHUMP AT OXFORD was shelved in 1940 in favor of the six-reeler, which was an entirely different cut and which everyone (including me) thought was the European version. The six-reeler did play first-run domestically in 1940. The four-reeler was finally released in 1943 with Hal Roach's last batch of black-and-white streamliners.

Donald asks if the opening reels were released as a short. Yes... sorta. Home Movie Wonderland, that industrious bootlegger Wilf Anderson, made 16mm prints and spliced on a new main title: FROM SOUP TO NUTS!

8:06 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

I still prefer these versions, with their flaws.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96_bfXJ_jhk

10:07 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

But did you ever learn to "hablas Espanol, Senor McElwee"? ��

11:36 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Mr. Ferias made a valiant effort, but in my case, it was hopeless.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Love it when the subject is Stan and Ollie! Your articles are always provocative, and we can count on plenty of interesting comments.

Having spent kindergarten through fourth grade on Long Island during that Chuck McCann/Officer Joe Bolton/Allen Swift/Million Dollar Movie era, I can attest to things slanted towards Bud and Lou, the Stooges and, naturally, Popeye. But did see many of the Boys' shorts before moving to New England (Hal Stanton country!) where Laurel and Hardy reigned supreme! The features were a bit spotty, with only the Fox films and 'Bonnie Scotland' showing up regularly and, like some of the others above, my early favorites were forties' flicks ('The Big Noise' and 'Dancing Masters'!) Was already collecting on 8 then 16, tracking down college showings and even scheduling teen center screenings myself before off to college in Minnesota where L&H, ALL of L&H, were practically around the clock on WCCO in Minneapolis.

32 years experience as an officer of a SOD tent has taught me Stan was right: NOTHING gets an audience going like a program of shorts. Three or four of the Roach features are just about perfection, of course, but by and large it's the short films that kill. Extended versions and 'dubbed' silents are fun, but original issue always plays strongest (the restored 'Pack Up Your Troubles' is one instance where adding lost footage is a good thing.) Our group always gives the features good reception, mostly because they are less familiar. Personally, only the two Metros make me cringe (and UTOPIA remains, for me, unwatchable.)

And the shorts have always been the best entry point for the uninitiated. Hard for devotees to understand, but I have found it's easier to convert non-believers with something like 'Towed in a Hole' than 'Way Out West.'

And, yes, Stan and Ollie are among the various endangered species of classic film comedians. I'd guess the majority of under-forty types don't know Stan Laurel from Stan Musial. Two things though. The current restoration of the Boys' canon under way should go a long way to making these treasures accessible again. And, don't forget, there are many, many places in this world, outside the U.S. of A., where Laurel and Hardy are instantly recognizable, and adored.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

The LATE SHOW, the LATE, LATE SHOW. The ONLY middle- of- the- night regular programing for feature-films shown on TV in Southern California, circa 1950, was on KNXT-2 OUT OF L.A...VIA ANTANNA (if a mountain wasn't in the way! This was MY introduction to Laurel and Hardy, thanks to my dad, who really was irritated with those cheap confused feature cut-downs; and he disliked any sub-plots in their features, as well as pointing out the awful stuff the team made after leaving HAL ROACH in 1940. I agreed. Especially after trying to comprehend the disasters of "GREAT GUNS" or the incredibly awful "NOTHING BUT TROUBLE".As far as the sub-plots involved in most of their features, this person didn't find sub-plots to be any kind of a bother. And as for their musicals I really loved them and I loved all of the songs IN THEM as well. In all the comments re/L & H in all these years, I cannot recall much discussion of the MUSIC/SONGS in L & H musicals; mainly "THE BOHEMIAN GIRL", and "SWISS MISS". My God WHO could argue with JULIE BISHOP OR DELLA LIND ? ANYONE have thoughts here on THAT SUBJECT?

3:37 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Having read William Everson's Laurel & Hardy book when a youngster, those chopped-up versions of their features drove me nuts. It was like slashing the Mona Lisa to bits.

I've always liked "Pardon Us" because it was their only feature that had the feel of their shorts -- kind of low budget, lots of outdoor shots, no subplots. Not even a plot at all, really. As for the fire scenes (meant for foreign markets), I was thrilled to see "new" Laurel & Hardy footage, and have collected all their extant foreign-language movies (Spanish, French, German). But where are the Italian versions?

Our former pediatrician was born and raised and Cuba. She has happy memories of watching Laurel & Hardy on TV in Spanish, and knew them as El Gordo y El Flaco.

1:56 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...


PARDON US never felt low budget to me, you had the huge prison sets (which were built for the film, the story about Roach using MGM's sets from THE BIG HOUSE was like many of Hal's late in life stories--baloney, and lots of extras, but it did feel like a padded two-reeler, with lots of sequences that could be removed or moved around within the film and not hurt the story, it really is a piecemeal film.

Those L and H feature cutdowns didn't bother us particularly, we were just happy to see ANY of the films (then again, we had also been raised on Robert Youngson compilations and Castle cutdowns). And the cool thing about Channel 12, who devoted a 90 minute Sunday morning slot to the Boys, was that whomever programmed those showings would group ALL of the cutdowns into one program, so it meant that we usually were getting to see most of the feature in segmented form anyway, it helped in those days that some of our TV stations had movie buffs working for them.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

5:53 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Producers got fees and not very large ones for short films. With features they got a percentage of the box office. It was in his studio's best interest for Hal Roach to produce features.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Bill Everson's book on LAUREL & Hardy taught me to ignore subjective writing in film books. So did Joe Adamson's book on Tex Avery. Films both writers described as not very funny had audiences I showed them to laughing themselves silly.

These subjective ratings do more harm than anything else. People who read them are influenced by what they read. I prefer people who have not read the books. Their reactions are authentic.

1:26 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

My adolescent 8mm picks were guided to large extent by Everson assessments, especially with regard the silents which I couldn't see outside of Youngson compilations or blind-buying from Blackhawk. Funny how wheels go round --- now the L&H silents are harder to collect than in the 60/70's.

1:30 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...


Reg indeed has a point, though Bill Everson would admit himself that he was somewhat embarrassed by his Laurel and Hardy book, which he privately confessed that much was written from memory over fresh viewings of Stan and Babe’s films and that he pestered Citadel for years to let him revise that book and they would never let him do it (it was one of their steadiest sellers, I’ll bet there are few of us who didn’t have it on our first shelf of film books). Yet it is so true that we need to take the filmic opinions of published historians (and way much more the current crop of internerds in our current society, all of whom want to fancy themselves “critics”, as if that was really something to aspire to. Critics are the eunuchs at the orgy----they can watch, they can comment, they couldn’t do it if they tried) with the proverbial grain of salt.

So much of this sort of opinion is made by generally depressive types watching these films alone in their hovels daring them to make them smile, and so happy to hit their keyboards and bray when they don’t. I think both Reg and I share the real pleasure of having run so many of these films with that now endangered species; an audience, and seeing them do the magic they were intended to do, it really does temper and change your opinions over solo viewings, or at least one hopes it does, I have also known people who’ve sat in appreciative audiences and then gone home to report that the film was unfunny, gee, how closed off can one be to be able to tune out the sound of laughter around you.

Yes John, sadly the situation with the Laurel and Hardy silents is indeed ironic and even more dire than most realize. Thanks to sad mishandling of the original materials by previous owners, it would be basically impossible to put together a new collection of the Boy’s silent work that would sparkle like what we see in the Youngson compilations, when the original camera negatives still survived. The films still exist, there are plenty of prints out there, but most of what survives now are secondary and further generations from the originals preserved from materials when they were there already suffering from neglect and abuse. Again the joys of being a collector, I can pull my lovely old Blackhawk 16mm’s and still watch them with great pleasure, and at the correct speeds.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

6:27 PM  

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