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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Laurel and Hardy Winding Down Silent Careers

Radio Gets Results in Bacon Grabbers (1929)

Deadbeat Edgar Kennedy won't make payments on his radio, so the sheriff sends Laurel and Hardy to retrieve it.  Taking a man's radio in 1929 was worse than seizing his wife or dog, that listening post a most important article of furniture in anyone's Jazz Age home. $600 million was spent on radios in 1929, over 80% " bought on time," that is, monthly payments that added from eleven to forty percent onto original cost of the luxury. But radio had become a necessity. Without it, you'd be out of everyone's loop. It made sense, then, for Kennedy to seal his entrance against Stan and Babe effort to seize the set, '29's public at least able to appreciate Ed's anxiety if not his honesty.

Bacon Grabbers was always obscure among the Laurel-Hardys. Blackhawk in heady days offered it on 8 or 16mm, minus the disc score available to bookers in 1929, latter mattering less for fact the two-reeler had no dialogue. Robert Youngson never used Bacon Grabbers in his comedy compilations (anyone know why?). Like Big Business and The Perfect Day, this too was shot on sunny environ that was L.A. neighborhoods before all of open space was filled. Nothing conveys bucolic beginnings of filmland like L&H done outdoors. You can never mind comedy of these and still get a marvelous travelogue with each. Bacon Grabbers is all roof and ladders and windows busted, as good a reflection of bungalow living in the 20's as we'll ever have. There's even Jean Harlow to deliver the finish gag. Too bad this short is out-of-print DVD-wise. Will these silent Laurel-Hardys ever see light again?

UPDATE --- 6/17/15: Long arm of coincidence brought news of a Laurel-Hardy rediscovery just after this post went up. Seems the long missing second reel of Battle Of The Century has turned up. This is really a find, as that short had survived till now in its first reel only, plus a pie fight from the second that was used (after editing) by producer Robert Youngson for The Golden Age Of Comedy. A Greenbriar post on various L&H Battles Of The Centuries from the silent era is HERE.


Blogger Ed Watz said...

Raymond Rohauer told me that Bob Youngson didn't have film elements on BACON GRABBERS, thus it never appeared in any of his compilations. Rohauer said that for THE CRAZY WORLD OF LAUREL & HARDY they simply made a blowup of Blackhawk's 16mm print to 35mm. Since Blackhawk's source material on this title looked like a battered workprint, the grainy blowup makes BACON GRABBERS resemble one of the early primitives instead of the technically polished late silent it actually is. BACON GRABBERS is one of my favorite L&H silents, it always plays better with my audiences than some of the team's certified classics like TWO TARS or YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN'. Today the title gag that Edgar Kennedy hasn't paid an installment on his radio since 1921 needs a little clarification: commercial radios were first introduced that year!

4:52 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I had one of those Blackhawk prints of Bacon Grabbers. Second tier Laurel and Hardy is still better than most comics' first tier.

And speaking of Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy and their silent screen output, does anyone know anything more about this announcement that the second reel of their Battle of the Century has been found? If it's true, it gives hope that maybe, just maybe, Hats Off is still out there somewhere.

5:30 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Always good hearing from you, Ed, and thanks for that very interesting background on "Bacon Grabbers." I wonder if there are surviving elements that would yield a better quality image today ...

5:33 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Great news about BATTLE OF THE CENTURY! After decades of having to settle for an abridged version, this is fantastic! And just in time for Stan's 125th!

As to the missing soundtrack to BACON GRABBERS, that's a mystery... although not as big a one as how grumpy ol' Edgar Kennedy ended up with sexy 17 year old dish Jean Harlowe for a wife!

5:52 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

The track isn't actually missing ... it's on the out-of-print DVD. We just didn't have it on the old Blackhawk prints, although it did turn up, as I recall, on 16mm prints that were later struck by Film Preservation Associates.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

And today's Stan Laurel's birthday! How nice is that?

10:36 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson considers the questionable position of Laurel and Hardy as repo men:

A thought: Maybe the film sort of faded because audiences didn't want to see
their beloved boys as repo men.

Note that the finance company gets the last
laugh on Kennedy: they got their money, he owns a mess of broken vacuum tubes.

From gaslight days on, anybody holding a perfectly legal mortgage note was
almost by definition a villain. Was there ever a comic tasked with evicting a
comically unlikable deadbeat? Maybe there was a similar antipathy towards the
enforcers of outrageous payment plans.

4:42 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer supplies some detail about the photo of L&H broadcasting:

That is an intriguing photograph, showing Laurel and Hardy goofing in the austere broadcasting studio of an early radio station. It was probably taken early in their transition to talkies, with Ollie talking and Stanley obviously "OK for sound." The clue is a sign on the wall showing the call letters KFVD, a station that began broadcasting from San Pedro, California on June 30, 1926. From January 3, 1929 through December 31, 1931, however, it was using the offices of the Hal Roach studio in Culver City, California. That probably accounts for the presence of the boys and the inscription in the corner of the photograph, indicating its origins with the studio. Does anyone know the identity of the boy in the photo, who is apparently in costume?

KFVD moved on to Los Angeles and was the broadcast home of a " hillbilly" singer called Woody Guthrie in the late 1930s. He was paired with Maxine Crissman at first, offering a mix of politics and music in their popular "Woody and Lefty Lou" show. When Crissman left, Woody carried on as "The Lone Wolf," until his propagandizing for the Soviet Union became a little hard to stomach after its nonaggression pact with Germany and invasion of Poland.

The station changed call letters to KPOP in 1955 and then went through more location and designation changes over the years. Presently it is KTNQ, a Spanish-language station in the Univision network.

8:47 AM  
Blogger dis220 said...

That looks a LOT like Harry Spear of Our Gang sitting in the chair on the edge of the frame.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

According to a source of mine, BACON GRABBERS only existed as a dupe 35mm. Did anyone here buy used films from Blackhawk? I never was sent what I asked for (pre-internet days) but I was sent my 20th alternate which was BG. While Blackhawk was selling 8mm two reelers on 400' reels at this time (circa 1973), my copy of BG was on 2 200' reels.

I was at Mostly Lost last weekend and was bowled over by the frame grabs of BOTC. It was bittersweet as my buddy Cole Johnson just missed this.

The next high point of the event was finally being able to see a Montgomery & Rock short DAMSELS & DANDIES.

9:30 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks for that info, Tommie. "Mostly Lost" must have been quite an event this year, what with the "Battle Of The Century" news breaking there.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That intriguing photo, which certainly does include OUR GANG's Harry Spear, appears to predate the VOICES OF FILMLAND broadcast of January 27, 1930. This was an MGM-conceived series that hyped their upcoming releases, and that January program was a "Hal Roach Special" that starred the Gang, L&H, Charley Chase, Thelma Todd and Harry Langdon. It's likely that the KFVD studio originated the broadcast, but by January 1930 Harry Spear had departed the Gang for vaudeville. Perhaps the photo is from a January 1929 series designed to publicize the station's new home at the Roach studio.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Tricky Springs said...

"The Great Tear of '29~!" (tare, torn tearing)
Firstly; Awesome shot of KFVD... I am doing some research into the Roach years of the station..(there is similar photo of Hal Roach sitting in that same spot about 10 minutes prior to this shot with Laurel & Hardy; as shown by the clock on the wall!)

Secondly; I agree that the KFVD photo was 1929, apart from Harry Spear's departure from "Our Gang" around this time, that shabby rip on Stan's left-lapel of his suit jacket is a clue; It's the same one he wore in a few famous Stax photographs & those were studio portraits rather than 8 x 10 production stills & one (I saw online) had an inscription as Stan had autographed to a friend, dated 1929....The same rip appears on that same jacket!
So in terms of Laurel & Hardy forensics, I have traced Stan's torn lapel all the way back to 1929's "Hoose-Gow".
Now I have no way of knowing whether it's the same suit or not, (I am sure he had more than one), but this particular one seems to have a distinct tare on the left lapel. It's style is distinct; It's the double-breasted jacket with a pin-stripe.
That same jacket can also be seen in 1929's "Angora Love", "Night Owls", "Below Zero", "The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case" (1930) & finally makes a final appearance in "Laughing Gravy"...a year later in 1931! My theory is that the same jacket WAS saved & used for purposes of continuity. The foreign language versions of many of the Laurel & Hardy titles were linked together as featurettes for overseas export, hence Stan would be wearing the same suit he wore in "Murder Case" because it linked to "Laughing Gravy" Etc.
Ladies & Gentlemen...Submitted for your approval....
Patrick (Oasis #64)

12:22 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

This is great info and detective work, Patrick. Thanks a lot! --- and my best wishes to Oasis #64.

4:37 AM  

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