Tag Archives: Hal Roach

A Chump at Oxford

Directed by Alfred J. Goulding
Produced by Hal Roach Jr. & Hal Roach
Written by Charley Rogers, Felix Adler & Harry Langdon
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Wilfred Lucas
Jimmy Finlayson
Anita Garvin
Forrester Harvey
Peter Cushing
Charlie Hall
Music by Marvin Hatley
Cinematography Art Lloyd
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by United Artists
Release date February 16, 1940
Running time 63 minutes
Language English

Like most Laurel & Hardy movies this is just a series of sketches stuck together to form a feature film. It’s perhaps not the strongest of their films but it is amusing. It does take a long time before they make it to Oxford, and sometimes it is hard to believe that Stand & Ollie are so stupid, even though they haven’t got an education, but it is OK.

The film also features an early appearance by Peter Cushing who would go onto more fame a decade later in the Hammer horror films of the 1950s.

An amusing and watchable film with a few chuckles but no really laugh out loud moments.


On the Loose

Directed by Hal Roach
Produced by Hal Roach
Starring Zasu Pitts & Thelma Todd
Distributed by MGM
Release date 1931
Country  United States
Language English

This is an interesting short film from 1931 that features a cameo appearance from Laurel & Hardy. Of course the real stars of the film are Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd.

The other day I was reading about the untimely death of Todd and the rumours surrounding it. Rumour has it that the gangster Lucky Luciano murdered her because she vocally opposed him setting up am illegal casino. The official line is that she committed suicide, but police bungled the investigation completely.

The other star of the picture, Zasu Pitts is also interesting. In the silent era she was a dramatic actress but was relegated to comedy roles in the talky era due to her highly distinctive voice. In fact Mae Questal modelled her characterisation of Olive Oyl on Zasu Pitts, and in watching this film you can see the origins of that.

Overall the film is quite amusing in that 1930s way an interesting to watch.


Sons Of The Desert

Directed by William A. Seiter
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by Frank Craven (story) & Byron Morgan
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Charley Chase
Mae Busch
Music by William Axt
George M. Cohan
Marvin Hatley
Paul Marquardt
O’Donnell-Heath
Leroy Shield
Frank Terry
Cinematography Kenneth Peach
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date December 29, 1933 (1933-12-29)
Running time 68 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Sons Of The Desert is the best known of Laurel & Hardy‘s comedy films of the 1930s. It ranks at number 96 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 funniest films, which was compiled in 2000. This is the film where Stan and Ollie lie to their wives about Ollie needing to go to Honolulu so that he can recover from an illness (which he has faked),

Theatrical poster for the 1944 re-release of S...

Image via Wikipedia

but instead they head to Chicago for their Sons Of The Desert convention. Everything seems to go well until the ship that they were supposed to be on sinks.

There are a lot of funny scenes in the film but it is the personalities of Laurel & Hardy that makes this well worth watching. All of the mannerisms that we associate with the comedy duo are present in this film, from Ollie’s lying and telling the most preposterous story imaginable, to Stanley’s cry-baby routine when his wife finds him out. There is also quite a lot of funny slapstick along the way that makes this film very enjoyable.


Blockheads

Directed by John G. Blystone
Produced by Hal Roach Jr. & Hal Roach
Written by Felix Adler

Arnold Belgard

Harry Langdon
James Parrott
Charley Rogers
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Patricia Ellis

Minna Gombell

Billy Gilbert
Jimmy Finlayson
Music by Marvin Hatley
Cinematography Art Lloyd
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date August 19, 1938
Running time 57 min.
Language English

Universal Australia has just released a lot of Laurel & Hardy dvds onto the market. These are from the British DVD set which have been remastered. These dvds aren’t even available in America. These are currently selling in Big W for $8.80. While all of the disc in the set contain some fine Laurel & Hardy films the ones that are essential for any comedy lover are Volume 14 – A Job To Do/Classic Shorts, which features The Music Box (the short film where they try to deliver a piano up a flight of stairs), Volume 13 – Sons Of The Desert/Related Shorts, Volume 3 – Way Out West/Related Shorts, Sons Of The Desert and Way Out West being Laurel & Hardy’s best known feature films. Volume 16 – Maritime Adventures/Classic Shorts features another one of the duos best short films, Towed In A Hole, which is the film where they go fishing. Still as I said earlier all of the dvds are worth owning.

Blockheads was released in 1938. This is the film where after WWI Stan has been left behind in the trenches for twenty years not knowing that the war has finished. When he finally finds out he goes back to America where he is reunited with Ollie and chaos occurs. There are quite a few laugh out loud moments which is quite rare when watching movies over 70 years old.

I was reading the other day about why Laurel & Hardy have such a great appeal even now. They aren’t known for any violent slapstick like The Three Stooges, or any smartass one liners like Groucho Marx or W.C. Fields. The author of the book I was reading (whose title escapes me right now) said that basically Stan and Ollie are big babies and that it is this child-like quality that appeals to fans, especially children. I’m not so sure about that but I do know that they were very funny together.


The Music Box

Directed by James Parrott
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by H.M. Walker
Starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Music by Harry Graham, Marvin Hatley & Leroy Shield
Cinematography Len Powers & Walter Lundin
Editing by Richard C. Currier
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) April 16, 1932 (1932-04-16)
Running time 30 minute

The Music Box is probably Laurel & Hardy‘s best known short film. This is the one where Stan and Ollie are moving guys who try to get a player piano up a set of stairs. After several painstaking attempts they finally get the piano into it’s new home, but not in one piece. There’s lots of clever slapstick and funny bits where you just have to wonder about the intelligence, or otherwise, of Stan & Ollie.

Like with a lot of Laurel & Hardy films many of the gags in this short film have been endlessly immitated, with mixed results, over the years, but this is where they all originated from.

It’s a shame that the wonderful fun of Laurel & Hardy seems to have gone out of favour in recent times. They don’t seem to have the same love these days as say the Three Stooges or the Marx Bros. I remember when Bill Collins (or was it Ivan Hutchinson) would show their feature films on a Sunday afternoon back in the 80s. It would be great to be able to see these films on TV again.


Way Out West

Directed by James W. Horne
Produced by Stan Laurel & Hal Roach
Written by Jack Jevne, Charley Rogers, Felix Adler & James Parrott
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Rosina Lawrence
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date April 16, 1937 (U.S.)
Running time 65 minutes
Language English

Way Out West is an old-fashioned film, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like many comedies made in the 1930s it has dated a lot, yet even compared to its contemporaries it feels old-fashioned.  Even though it was made in 1937 and is a talkie (only Chaplin was still making silent movies at this time) it feels almost like a silent film, probably because there are so many cut shots to either James Finlayson or Oliver Hardy doing a take and mugging for the camera. This of course was something that was common in the silent era but it is something that becameoutdated as the 30s wore on. You’d rarely see Groucho Marx mugging silently at the camera after some minor tragedy had been bestowed upon him. (If the camera ever cut to Groucho he’d make sure he had a quip.) I don’t mean this as a criticism, just as an observation.

Having said that Way Out West is enjoyable if only because the two main stars of the film. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are so likable and work so well together that you have to laugh at their antics. They were both veterans of the cinema at this time and had worked together for over a decade. Here their great chemistry is on show in the skits, while their song Ballad Of A Lonesome Pine is a treat. You still have this feeling that this is all very old-fashioned, but in a good way. There is also a great chemistry that the boys have with their co-star James Finlayson, although I did think he spent too much time mugging for the camera. The movie is kind of short, at only 65 minutes long, so it never overstays its welcome either and is a good introduction for anyone who wants to watch the films of Laurel & Hardy.