Archive for the Stan Laurel (Solo) Category

Stan Laurel in “Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride”

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2015 by travsd

418585_1275008430541_320_240

Today is the anniversary of the release of the Stan Laurel solo comedy Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (1925), co-directed by Joe Rock and Scott Pembroke. This comedy was made two years before Laurel’s teaming with Oliver Hardy, when Laurel was still a struggling, wanna-be comedy star who could never quite click. That said, Laurel’s best solo comedies were parodies of other pictures, and this is a film of that type. It’s probably one of his best solo comedies. It’s obviously a spoof of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, made with John Barrymore five years earlier, as well as the Robert Louis Stevenson book itself.

Silliness is the order of the day. Laurel’s “Mr. Pride” commits evils of the mildest sort:  stealing children’s ice cream and scaring a woman by popping a paper bag near her head. And of course there is the great fun of the transformation and the make-up. Jerry Lewis would later go to town with his own parody of this story and this scene in The Nutty Professor (1963). One doubts he ever saw this film but he did know and admire Laurel — one has to wonder if got some inspiration from hearing about this film, at least.

To learn more about silent comedy please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Stan Laurel in “When Knights Were Cold”

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , on February 12, 2015 by travsd

when_knights_were_cold__icon1_

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Stan Laurel solo comedy When Knights Were Cold (1923), produced and directed by Broncho Billy Anderson. The film is a parody of both Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood and the block buster Marion Davies film When Knighthood Was in Flower , both of which were released in 1922. This comedy was originally to have been called Rob ‘Em Good, but they decided to change it when another comedy came out with the same title.

stanknights-sm

I managed so see a partial print of the film several years ago – -the main gag that sticks out (a favorite of Laurel’s) was that, instead of real horses they employed the old circus clown gag of a fake horse rig worn by the comedian . The film also co-stars Laurel’s troublesome common-law wife at the time Mae Laurel.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Stan Laurel in “Hustling for Health”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , on February 2, 2015 by travsd

hqdefault

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the silent Stan Laurel solo comedy short Hustling for Health (1919).

Laurel (playing a very clownish character) is about to go on vacation but he misses his train. Luckily his friend happens to be standing right there and offers that he come spend the vacation at his house? Obviously the writers and prodcuers didn’t think this through very thoroughly. The house appears to be in a typical suburban housing tract; why didn’t Laurel just go home? At any rate, the comedy premise (and the explanation for the title) is that from the get-go, Laurel is made to work rather than relax. His friend makes him carry a large stack of packages. When the horse escapes, he makes Laurel pull the wagon. The guy’s wife is a severe suffragette type, who gives her husband chores, which the husband then delegates them to Stan. They make him baby sit. A cop makes him clean the yard (it’s a health hazard). He throws stuff in the neighbor’s yard.

In a premise that anticipates Unaccustomed As We Are and Blockheads, the wife refuses to cook for the surprise guest. The perspective here is very different though. In the later films, it’s somewhat understandable. Here, we are seeing it more from Stan’s perspective. Because he is so put-upon, her refusal becomes another of his ordeals. Apparently he is expected to produce their meals as well. He steals it all from the next door neighbor’s dinner table.

In the end, he is talking to the next door neighbors pretty daughter over the back fence. They are so interested in each other they don’t notice the sudden downpour. Then the movie’s over.

Though made for Hal Roach, this is rather a crude outing, not much farther along in complexity than, say, a Ham and Bud comedy. So it’s easy to see why Laurel wasn’t as successful at this stage. By comparison, Chaplin had recently released Shoulder Arms and A Dog’s Life and Harold Lloyd was quite far along in his glasses shorts. Very soon Keaton would be joining the race and the bunch of them would be competing in features. Laurel was far, far behind these guys at this stage, and wouldn’t really enter their class for years.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Laurel’s Last Film Without Hardy

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2015 by travsd

images

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Hal Roach silent comedy film short Should Tall Men Marry? (1928).

The film is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that it was directed by Louis Gasnier, who started out directing Max Linder comedies in Paris, directed the famous Perils of Pauline serials…and, as if this isn’t already a crazy enough combination of things, the B movie cult classic Reefer Madness.

Also, this is Stan Laurel’s last solo film, i.e. the last film he ever made without Oliver Hardy as his partner. This too is interesting. Prior to their teaming, Laurel had the more flourishing solo career than Hardy. AFTER their teaming, Hardy was the only partner who did the occasional outside project, such as Zenobia (1938) and The Fighting Kentuckian (1949). The thinking was that, unlike Hardy, Laurel was wedded to a character that couldn’t function outside the partnership. Personally, I think that’s crap. We get a glimpse of Laurel’s range in A Chump at Oxford. He could have played anything. He (and more likely the producers) were just chicken.

Should Tall Men Marry? is a western parody. Laurel plays an apparently retarded cowhand (at one point he kisses a calf) who competes with other cowpokes for the hand of a country damsel named Martha. Her father is played by Jimmy Finlayson, who gets an extended comic sequence with a mule. At the climax, the villain and his gang kidnap the the girl and Fin and Stan come to the rescue, after much back and forth, mostly by clubbing  the bad guys on the head with boards. I hope I haven’t spoiled it for you!

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Stan Laurel in “The Pest”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , , on December 4, 2014 by travsd

4739196690_d5576ba287

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the early Stan Laurel solo comedy The Pest (1922), produced by Broncho Billy Anderson.

Stan plays a door-to-door book salesman who is determined to help a young lady (Vera Reynolds) pay her rent. Just as he is about to go out to earn the money though he is trapped in her house by an insanely violent pit bull, who not only meets him at every door he tries to go out from, but even leaps up to the second story window when he stick his head out. He is trapped. Finally Stan hits on an idea – he puts on a lion skin rug as a costume and wears it outside. This doesn’t really seem to deter the dog but it does create instant trouble for Stan. As he tussles with the dog, the girl comes and calls him. Stan tries to wave to her, but he can’t get the costome off. Two dog catchers come, think he’s a stray and start to chase him. Stan runs. He approaches a bunch of marching policemen who scatter in terror. An organ grinder’s monkey rides on his back awhile. Finally the dog catchers accidentally get his costume off for him as they tug on his head and tail trying to catch him. Next Stan purloins a coat from a mannequin. As so often happens in silent comedies, the coat happens to have a wallet in it and it allows him to help the girl pay her rent.

Here is the meat of the picture:

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Larry Semon and Stan Laurel in “Frauds and Frenzies”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Larry Semon, Movies, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , on November 18, 2014 by travsd

0

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Vitagraph comedy Frauds and Frenzies (1918), co-starring Larry Semon and Stan Laurel. 

There are many interesting things about Semon, whom I believe belongs in the pantheon of silent comedy greats. One intriguing fact is that he was one of the few comedians who had worked with both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, separately before their teaming. In the twenties Hardy would be part of Semon’s stock company, usually as second or third comedian. Between 1918 and 1926, Hardy supported Semon in scores of comedies.

Laurel’s position was different. Though Laurel got into films several years later than Hardy, he was almost always the star or co-star of his films. While he had been a supporting player in two earlier Semon comedies, in Frauds and Frenzies, he was co-star. Though Semon was the writer, director and more established star of this picture, I would be shocked to learn that Laurel didn’t contribute any business or gags, particularly since prison comedies would prove to be a specialty of his. With Hardy, he would make The Second Hundred Years (1927), The Hoose-gow (1929), and Pardon Us (1931).

Frauds and Frenzies also seems to owe something to Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurer, released a year earlier. Chaplin’s film is about an escaped convict, pursued by guards, who then pauses to woo a girl, only to run into guards again. Same here. Frauds and Frenzies was Semon’s second prison comedy of 1918; the earlier one was Stripes and Stars. 

But this movie stands on its own. It’s excellently constructed, highly kinetic and rich in gags. And much more focused storywise than Semon’s comedies tend to be. Yet after this film, Semon and Vitagraph dropped Laurel. He went back to working in vaudeville and at other movie studios.

For some reason, the Italians have always been particular fans of Larry Semon, whom they call “Ridolini”. Thus I am not surprised to see the one copy available on Youtube comes by way of The Boot:

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Stan Laurel in “Mud and Sand”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Stan Laurel (Solo) with tags , , , , , , , on November 13, 2014 by travsd

5698708027_4d77ac41b4_z

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Stan Laurel comedy Mud and Sand (1922), produced by Broncho Billy Anderson. 

The film is Laurel’s parody of Valentino’s Blood and Sand, released the same year,  but it is very funny whether you’ve seen the original movie or not. Laurel’s best solo films were these types of parodies, where he wasn’t required to do too much genuine acting, just a lot of horsing around for the camera. He was a fun-loving gag man, not a thespian, and he wore the distinction proudly.

Mud and Sand casts Laurel as a Spanish bullfighter named Rhubarb Vaselino. In the first scene we see him standing in line for bullfighting try-outs. Every guy ahead of him comes back from the bullfighting ring on a stretcher. When it’s his turn, he seems to delay. But when he goes in, he throws a bull back over the wall! This happens twice. The third time as he is about to go in, he confidently marks a third victory on the chalkboard. But then HE is tossed back over the wall. He goes back in, and the bull comes out on the stretcher.

He comes home, and his mother chases him with a broom for being a loafer, but she calms down when he gives her half his gold. Then he goes to serenade his girl outside her balcony. A dog howls. He climbs the balcony, proposes to her, then falls off the balcony.

2 years later: Vaselino is now the “Idol  of Spain”. He takes a triumphal ride through streets of Madrid, then falls off his rearing horse into mud puddle. He then romances sexy vamp who actually has Egyptian style slaves fanning her with palm fronds (played by his real life common-law wife Mae Laurel). Once he has won her, he is now terrified of her clutches and keeps trying to get out. His wife comes in just as he is embracing the vamp. He protests innocence. The wife leaves. Vaselino vows revenge on the vamp.

The next day: the big bullfight, which anticipates the 1953 Bugs Bunny short Bully for Bugs.

The vamp gets her minions to douse Vaselino’s cloak with ether. But vaselino flaps the cape at the bull, which collapses. Then cavorts a bit in slow motion, finally collapsing. The vamp throws a brick at him and knows him out. Some guys bury him in the sand! The moral: “If you want to live long and be happy — cut out the bull!”

I can’t stop thinking what a great Buster Keaton movie this would have made! Can you not see it? I can practically write the whole thing in my head…the whole scenario is tailor made for the talents of Keaton. But Laurel’s quite good — this is one of his funniest solo comedies.

A couple of interesting facts:

* Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Wheeler Dryden is in the cast

* Laurel was nearly killed by a bull in the making of the film. The creature was chasing him, and nearly caught up with him. Laurel barely escaped with his life. For a gag, the cameraman joked that they didn’t get the shot and a retake was needed. For once, Laurel was not amused.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

%d bloggers like this: