Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Thicker Than Water" with Laurel and Hardy (1935)

This was the last “two-reeler” made by Oliver and Hardy, the iconic comedy duo of the 1920’s and 30’s. During the 1950’s, when I was growing up, these films were shown on TV each afternoon, right after the Three Stooges. Then it was time to eat dinner. You can imagine the problems attendant to expecting your child to act civilized at the table after watching an hour of those two acts! Food fight comes to mind.

In this story, Ollie is in hot water with the wife over some money that was supposed to be used to make a payment on their furniture. He lent it to Stan, who in turn paid Mrs. Hardy for his room and board. Stan then convinces Ollie that it would be a much better idea if he were to simply use his savings account to pay for the furniture outright. This sets off a chain of events which leads to a very funny climax.

While watching the interplay between Stan and Ollie with Daphne Pollard as Mrs. Hardy, and James Finlayson as the furniture man, I couldn’t help but notice how much Abbott and Costello, as well as the Three Stooges, were influenced in some of their routines. “Who’s on First?” is just a variation on a theme first used by Laurel and Hardy. And the tedious tasks which always lead to slapstick comedy in the Three Stooges films can all be traced back to Laurel and Hardy as well.

In modern times; for me being the 1960’s; Stan Laurel’s influence on Dick Van Dyke could not be denied. He even received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award at the Oscars in 1961, just 4 years before his death. Hey, in comedy, timing is everything.

Stan Laurel was Charlie Chaplin’s understudy in the British Comedy Troupe led by Fred Karno and appeared with him in “Fred Karno’s Army". He even came to America with Chaplin in 1916 when Fred Karno took the troupe to America. The two quickly became immersed in the silent films which were being turned out and both went on to become comic legends, with Laurel even winning an Academy Award in 1932 for his appearance in “The Music Box.” He remained a British citizen until his death.

Oliver Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia which is the site of the Laurel and Hardy Museum. He attended the University of Georgia where he studied Law, sang, and danced ballroom style. For a man of his physical stature he is said to have been extremely graceful and light on his feet. Approached by the Lubin film Company to play the role of a large man in one of their silent films, he soon “caught the bug” and headed to California where he teamed up with Stan Laurel.

This film was directed by James W. Horne and produced by the Hal Roach Studios for Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The following link will take you to the Laurel and Hardy website and museum, which is based in Harlem, Georgia where Oliver Hardy was born.

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