Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Laurel and Hardy, and Jerry Lewis's Strange Re-Write of History


TomJH
 Share

Recommended Posts

I recently viewed the Laurel & Hardy Essential Collection. This is a must for L & H fans, a ten disc collection of their talkie shorts and feature films for the Hal Roach Studio. There are 47 shorts (7 of them rare foreign versions with Stan and Ollie speaking Spanish/French phonetically that often include bits of business not available in their English language version) and 10 films. This occupies the first nine discs in the collection.

 

The tenth disc has a collection of bits and pieces in it, including a 40 minute tribute to the comedy team through interviews with some comedians. The three comedians that interested me the most were the three who got to know Stan Laurel in his final years, Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis and Chuck McCann.

 

It's a joy to listen to Van Dyke. He is affable and gracious, forever smiling as he recalls his conversations with Stan, a man who clearly regards his friendship with Laurel as one of the highlights of his life. In fact, Van Dyke was asked by Laurel's widow to give the eulogy at the comedian's funeral, a great tribute to Van Dyke's friendship with her husband.

 

Jerry Lewis is another story. Jerry, as always, takes himself very seriously. Nothing new there, of course. However, much to my surprise, Lewis also included an anecdote as to how the partnership of Laurel and Hardy came about. Lewis says that Laurel first saw Hardy carrying a pipe, working as a contractor, at the Roach studio.

 

He asked for a meeting with him, which took place in Roach's office.

 

Lewis said Stan asked Ollie, "How'd you like to be in show business?" to which Hardy agreed to give it a whirl. "A lot of people don't know that's how he found Oliver," Lewis said.

 

Except that Lewis' anecdote is complete balderdash (I resisted using a stronger word there). As many L & H fans know, Oliver Hardy had been in show business for a number of years before being teamed with Stan, often, because of his size, playing the villain in comedy shorts. In fact, before they started to get teamed together in 1927, they had appeared in another comedy short together as early as 1921.

 

I'm surprised that, for whatever reason he had, Lewis made up this tall tale. And I'm also surprised that the makers of this otherwise splendid DVD collection didn't edit his comments so we could have a semblance of the truth. Now Jerry has a lot to say about the Stan he knew, and probably a lot of it is factual. However, after hearing this whooper about Stan discovering "nobody" Oliver, I have a difficult time knowing what else to believe that Lewis says in this tribute.

 

But a number of comedians got to know Stan Laurel towards the end. He had his name in the Santa Monica phone book so that anyone could call him and, according to Dick Van Dyke, he pain stakingly answered all his fan mail (and there was a lot of it, I gather).

 

When Van Dyke was going to do a Laurel and Hardy sketch (he being Stan, of course) on his '60s hit TV show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, he asked Stan to come to the rehearsals at the studio as a technical adviser. But Stan refused, having recently having suffered a minor stroke and not wanting people to see the effect of it on him (one of his arms, in particular, I believe).

 

The evening Van Dyke's L & H tribute aired, he phoned Stan, who spent 30 to 40 minutes giving him details on the little things done wrong in his impersonation. "Now you tell me," Van Dyke laughs that he told him. Stan Laurel told him, though, that, apart from some small things, he said that the L & H sketch on his show was as good as he had ever seen.

 

And I love Dick Van Dyke for saying this: that he remembers with affection how good Stan Laurel was to him, how sympathetic he was to him, how he answered his many, many questions, how he welcomed him into his apartment. Van Dyke says that he, in turn, tries to pass this on, if a young comic comes up to him now.

 

"I'm just passing on what Stanley gave to me," he said.

 

Van Dyke added that whenever Stan signed his autograph it was preceded with a "God Bless."

 

"Dickie, I want you to keep that going," Stan told him.

 

Dick Van Dyke said that ever since then he has signed his autograph with a "God Bless," his tribute to Stan Laurel. That's something I didn't know.

 

Many years ago I was very fortunate and was able to buy this autographed photograph of the four stars of The Dick Van Dyke Show that I found in a small memorabilia store.

 

70af95c5-6201-4404-8bd9-755cb775e0d6_zps

 

Only now, when I look at Van Dyke's signature, I almost see a fifth person standing there.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently viewed the Laurel & Hardy Essential Collection. This is a must for L & H fans, a ten disc collection of their talkie shorts and feature films for the Hal Roach Studio. There are 47 shorts (7 of them rare foreign versions with Stan and Ollie speaking Spanish/French phonetically that often include bits of business not available in their English language version) and 10 films. This occupies the first nine discs in the collection.

 

The tenth disc has a collection of bits and pieces in it, including a 40 minute tribute to the comedy team through interviews with some comedians. The three comedians that interested me the most were the three who got to know Stan Laurel in his final years, Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis and Chuck McCann.

 

It's a joy to listen to Van Dyke. He is affable and gracious, forever smiling as he recalls his conversations with Stan, a man who clearly regards his freindship with Laurel as one of the highlights of his life. In fact, Van Dyke was asked by Laurel's widow to give the eulogy at the comedian's funeral, a great tribute to Van Dyke's friendship with her husband.

 

Jerry Lewis is another story. Jerry, as always, takes himself very seriously. Nothing new there, of course. However, much to my surprise, Lewis also included an anecdote as to how the partnership of Laurel and Hardy came about. Lewis says that Laurel first saw Hardy carrying a pipe, working as a contractor, at the Roach studio.

 

He asked for a meeting with him, which took place in Roach's office.

 

Lewis said Stan asked Ollie, "How'd you like to be in show business?" to which Hardy agreed to give it a whirl. "A lot of people don't know that's how he found Oliver," Lewis said.

 

Except that Lewis' anecdote is complete balderdash (I resisted using a stronger word there). As many L & H fans know, Oliver Hardy had been in show business for a number of years before being teamed with Stan, often, because of his size, playing the villain in comedy shorts. In fact, before they started to get teamed together in 1927, they had appeared in another comedy short together as early as 1921.

 

I'm surprised that, for whatever reason he had, Lewis made up this tall tale. And I'm also surprised that the makers of this otherwise splendid DVD collection didn't edit his comments so we could have a semblance of the truth. Now Jerry has a lot to say about the Stan he knew, and probably a lot of it is factual. However, after hearing this whooper about Stan discovering "nobody" Oliver, I have a difficult time knowing what else to believe that Lewis says in this tribute.

 

But a number of comedians got to know Stan Laurel towards the end. He had his name in the Santa Monica phone book so that anyone could call him and, according to Dick Van Dyke, he pain stakingly answered all his fan mail (and there was a lot of it, I gather).

 

When Van Dyke was going to do a Laurel and Hardy sketch (he being Stan, of course) on his '60s hit TV show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, he asked Stan to come to the rehearsals at the studio as a technical adviser. But Stan refused, having recently having suffered a minor stroke and not wanting people to see the effect of it on him (one of his arms, in particular, I believe).

 

The evening Van Dyke's L & H tribute aired, he phoned Stan, who spent 30 to 40 minutes giving him details on the little things done wrong in his impersonation. "Now you tell me," Van Dyke laughs that he told him. Stan Laurel told him, though, that, apart from some small things, he said that the L & H sketch on his show was as good as he had ever seen.

 

And I love Dick Van Dyke for saying this: that he remembers with affection how good Stan Laurel was to him, how sympathetic he was to him, how he answered his many, many questions, how he welcomed him into his apartment. Van Dyke says that he, in turn, tries to pass this on, if a young comic comes up to him now.

 

"I'm just passing on what Stanley gave to me," he said.

 

Van Dyke added that whenever Stan signed his autograph it was preceded with a "God Bless."

 

"Dickie, I want you to keep that going," Stan told him.

 

Dick Van Dyke said that ever since then he has signed his autograph with a "God Bless," his tribute to Stan Laurel. That's something I didn't know.

 

Many years ago I was very fortunate and was able to buy this autographed photograph of the four stars of The Dick Van Dyke Show that I found in a small memorabilia store.

 

70af95c5-6201-4404-8bd9-755cb775e0d6_zps

 

Only now, when I look at Van Dyke's signature, I almost see a fifth person standing there.

Can you say "senility"? How old was Lewis when he did his tribute?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you say "senility"? How old was Lewis when he did his tribute?

That's kind of a nasty comment, DGF, since I don't know that Lewis has those problems. Do you? But, even if it was true, it's all the more reason for his anecdote to have been edited.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's kind of a nasty comment, DGF, since I don't know that Lewis has those problems. Do you? But, even if it was true, it's all the more reason for his anecdote to have been edited.

 

Do you know that "Lewis made up this tall tale"?     To me that implies Lewis made up the story and knows it is BS,  instead of just being told this story from someone else or being confused.

 

I ask because to me the nastier comment is to call someone an out and out liar (if not true) instead of just confused because of a medical condition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe it was STAN who told Lewis that "tall tale" as a gag----

 

Sort of like John Lennon's "story" of how the band got that name "BEATLES" spelled with one "A" instead of two "E"'s---

 

"I dreamed I saw a lady riding a flaming pie.  She said, "It shall be BEATLES with an "A", and so it is!"

 

 

Since both Stan and John were British, there's always the possibikity!

 

 

Sepiatone

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you know that "Lewis made up this tall tale"?     To me that implies Lewis made up the story and knows it is BS,  instead of just being told this story from someone else or being confused.

 

I ask because to me the nastier comment is to call someone an out and out liar (if not true) instead of just confused because of a medical condition.

His statement is false. Lewis didn't state his source. He just said it like fact and, since he makes much of his relationship with Stan Laurel, he acts like an insider "in the know."

 

Since it's common knowledge that Oliver Hardy was a show biz veteran of some years before teaming with Stan, and since this interview was only done a couple of years ago, Lewis should have checked and double checked the accuracy of his "facts" before stating them. That makes him, at the very least, incredibly sloppy with his history, or, more likely, a liar.

 

I have heard nothing of Lewis having a problem with senility. Have you?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe it was STAN who told Lewis that "tall tale" as a gag----

 

Sort of like John Lennon's "story" of how the band got that name "BEATLES" spelled with one "A" instead of two "E"'s---

 

"I dreamed I saw a lady riding a flaming pie.  She said, "It shall be BEATLES with an "A", and so it is!"

 

 

Since both Stan and John were British, there's always the possibikity!

 

 

Sepiatone

Lewis didn't state it like a gag told to him by Stan or anybody else. He stated it like fact.

 

And even if Lewis was naive enough to have believed a "tall tale" told to him by Laurel the world today is full of comedy shorts done by Oliver Hardy long before he began his partnership with Laurel to disprove Lewis' version of the story.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His statement is false. Lewis didn't state his source. He just said it like fact and, since he makes much of his relationship with Stan Laurel, he acts like an insider "in the know."

 

Since it's common knowledge that Oliver Hardy was a show biz veteran of some years before teaming with Stan, and since this interview was only done a couple of years ago, Lewis should have checked and double checked the accuracy of his "facts" before stating them. That makes him, at the very least, incredibly sloppy with his history, or, more likely, a liar.

 

I have heard nothing of Lewis having a problem with senility. Have you?

 

To me a liar is someone that knows what is factual or not and purposely deceives.     Nothing you have said indicates Lewis was a liar as it relates to his bogus story.   Note that since it wasn't very difficult to determine what the actual facts were (e.g. you knew them),  one would have to be a major fool to lie since they would know that the actual facts could be exposed.    i.e.  one should only lie when it is very difficult to determine \ expose the truth.

 

Yes,  incredibly sloppy,  but I don't agree with your take of 'more likely, a liar'.   

 

Again,  I newer claimed he was senility.   My point was that when someone makes a false statement it is a bigger insult to claim they are a liar then to claim they were confused.               

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's kind of a nasty comment, DGF, since I don't know that Lewis has those problems. Do you? But, even if it was true, it's all the more reason for his anecdote to have been edited.

I don't, but it should be one possibility of a range of possibilities. I, in my condo, interact with some people in their eighties, in sometimes bizarre conversations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me a liar is someone that knows what is factual or not and purposely deceives.     Nothing you have said indicates Lewis was a liar as it relates to his bogus story.   Note that since it wasn't very difficult to determine what the actual facts were (e.g. you knew them),  one would have to be a major fool to lie since they would know that the actual facts could be exposed.    i.e.  one should only lie when it is very difficult to determine \ expose the truth.

 

Yes,  incredibly sloppy,  but I don't agree with your take of 'more likely, a liar'.   

 

Again,  I newer claimed he was senility.   My point was that when someone makes a false statement it is a bigger insult to claim they are a liar then to claim they were confused.               

James, you don't say Lewis is senile but you also don't think he's a liar even though he matter-of-factly stated an outright falsehood, adding after his anecdote that that most people don't know it. You say he is "confused."

 

I have no idea what being "confused" means if you are also saying that he does NOT have a medical condition.

 

Why Lewis would lie I'm not certain since his lie is so easy to disprove. Perhaps he just got caught up with his own story telling and, as an "insider" to Stan Laurel, felt the need to embellish during the interview (massively, I might add). To me, he told a falsehood that he had to know was such since Oliver Hardy's film history is well known. And that makes Jerry Lewis a liar during the interview.

 

And, as I stated before, his interview should have been edited on this DVD collection to exclude his tall tale in the first place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

James, you don't say Lewis is senile but you also don't think he's a liar even though he matter-of-factly stated an outright falsehood, adding after his anecdote that that most people don't know it. You say he is "confused."

 

I have no idea what being "confused" means if you are also saying that he does NOT have a medical condition.

 

Why Lewis would lie I'm not certain since his lie is so easy to disprove. Perhaps he just got caught up with his own story telling and, as an "insider" to Stan Laurel, felt the need to embellish during the interview (massively, I might add). To me, he told a falsehood that he had to know was such since Oliver Hardy's film history is well known. And that makes Jerry Lewis a liar during the interview.

 

And, as I stated before, his interview should have been edited on this DVD collection to exclude his tall tale in the first place.

 

If Lewis did lie (knowingly tells a falsehood) about something that is well known then he is a complete moron as well as a liar.

 

I.e.  since the facts were well known he had to know his lie would be easily exposed and only a complete moron would tell a lie that they know can be easily exposed.      e.g.  I jammed with John Lennon in 1992.

 

I just find it hard to believe Lewis would be such a complete moron.    What is more likely to me is that he really believes that tale AND that is what I meant by he was confused  (i.e. he honestly didn't know that the story was false).   

 

Of course his tale should have been edited out of the DVD.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been poking around the internet reading about Oliver Hardy this afternoon and most everything I could find was that he was well established in the movie business before being paired with Stan Laurel. They were in a couple of films where they didn't share screen time and apparently Laurel directed Hardy in a film before they were a screen team. But Hardy had been making movie shorts in Florida and New Jersey starting in the early teens of the 20th century.

 

Don't really see why Lewis told a story like that.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is more likely to me is that he really believes that tale AND that is what I meant by he was confused  (i.e. he honestly didn't know that the story was false).   

 

Of course his tale should have been edited out of the DVD.

This is a no-win situation for Lewis's credibility.

 

If he really did believe his tale, with all the film still in existence to show Oliver Hardy's film work before teaming with Stan Laurel, then that would make him a moron.

 

Lewis is a man with a massive ego who likes to speak as an authority on comedy. In doing so, he loves the sound of his own voice, I suspect, and under those circumstances I guess got carried away while being interviewed about his experiences with Stan Laurel and told a dumb lie.

 

Something that I did find interesting in his interview, though, was his statement that he and Stan Laurel had much in common as far as their comedy partners were concerned. Lewis and Laurel were both workaholics while their partners (Dean Martin, Oliver Hardy) both liked to hit the golf links any time they could. Hardy would be golfing while Laurel was at the studio working out routines with a stand-in, but when Hardy showed up at the studio he was such a great professional that after he got an instruction from Stan he was always able to hit the mark and perform perfectly the first time. Lewis said the same was true of Dean Martin.

 

Stan Laurel was the genius behind Laurel and Hardy but the two comedians made equal contributions to the hilarity on screen.

 

For me, whenever I watch them perform together I tend to keep a special eye on Oliver Hardy, his constant looks at the camera in exasperation or disbelief. How many times do we see Ollie look at the camera in reaction to an act or statement of Stan's with a look that says, "I can't believe what an idiot he is," only to turn around and do something equally dumb himself. Oliver Hardy is the often pompous guy who doesn't realize he is almost as much of a child-like dope as his partner.

 

Both comedians possessed surprising physical grace. That is particularly apparent when they do their simple but celebrated little dance beside one another in Way Out West.

 

bbdcbe8c-76a9-47ef-8b16-524a182f2051_zps

 

But sometimes it's the little things that you love about a screen performer. I love watching Oliver Hardy when he is about to burst into a run, possibly to chase somebody. He makes a face first (possibly anger, possibly fright, depending upon the circumstances) and starts to shake his arms stretched to the side or maybe above his head, while momentarily pumping his legs up and down on the same spot for a second or two before he actually starts to move from that spot. It's almost like he's revving himself up before he can actually go. Breaks me up almost every time.

 

One other thing I discovered from the Essential Collection. Do you recall Ollie's favourite exasperated expression to Stan, "Well, here's another fine mess you got me in." They even made a short, one of their best, in my opinion, called Another Fine Mess.

 

Well, Ollie never said that in any of their shorts. What he actually said was, "It's another nice mess you got me in."

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been poking around the internet reading about Oliver Hardy this afternoon and most everything I could find was that he was well established in the movie business before being paired with Stan Laurel. They were in a couple of films where they didn't share screen time and apparently Laurel directed Hardy in a film before they were a screen team. But Hardy had been making movie shorts in Florida and New Jersey starting in the early teens of the 20th century.

 

Don't really see why Lewis told a story like that.

Thanks, Helen. Well, if I know that and you know that, wouldn't Jerry? I'd say so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stan Laurel was shocked when he heard that Oliver Hardy had died, phoning the hospital the day of his death to receive that news. Nor would he ever afterward appear in public by himself. (Stan and Ollie had each suffered a stroke, Oliver never recovering from his).

 

But Dick Van Dyke said that when he knew Stan in the early '60s (Oliver had died in 1957) that he was still writing comedy sketches for himself and Ollie. In fact, Van Dyke said that Laurel's drawers were full of comedy ideas that he had recently drawn up for himself and his old partner.

 

Maybe it was just a hobby for him, a way to keep his comedy mind still agile. Another part of me wonders, though, if, while devising a comedy idea for him and his partner, it was Stan's way of keeping Ollie alive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stan Laurel was shocked when he heard that Oliver Hardy had died, phoning the hospital the day of his death to receive that news. 

 

About 20 years ago there was a documentary on L&H hosted by Dom Deluise. It ends with a CU on a teary-eyed DD telling us that Ollie died in Stan's arms.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been poking around the internet reading about Oliver Hardy this afternoon and most everything I could find was that he was well established in the movie business before being paired with Stan Laurel. They were in a couple of films where they didn't share screen time and apparently Laurel directed Hardy in a film before they were a screen team. But Hardy had been making movie shorts in Florida and New Jersey starting in the early teens of the 20th century.

Don't really see why Lewis told a story like that.

I've been doing the same, and havent found any other source for Lewis's apocryphal story. I can only guess that he was conflating a memory of how some other actor had been discovered with Babe Hardy. Being the insufferable jerk that he is, the interviewer probably chose not to correct him for fear of having to deal with the backlash Lewis would surely have given him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About 20 years ago there was a documentary on L&H hosted by Dom Deluise. It ends with a CU on a teary-eyed DD telling us that Ollie died in Stan's arms.

It was Jerry Lewis on the DVD set that said Stan got the news about Ollie's death over the phone, so you know it's probably true.

 

What am I saying? :blink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...