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


TomJH
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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.

 

OR of course, the interviewer COULD have been French.

 

(...and I think we ALL know how easily Jerry has seemed to have fooled THOSE folks over there all these years, now don't we?!!!) ;)

 

LOL

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Bingo!

 

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I found a 2011 review of the Laurel and Hardy Essential Collection on DVD Talk in which the reviewer loved the collection but made scornful reference to Jerry Lewis's participation in it:

 

He spins wildly inaccurate, easily disproved yarns about the team, among other things implying Hardy was a down-and-out nobody with no film comedy experience when Laurel "discovered" him. (In fact Hardy was already a well-established character comedian arguably more in demand than Laurel when they first teamed-up.) Jerry's highly questionable claims undoubtedly should have been edited out to save him the embarrassment he's been suffering since the release of this set.

 

The reviewer doesn't say precisely what embarrassment has occurred for Lewis since the release of the collection. Among other claims that Jerry made was that Stan Laurel had told him they could have come "from the same mother." I assume this was in reference to the high esteem in which Stan held him as a comedy soul mate. (Either that, or Stan thought they had one hell of a resemblance to one another).

 

Look, it's possible that Stan might have said this. But, once again, as we now know with his "Stan found Ollie as a labourer" story, Jerry does like to re-write history.

 

The following is mere speculation on my part. I have made several references on this thread to the fact that the DVD makers of this otherwise great collection of the best of L & H should have edited Jerry's comments. I see that the DVD Talk reviewer said the same thing. But I wonder if they might not have done so because they were intimated by Lewis and fearful of his private/public wrath if they excised comments that the comedian considered pertinent to his contribution to the disc collection.

 

In any event, with the "embarrasment" to which Lewis has since been submitted, now I guess that he, too, wishes that the DVD makers had done a little more judicious editing of his BIG (!!!) mouth.

 

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After some scant research, the main discrepency in the Lewis story is of Stan "discovering" Hardy.  When, in fact, Both were working reguarily at the time of their "pairing", although Stan's jobs were "meatier"( set-up man, drector, stunts and stunt choreography) while Hardy just played the same roles(villians and other "heavies") over and over.

 

In truth, it was LEO McCAREY who was probably more responsible for creating the team.  HE noticed the favorable audience reaction whenever Stan and Ollie worked together, and "fanagled" their being cast together in more and more shorts until the idea formed to make them a "permanent" duo.  And, as they say.....The Rest Is History!

 

So, it could be said that Oliver Hardy wouldn't have had much of, if any film career (except as a typecast workhorse, or "LABORER") without Stan!

 

 

Sepiatone

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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.
 
Perhaps Lewis had been talking to George Costanza before spinning that yarn, and George told him.....
 
"Jerry, just remember----It's not a lie if you believe it."
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So, it could be said that Oliver Hardy wouldn't have had much of, if any film career (except as a typecast workhorse, or "LABORER") without Stan!

 

 

 

Quite possibly.

 

But would we be talking about Stan Laurel today if he hadn't been teamed with Oliver Hardy?

 

Before finding "himself" with his slow thinking Stan Laurel persona, Laurel was quite the opposite in his solo screen shorts, a fast moving and thinking Chaplin-type of comedian (then, again, so many early silent comedians were influenced by Charlie).

 

Once Stan was teamed with Ollie he never worked without him again.

 

Oliver, on the other hand, was teamed in 1939 with comedian Harry Langdon in Zenobia (this was by design by Hal Roach; Hardy was still under contract to him while Laurel's contract had expired - Roach was crafty that way-not letting the two comics' contracts expire simultaneously, thereby giving them more negotiating power as a team), as well as comic character support to John Wayne in 1949's The Fighting Kentuckian. Oliver was pretty good in that one.

 

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The Fighting Kentuckian. Oliver wanted Stan's approval first before agreeing to appear in this western without him. He got it, of course.

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Putting Stan and Ollie together is like adding 1 + 1 and getting 3. Both men had talent , putting them together brought out the best in each and fortunately for us they realized that as well. The fact that they also formed a lasting friendship (unlike some other comic teams)  reinforced that team effort. Its very touching to read about Stan's devotion to his partner right to the end of his own life.

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My only comment about Jerry's "false story" about the Stan and Ollie teaming is that either Jerry got  a couple of  stories mixed up or he was just repeating someone else's fiction.  That doesn't let Jerry off the hook, he should be more sure of his stories. The interviewer should have caught that error and either corrected Jerry or just omitted that comment.  I can't see what motivation Jerry would have for consciously lying, but his always oversized ego ( Mr know it all) compounds the problem that people have with his character.  

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Although their feature films Sons of the Desert and Way Out West are both very good, I think it's safe to say that Laurel and Hardy were at the peak of their careers when they made their shorts for Hal Roach Studios. This continued until 1935 when Roach decided that from then on they would only be in films.

 

They made a lot of outstanding shorts. The Music Box, a best short Oscar winner for 1932 and legendary as the one in which the boys had to move a music box up a gigantic flight of stairs, was, apparently, Stan Laurel's personal favourite of them. Those stairs still exist today, on Vendome at Del Monte in LA, with L & H fans making pilgrimages there to have their photographs taken on them.

 

One of my favourite L & H shorts is 1930's Another Fine Mess. This one has the boys on the run from a cop, seeking refuge in a mansion (its owner, a big game hunting colonel, having just left on a trip and the servants gone for the day) when a ritzy couple looking to buy the place suddenly ring the front door bell.

 

"What will we do?" Stan asks.

 

Well, anybody else would simply keep quiet and the couple would go away.

 

But Ollie, using that keen intellect of his, replies, "Do? Just use your brains. You put on the butler's clothes and tell them the colonel's not home."

 

Duh. Well, guess what? This leads to complications for the boys, with Stan not only playing butler to the home buying couple but doing double duty as Agnes, the maid, while Ollie has to appear as the mansion's "grand" owner.

 

The short is highlighted for me by a number of aspects:

 

1. The grand comedy performance of Oliver Hardy as the lord of the mansion, guiding his guest around his "home," without, of course, a clue as to what room he is taking him to with every turn. Ollie plays "cultivated" and gracious, twirling his tie before his guest, while at the same time flashing frequent looks at the camera (and audience) to register a dozen or so comedy reaction shots. It's a beautiful performance from one of the great comedians of the movies.

 

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2. Stan Laurel's performance as the maid, with Stan abandoning his dimwit persona and becoming a laughing, giggling, flirtatious pre-code risque character, particularly when he/she indulges in cute girl talk with the delectable Thelma Todd, who plays one of the prospective home buyers. They sit on a couch together, Stan, as Agnes, frequently giving Thelma a playful shove in the shoulder as they joke around, Thelma breaking out into seemingly spontaneous laughter in response to what may have been some ad-libbed bits of business by Stan.

 

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3. As always, the hilarious appearance of L & H character support stalwart Jimmy Finlayson, this time as the mansion's owner, Colonel Wilberforce Buckshot. Finlayson only has to have a closeup in which he squints one eye and pops out his other one and I'm on the floor.

 

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And, of course, this short has the further hilarity of a million other bits of comedy business.

 

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Such as the fact that there never was a staircase that either Stan or Ollie could run up without colliding into a nearby wall first.

 

I can't recommend the Laurel and Hardy Essential Collection enough to L & H fans, especially since this may well be, in many respects, the best that much of their film material has looked in a long, long time.

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If only someone out there could find a copy of the missing L & H silent film, HATS OFF. A earlier version of THE MUSIC BOX (using  the same steps I believe)  only they are door to door washing machine salesmen.   We must all pull our financial resources  together (I've got 20 bucks) and offer a reward for the finding of this "lost" film.  There are some stills of the film out there, check out youtube for a presentation. There are a lot of Laurel and Hardy clips on youtube. Another favorite of mine is PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES, if only for the scenes with the 4 year old Jackie Lyn. She may have been the only one to ever upstage the boys in a film.

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If only someone out there could find a copy of the missing L & H silent film, HATS OFF.

That reconstruction of Hats Off on YouTube shows that the short includes Jimmy Finlayson, yet another great reason to hope that a copy of the film will be found somewhere. L & H fans having been hoping for this holy grail discovery for years now.

 

I think that a lot of Stan and Ollie's best work was, like Hats Off, during the silent era. Big Business (breaking up Jimmy Finlayson's home as he destroys their car), Two Tars (another great t i t for tat comedy, this time with the boys as sailors), Their Purple Moment (the boys whooping it up in a nightclub), The Finishing Touch (building a house), Liberty (their Harold Lloyd-type thrill comedy), Double Whoopee (with a young Jean Harlow) - so much great stuff even if their distinctive voices are stilled. Unfortunately, none of these appear in the Laurel and Hardy Essential Collection, which concentrates solely upon their talkies.

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BIG BUSINESS is the one where the film crew  accidently went to the wrong location and they  destroyed the wrong house, right?

I've heard that story before. But I'm not certain if it's a myth.

 

I'll tell you one thing, though. The house destroyed in that short, like the stairs in Music Box, still exists today. Or, at least, it still existed in 2007 when this video was shot:

 

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IF I ever make another trip out to the west coast, L A area, I definitely want to go to see the "steps" ,  I have to keep some other sites like that house in mind too.  So much to do, not enough time.

mrroberts, I will sometimes take a "trip" the cheap way, by going on Google Maps and entering a specific address of significance to me.

 

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This beautiful home and property at 621 North Alta Drive, Beverly Hills was once owned by Oliver Hardy. (Bet he never let Jimmy Finlayson come near it to try to break it up). :)

 

That's quite a house to come home to after a day out on the links.

 

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Ah, the good life of a Hollywood film star. Luck and talent, Ollie had it, and deserved all the perks that came with it.

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Before finding "himself" with his slow thinking Stan Laurel persona, Laurel was quite the opposite in his solo screen shorts, a fast moving and thinking Chaplin-type of comedian (then, again, so many early silent comedians were influenced by Charlie).

 

 

But don't forget.....

 

Both Chaplin and Laurel worked together in the same stage troup and came to America on the same boat, and with the same theater company!

 

It's been my understanding that the two would often work on physical comedy routines together, although not neccesarily performing them together.  I'd go further to claim that probably a good 90% of the "sight gags" you see in a Laurel and Hardy short came from the mind of Stan Laurel!

 

 

Sepiatone

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I'd go further to claim that probably a good 90% of the "sight gags" you see in a Laurel and Hardy short came from the mind of Stan Laurel!

 

 

I agree. That's why I wrote earlier in the thread that Laurel was the genius behind Laurel and Hardy.

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Stan Laurel had the talent to be a great performer and the talent to think up and write great comedy bits.  Some people can do one thing well, a few can do both.  Stan found a perfect  screen partner in Oliver Hardy , recognized that good fortune, and Stan could create bits that served the team well. Stan appears to have been a good natured man who didn't let ego get in his way, he was willing to work for the "team".  So why break up a good thing, his best interests were the same as Oliver's and the team's. Again I would say, both men could have done well going their own paths but together they accomplished much more.  

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