The beauty of movies is that there are millions of unwatched films, even for a “movie maven” like Cinema Dave. Last May, Deerfield Beach Percy White experimented with a Wednesday afternoon series titled “Comedy Club.” Presented in glorious black & white film stock, these films featured W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. The laughs were sincere and this library is likely to resurrect this program in the autumn.
Announced for production two years ago, Stan & Ollie was quietly released during awards season. As Oliver Hardy, John C. Reilly received high praise and an award for his portrayal of the chubby half of this legendary comedy team. Besides playing Stan Laurel, Steve Coogan reunited with Philomena screenwriter Jeff Pope.
Stan & Ollie is a loving portrayal of the comedy team’s swansong. It is more of a memory piece than an accurate portrayal of history. Based on the biographies written by John McCabe and William K. Everson, the conflict between Stan and Ollie was dramatized for artistic license.
The fictional conflict is based on Stan’s feelings of betrayal for Ollie doing freelance work. The opposite was true…Stan encouraged Ollie to accept employment with Harry Langdon in Zenobia and John Wayne in The Fighting Kentuckian. While assigned together as work mates, the two men developed an enduring friendship that continued for the rest of their lives.
Beyond Coogan and Reilly’s sincere performance, Stan & Ollie duplicates the team’s onstage magic. The fine line between fantasy and reality is crossed frequently, when a serious moment of human drama is transformed into a comedy gag that is executed by Laurel & Hardy. Case in point: Stan & Ollie get into a serious argument with their wives at a cocktail party with financial benefactors. The fight ends with a slapstick retaliation from Stan. The financial benefactors laugh, not knowing the serious implications of the conflict.
For those celebrating Father’s Day with their dear ol’ dads, take advantage of having some laughs with the old man. There are plenty of modern comedies that promote grossness and obscenity, but comedians like Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy have provided family entertainment for over a century on the silver screen. Check out Stan & Ollie or any classic comedy for a successful Father’s Day weekend.