Friday, 13 November 2015

The original Dumb and Dumber

Stan Laurel of the infamous Laurel and Hardy would have been 125 this year. To mark the landmark a number of Laurel and Hardy films are coming back to the big screen.

Written by Melonie Clarke
Despite having made 106 films together (the majority of them comedy gold according to fans, myself included), it's been 10 years since their antics were on TV, longer still since you easily find a screening of the pair nationwide on the silver screen.

But the 125th anniversary of Stan Laurels birth sees a select number of films making an appearance in a number of cinemas nationwide once again, much to the delight of today's comedians, many of whom site the pair as an inspiration, including Vic Reeves who said of the comedy duo and the screening, 'the only time I have laughed out loud at the cinema, is watching Laurel and Hardy.'

And for the first time, the films will be shown in high definition.

A lifelong fan and the man we have to thank for the screenings is Ross Owen who is hoping the screenings will encourage people to put down their ipods, tablets, iphones and and enjoy good family entertainment.

'Watching Laurel & Hardy on the big screen is a truly unique experience for fans of all ages,' he says.

'You can buy them on DVD but people want to see them in the cinema the way they were meant to be seen, with an audience because it does make a difference. You notice extra gags there that you might not notice on TV.'

'There's something there for everyone and to see generations of families laughing together, and laugh out loud and get a round of applause at the end of scenes in the cinema, it's great,' he continues, 'I'm so delighted that they've been so well received.'

So what is it he loves about the pair?

'I've been a fan pretty much all my life. Growing up they were always around, they were a big part of my childhood in the 70s.'

'For me it was their relationship, they were like two brothers; they'd just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with it no matter what the situation was.'

'They're icons, they're one offs,' Owen exclaims.

Since a revival in 1975, twenty years after Hardy's death and ten years after Laurels, when the song Trail Of The Lonesome Pine from the film Way Out West reached number two in the charts (narrowly beaten by Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody) this is the biggest resurgence of interest in Laurel and Hardy.

laurel-and-hardy-590-2The Music Box

'People have been asking for screenings all over the place,' Owen tells me. 'We're just coping with the demand at the moment but we're planning on expanding and going to Europe and America. We will definitely do it; it's just a matter of when.'

With 106 films to choose from I wonder just how they managed to narrow it down.

'We just choose the films people most wanted to see, the ones that get asked after the most.'
The line-up includes Towed in a Hole and Way Out West, Block-Heads and the Oscar winning The Music Box - the only of their films to receive an Oscar so fitting it was chosen.

A number of comedians today cite the pair as influences in their own work.

'From serious actors to comedians, they've all been inspired by them, because they were also very good actors I think that's what helps them stand out,' he tells me.

When looking at modern day comedians, Owen tells me he is a fan of Ricky Gervais, who he says he can see his favourite duo in.

'You can see a lot of Laurel and Hardy in his work, in the Office and Extras. Ricky is delighted we're doing these screenings.'

Gervais cites the comedic pair as 'easily my biggest influence' and has said of the screenings 'Anything that helps preserve the legend of the greatest comedy team of all time for future generations is a good thing. I'm so glad they're showing the glory of Laurel and Hardy in cinemas.'

Clearly still loved by many I wonder what Owen thinks is their enduring appeal?

'The reason they appeal to people today is because they are the original Dumb and Dumber really. Their formula obviously still works today.'


'There's something in there for everybody, there's more in there than just slapstick,' he continues.

'It's fascinating to see kids belly laughing with their grandparents and their parents, all laughing at the same time.'

Did you know..?

Laurel first appeared with Oliver Hardy, in The Lucky Dog which they filmed in 1919, but was not released until 1921.

The pair were voted the 45th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

Though rarely credited as a writer or director, Laurel was the creative force behind the comedy duo. If ever anyone asked Hardy about a particular gag he would point to Laurel and simply say 'Ask Stan.'

He kept his number in the phone book and welcomed visitors and responded to all of his fan mail personally.

He removed the heels from all of his shoes for the pairs films as it helped him accentuate his comedy walk.

The pair have several different names depending on the part of the world; Dick und Doof (Germany), Dikke und Dunne (Holland), El Gordo y El Flaco (Spain), Stan és Pan (Hungary), and in Brazil as O Gordo e O Magro (Fat and Skinny).

When Hardy died in 1957 Laurel suffered a nervous breakdown and vowed never to perform again. Despite several offers Laurel turned down every one, sticking to his word.

Despite working together the pair had separate working contracts, with Laurel being on more money than Hardy. Hardy didn't mind however, knowing that he put a lot more work into the production of their films.

laurel-and-hardy-590-4Block Heads

Oliver Hardy was related to Captain Thomas Hardy, as in the Hardy who Admiral Nelson is supposed to have referred to in his last words on his deathbed; 'Kiss me Hardy'.

The pair Appear on sleeve of The Beatles' album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Their final film was Atoll K which was released in 1952.

They both have a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, Laurel's (who was given his in 1960) can be found at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, and Hardy's (who was posthumously given his in the same year) at 1500 Vine Street.

The double bill screening of Block-Heads and Oscar winning The Music Box will be on 15th and 17th November. For details of which cinemas are taking part and to buy tickets visit:

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