The first of an occasional series looking at the memorabilia and mementos I keep close at hand.
There were many 'Golden Age of Comedy' style programmes on TV during the 1960s and 1970s, featuring silent shorts and early sound films. The work of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd all featured heavily in a series of compilation shows at the time. Some of the protagonists, from in front and behind the camera, were still alive at that point and through interviews, were able to bring back to life a world long gone.
Laurel and Hardy in particular, had a great deal of TV exposure around this period with one of their short films being shown most afternoons after school - and so my enduring love of their comedy began.
They made 107 films together. Laurel made over 60 before the teaming and Hardy made over 270 without Stan! There are many more rumoured appearances, but nevertheless that's over 430 films in 37 years! An astonishing workrate.
Stan & Ollie made the transition from silent to sound with apparent ease. Where many great careers faltered at this point, Keaton's and Lloyd's among them, Laurel & Hardy's comedy appeared to work in any medium and indeed any language - for a period in the early 1930s they made a selection of their films up to four times each, working phonetically in German, Spanish, French and Italian.
This picture is one of two Laurel & Hardy shots to appear on my wall over the years, neither being conventional poses. It was taken in 1928 on the set of 'We Faw Down'. The scenes shot on this simulated skyscraper location were so good that they were cut from the film and used to form the basis of the duo's next movie 'Liberty' the following year.
The posed photo shows them, in character, with backs to camera, looking out over the streets of Los Angeles 84 years ago. Although we don't see their faces, it couldn't possibly be anyone other than Laurel & Hardy. Ollie puts a reassuring arm round Stan's shoulder and summarizes their onscreen relationship with a simple gesture of protective friendship.
In real life it was Stan Laurel who was the driving force behind the team, devising and directing, without credit, many of their greatest moments. Oliver Hardy preferring to spend his time on the golf course until required on set, trusting in his partner's comedic instincts absolutely.
Here are some examples of Laurel & Hardy's genius.