I really, really like Laurel and Hardy movies. Don't ask me why. I tried and failed to explain it in a two-part article
posted elsewhere on this site. (You don't have to go searching for it. It's reachable by clicking
But, in 25 words or more: I find them funny and fascinating and even their worst films are not without some interest. I
discovered them the way you probably did — on TV, which I soon learned was not their natural habitat. Still I loved them there and years
later when I began to see their films the right way (i.e., on a big screen in a theater with an audience, and without commercial
interruption), I loved them even more.
Still, as much as I love them, I am not a huge fan of slapstick. If I were, I suppose, this would be a Three Stooges
Filmography. With comics who lob pies and fall in mud puddles, I am less amused with someone getting injured or messy than in the personalities
and situations before and after the act. While the Stooges achieved such multi-tiered comedy on occasion, no one did it more consistently than
Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. My favorite moments in their films are the least painful/sloppy: Laurel's reactions, Hardy's gestures and the
simple-minded worldview of both. Watching Stan attempt to digest a thought...watching Ollie try to use a writing instrument...these are among
the moments that made the two men very special. Any comedian could slip on
a banana peel.
So keep all that in mind as you slog through this list of every movie they ever made, including some in which they did only brief
cameos. I have also supplied brief plot summaries and — for what little they may be worth — my opinions of each. A lot of the evaluations are based on seeing the films with an audience.
and I might have ranked certain films lower or higher had I not seen
the amazing amounts of laughter they evoked...or, in some cases, failed to evoke. If you disagree with some of my evaluations, that may be
among the reasons. I never got to see any of their non-Roach features anywhere but on teevee
and might appreciate them more if I did...though I doubt it. Also keep in mind that these are just one buff's evaluations. Your views may vary and, next time I see some of these
films, mine may vary, as well.
The most important Laurel and Hardy biography and the only one done by an intimate with their participation is Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy by John McCabe. It's a great,
affectionate bio but it's a bit weak about the specifics of their films and filmmaking. This is entirely
forgivable since it was the first time anyone had attempted to research The Boys.
It also skips lightly over some of the portions of their career that Stan, who was
alive when the book was done and authorized it, might have preferred to omit.
Still, this was the Rosetta Stone for all further
historical and even critical writings about Stan and Ollie, and all scholarship
about The Boys flows from its pages. Years later, McCabe expanded on his earlier work with two excellent volumes, both
loaded with insight, personal data and even unproduced script materials — The Comedy World of Stan Laurel and Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy.
Several decades of further research have culminated in Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies by Randy
Skretvedt, which is pretty much definitive in its facts and figures...especially its second, revised edition. It's an excellent, perceptive
volume and a "must-read" for anyone interested in their work. When something in this book contradicts something in another book (even
McCabe's), I tend to believe Skretvedt. The other books out there on The Boys are sometimes of interest for criticism and commentary
The Complete Films of Laurel and Hardy by William K. Everson and
Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward
by Scott MacGillivray — but
between McCabe and Skretvedt, you have the essentials of Laurel and Hardy history.
Unfortunately, most of these books seem to go in and out of print. Clicking on any title above will take you to an Amazon page
where you may or may not be able to order the book, new or used. You may also need to hunt through various other sources of old books.
The hunt will be worth it, though.
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