Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Stan Laurel - 120 Years Young!

Today marks the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Stan Laurel's birth. It's strange that we've got to a point in time that most of the stars I grew up with on television are now passing out of living memory (and also fading away from our television screens). Sadly, when anniversaries start getting beyond a hundred years they really become part of history rather than culture. I remember the big celebration for Stan's 100th anniversary (and also for Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton etc), but now that milestone looks to have been the final party for the cinema pioneers. When the final veteran of the Somme died recently people mourned not just the man, but the final passing of an era into history. Perhaps we should have done the same for Anita Page? Time marches on...

Anyway, I just wanted to mention Stan because he's basically the reason I'm here writing this. His films didn't just get me into classic movies, they got me into movies. Because of this, I've always gone through life assuming that everyone likes Laurel and Hardy, and though I've found that increasingly not to be the case (and honestly it's something I struggle to understand in other people), any one of their films can instantly lighten my mood and make me laugh without fail no matter how many times I've seen it.

Of course, Stan is nothing without Ollie and vise versa, but on his own Stan Laurel's creative drive and control over the making of his films has always inspired me. I honestly think that there was no one working in Hollywood in the Golden Age who understood instinctively the mechanics of how comic situations worked than Laurel. Keaton was close, but he cared too much about the big picture. Stan's attention was to the tiny details and that instantly made his humour more real and more human. You only have to watch any of his later pictures where he had no creative control to see how badly his unique mind was missed. He had no ambition to be a great auteur, just to come up with funny and unusual situations for Laurel and Hardy to battle against. You can see this attention to details in everything he does and it's one of the reasons why his films are so endearingly popular.

Anyway, I've no intention to go on about his virtues as a performer as I think they go without saying. At the end of the day if I hadn't been exposed to Laurel and Hardy at an early age I doubt I would have grown up to have an appreciation for all things "classic", be they films, records, or books. It was the starting block that shaped all my tastes and opinions. Without Laurel and Hardy, I may have got there in the end but things would have worked out in an entirely different and possibly alien way. I might be a Chaplin fan! Perish the thought...*shudder*

Nope, it all started with Stan. A genius, a gentleman and my hero since childhood. My life would have been infinitely poorer without him.

4 comments:

  1. It's very difficult to analyze yourself. I'm trying to analyze my old-fashioned likings, but it's hard. I must admit: The Bill Crosby show was pretty entertaining too. So why am I not a Bill Crosby fan?

    For my first band that was really good enough for gigs, I wrote an arrangement of the Laurel &Hardy title melody. During my childhood this music had inspired me very much and I think this made me a fan of classic jazz later.

    I think this is the reason, why I'm not a soul/ funk/ hiphop fan today. But I'd like to understand, what makes me so happy, while I'm watching FOOTLIGHT PARADE these days. Really, I wont rest, until I'll be able to understand and explain that ...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know what you mean, sometimes the actual thing that makes you interested or excited about a particular film, peice of music etc is very hard to pin down.

    Nowadays when I watch an old film I often enjoy it because of its intangable sense of atmosphere or place. It feels like a part of a larger continuity.

    One thing I forgot to mention about the Laurel and Hardy films is their music. I later found out they were the work of LeRoy Shield and with some gentle nudging from Robert Crumb and a CD of highlights form his record collection, I discovered a lot of his work. the music is definately a big part of the overall package when it comes to those films.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I see myself inevitable deep entangled in the 30s. Old movies even made me partly: They made me a singer and a dancer - I wouldn't have started all this without 30s' movies. Above all, Ginger Rogers made me and that's why I love her.

    Now I'm seeing messages behind those movies. I don't hear those messages as a person of 21th century. I'm influenced by the past, somehow I grew into the past and in a way I kind of belong to the past. And there won't be any way out.

    No wonder I was bound to join the classic movie blog-scene.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was googling for the sentence "Laurel and Hardy are fading away" because i was thinking how less and less you see or hear from them nowadays. I'm 22 years old and when i was a kid, tapes and cd's of L&H were (re-)released, they were on tv sometimes, and people talked about it. I have the feeling that none of that happens anymore, they have almost died away. And I don't want this to happen, they're unique and their humour is timeless!

    ReplyDelete