Do you remember Laurel and Hardy? I do and as a young girl thought their movies were funny, sometimes silly.
Thanks to She Society’s invitation from Entertainment One, I attended the preview screening of STAN & OLLIE and was reintroduced to a touching portrait of these hilariously clever kings of comedy.
Perfectly portrayed by John C. Reilly (Ollie) and Steve Coogan (Stan) they were ‘the duo’ themselves including their brilliant rendition of the legendary dance routines. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing their characters.
Characters, Bernard Delfont, the archetypal showbiz schmoozer was played by Rufus Jones and the hardnosed producer, Hal Roach played by Danny Huston.
To be released 21 February, STAN & OLLIE, directed by Jon S. Baird, is not only a story that takes you back in time, it is about two best friends who have lived through something special together.
The story behind the story
Based on their legendary tour around Britain in 1953, acclaimed screenwriter Jeff Pope pays homage to a unique friendship and working partnership as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy grace the stages in their later years.
The reason the filmmakers decided to call the film STAN & OLLIE rather than Laurel and Hardy was due to the production being dedicated to exploring the men behind the legends. Pope was gifted a Laurel and Hardy DVD box-set fifteen years ago and started to investigate these iconic entertainers. He wanted to reveal the truths behind their infectious cinematic personas and described their relationship “as a love story between two men” and what that means to be two best friends.
On screen Oliver Hardy would often take control whereas from behind, Stan Laurel was the creative brains who oversaw every aspect of productions. This becomes evident during the movie and how driven they were to perfect their routines to appear effortless. Producer Faye Ward explained “we didn’t want to do a conventional biopic, we wanted to create something that new and old audiences could enjoy”, and that they did.
Between 1927 and 1950 they made over 107 film appearances that were made up of silent short films, sound shorts, features and cameos defining the notion of the double act.
Diminished by age and their golden years of Hollywood behind them, Stan and Ollie face an uncertain future as they crisscross the country, attendances disappointingly low. The beauty in this movie is despite their ongoing challenges and disappointments, they always seemed to make each other laugh. Through this charm and connection, their adoring audiences were able to reconnect with them, as did we.
There are telling, touching details about the central relationship. The movie is poignant, sad and emotional at times, notwithstanding their infamous funny dittos injected throughout that made us laugh. “You can charm an audience with comedy” Pope says and he was right.
For both Stan and Ollie, their creative marriages begin to unfold in London in the Savoy Hotel where they were joined by their wives. Pope’s script included a comical and charming introduction to them, played by Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy) and Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel). They were almost a female duo version of their husband’s humour from the dynamics created by their opposing characteristics. These two strong forthright women were entertaining and funny.
Stan and Ollie become more aware of their approaching swan song and the realisation of how much their wives meant to them. They reach a point where they need to come to terms with getting old, sooner rather than later. You couldn’t help but feel their pain.
In STAN & OLLIE the filmmakers have faithfully honoured the memory of Laurel and Hardy for loyal fans. It has been done in such a way the recreated uncomplicated iconic moments are so good, they still make you laugh.
Superb scenery and detail, they created the glamour of 1930s Hollywood and the somewhat dreary gloom of 1950s Britain.
This clever, but simple movie is suitable for both adults and children (from above ten years) and was a delightful and refreshing change to the complicated era we now live in.
STAN & OLLIE is out this Thursday the 21st of February!