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by Danny Lawrence
The Making of Laurel and Hardy is the remarkable factual story of how Stan and Oliver’s wonderful comic partnership was born. It begins with their long individual careers, and then examines the extraordinary catalogue of events which transformed them into what was to become the most loved and successful comic partnership of all time.
Before the filming of Duck Soup in 1926, Stan and Oliver had occasionally been on screen together, but only whilst pursuing entirely separate careers. Oliver’s film career began in 1914, aged 22, and was virtually unbroken although he moved between studios. Stan’s professional debut was not in a film studio but on the stage in 1907, aged 16. His first appearance in a film did not follow until 1917. Between then and 1926, his time on film sets was sporadic. He may have starred in most of his early films but, afterwards, had to return to the gruelling life of vaudeville touring, often giving four performances a day, six days a week. He eventually came close to giving up acting altogether. By 1926, even after over 20 years collective experience making films, both men were only moderately successful performers. Moreover, until they arrived on the set of Duck Soup, they had never before been cast as a partnership. Yet that single modest film, created in a two-week period, was to be The Making of Laurel and Hardy.
It was Stan who wrote the screenplay for this pivotal silent film. It was not based on new material. On the contrary, the plot and characters came from the sketch, Home from the Honeymoon, which his father Arthur Jefferson had written for the theatre over 20 years earlier. It was not an obvious choice for a silent film because it was full of clever dialogue. Yet, thanks to Arthur Jefferson’s sketch, Stan’s writing, his and Oliver’s comic talents and the natural empathy between them, they were soon on their way to becoming international stars.
No copy of the original film is currently available, but versions are in circulation created from subsequent releases which are incomplete or have different subtitles. The variations between them, in terms of visual content and subtitles, are analysed in detail.
For those of you who like detailed specifications, the book is 308 pages long, in a 9x6 inch format, contains 93,000 words and 97 images, and is now on sale through Amazon for $21.95 in the USA and £16.95 in the UK. It will be available at a comparable price at other Amazon stores around the world.
Danny Lawrence is also the author of The Making of Stan Laurel. Echoes of a British Boyhood and Arthur Jefferson. Man of the Theatre and Father of Stan Laurel both are still readily available via Amazon.