Mr Laurel & Mr Hardy: An Affectionate Biography by John McCabeLaurel and Hardy have always had a special place in the affections of British comedians, and not just because Laurel is from the Cumbrian town of Ulverston home to the charmingly idiosyncratic Laurel and Hardy Museum. He was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson but changed his name because he thought a shorter one would get a bigger slot on billboards, choosing the new surname after seeing a drawing of a Roman general, Scipio, wearing a laurel wreath. After a long spell in separate acting careers, they made more than short and full-length films together, many of which were shown regularly on the BBC in the s and s. I initially watched because it was all that was on. As a child who loved dance, I quickly realised that that is what Stan and Ollie did — a weird, beautiful ballet of physicality and humour. Physical grace was certainly one of the qualities of a pair who were so different in physique. Peter Sellers, who took a poster-size autographed photo of Laurel with him wherever he travelled, modelled his character of the gardener Chance on Laurel for the film Being There.
Mr Laurel & Mr Hardy: An Affectionate Biography
John Connolly, author of the Charlie Parker series of detective novels, has never been afraid to experiment outside his first genre. This is not without difficulties. This is a book about love: love of women, love of men, love of art, love of comedy. It is harder to suspend disbelief when Stan Laurel is not an imaginary character. When those researched concrete details coalesce, a world of Dickens-like detail leaps off the page.
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Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Hard lessons learned. When given a choice, Oscar wants the real thing. But in weighting it that way, it sells Ollie a little short. It opens in the Hardy home, a post-party morning-after disaster, littered with half-finished fifths, dirty dishes, still-smoldering ashtrays, tipped-over furniture, and a hat tossed up on the chandelier.
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HE By John Connolly pp. So many melancholy tales have been told about the tortured lives of comedians that the pertinent question about a new story is not whether the entertainer is miserable but why. Even Laurel and Hardy lovers may be put off by its somber, experimental mood. Laurel, the British vaudevillian who successfully made the transition from the silent era to talking pictures, is the center of the story but his name is never mentioned. It skips quickly from one career landmark to another, and describes the many women in his life whom he let down. But Connolly continually returns to the final days, when Laurel broods, despairs and expresses remorse for a life gone wrong.