The Making of Laurel and Hardy

The Making of Laurel and Hardy


Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had been around for a long time, pursuing entirely separate careers, before they became Laurel and Hardy. In 1926, they were both only moderately successful performers and Stan had come close to giving up acting altogether. Yet, by 1927, after the release of Duck Soup, they had been transformed into a comic partnership which would soon make them international stars. The book first describes the individual careers and long roads that eventually brought Laurel and Hardy together on the set of Duck Soup, the pivotal film which gave birth to their wonderful comic partnership. The book then analyses the origins and the making of Duck Soup. Although made in the Hal Roach Studios, it was not conceived or written by any of the studios' long-established writers. The film was very much the creation of one of its recently appointed and least experienced writers and directors. That person was Stan Laurel. In trying to understand the making of Duck Soup, two things stand out clearly. The first, is that it was Stan Laurel himself who wrote the screenplay for that first breakthrough Laurel and Hardy film. The second is that it was Stan Laurel's father, Arthur Jefferson, who wrote the theatrical sketch on which Stan's screenplay was based. Remarkably, 20 years since its first performance, Stan Laurel turned to it, to try to break his long run of only limited success in films and establish himself as someone of consequence in the Hal Roach Studios. It is a remarkable testament to Arthur Jefferson's talents that his little sketch did the trick, and that it was the first vehicle for the sublime comic partnership of Laurel and Hardy. The original film is now lost but versions are in circulation made up from subsequent, now incomplete, releases. The differences between them, in terms of visual content and sometimes marked variations in their subtitles, is compared in detail. Before the making of Duck Soup, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were no more than acquaintances who had worked together a few times, in varying roles, on film sets. They went on to create an enduring on-screen friendship, able to survive all sorts of adversity and misfortune, which made them hugely popular around the world. In time, their on-screen friendship blossomed into a deep real-life personal friendship. Sadly, their real lives bore some resemblance to the situations they found themselves in so many times on screen. They not only played in scenes of marital discord on film sets but had to endure them in real life. When their film careers ended, they were out of work just as they had been so often on screen. Their circumstances obliged them to make three arduous tours of UK variety theatres, although the gruelling nature of their schedules was tempered by the love and appreciation they encountered as they criss-crossed the country. Then, tragically, just as their health had sometimes been an issue on-screen, they had to cope with real-life health issues. Yet such adversity only drew them closer together in real life, as it had done on-screen. That is what is portrayed in Jeff Pope's film Stan and Ollie, which went on general release in 2019. That film, however, is a fictionalised story of how the Laurel and Hardy partnership ended. This book is the factual account of how it began.

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