The Lost Films of
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
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Oliver Hardy puts the mash on Lupe Velez in "Slipping Wives."

Together … But Not Yet a Team (1926-1927)

Once Laurel and Hardy both signed on with Hal Roach Studios in late 1926, they occasionally appeared together in the same comedy shorts. The first such film was a Glenn Tryon short called "45 Minutes to Hollywood" (1926: vol. 6). The short is noteworthy as the first Hal Roach comedy to bring together Laurel and Hardy in front of the camera; however, they weren't yet a team, so the characters they play bear little resemblance to the characters they would eventually play. Hardy plays a hotel detective who frantically pursues Tryon. He is eventually led to a hotel room where Stan Laurel plays a small role as a guest "too hungry to sleep, too wobbly to get up." Festooned with a huge mustache (like James Finlayson might have worn), Laurel wrestles with intruders in his room. But Hardy remains locked out in the hallway while the commotion takes place within, so Laurel and Hardy actually share no scenes in this short.

Next up, Hal Roach tackled a comedy short written by Stan Laurel (based on a sketch by Stan's father). The resulting short, "Duck Soup" (1927: vol. 5), was difficult to view and feared lost for several decades, until a print surfaced in Europe in 1974. Now, in this first-ever authorized commercial release of "Duck Soup," audiences can experience the first short that paired Laurel and Hardy together. No longer were they playing second banana roles for Hal Roach. This short thrust them together in starring roles. They play a down on their luck pair who try to avoid becoming part of a hobo roundup by taking refuge in a mansion. The master of the property has left on business, so Stan and Laurel must deal with troublesome prospective lessors--with hilarious results. "Duck Soup" was remade in the sound era as "Another Fine Mess."

"Slipping Wives" (1927: vol. 8) gives Priscilla Dean lead billing, with Laurel and Hardy receiving third and fourth billing respectively. Dean's star was slipping, while Laurel and Hardy's stars were on the ascent, and they clearly steal the show. Laurel plays a delivery man, and Hardy plays a butler. When Laurel attempts to deliver paint to Dean's mansion, Hardy insists that Laurel use the side entrance -- and a fight ensures. The main plot involves Dean attempting to attract the attention of her husband, who only kisses her on Sundays and holidays. She enlists Laurel to make her husband jealous. But first he must take a bath -- pitting him against Hardy again, who attempts to strip Laurel and get him into the bathtub.

This initial pairing of Laurel and Hardy was temporary. In "Love 'Em and Weep" (1927: vol. 3), for example, Laurel gets the leading role opposite James Finalyson. Mae Busch plays a floozy who attempts to blackmail Finlayson. They had a dalliance several years previously and now she's ready to let Finlayson's wife know about it--unless he shells out several thousand dollars. To try and distract her, Finlayson insists that his employee, Laurel, escort Busch to a restaurant: "You have a powerful control over women," he says, but we know it's a lie. So does Laurel. He breaks into what may well be the first weepy cry of his career. Meanwhile Hardy, fourth billed, has little to do but react as a dinner party guest at Finlayson's mansion once Busch storms in. It includes a very funny bit where Laurel and Finlayson try to escort the unconscious Busch out of the house: Finlayson bends over and supports her on his back. Her coat envelopes Finlayson. It looks as if she's walking upright--if you don't pay attention to the hairy, bowed legs peeking out from beneath the coat's hem. Three years later, Laurel and Hardy would remake "Love 'Em and Weep" as "Chickens Come Home," but in the remake, significantly, Hardy would take Finlayson's role.

One of the rarest comedies on these discs is "Why Girls Love Sailors" (1927: vol. 9). For many years, it was available only in murky dupes. But Hal Roach Studios finally tracked down a 35mm nitrate negative. Found deep within the vaults of the Cinematheque Francaise, "Why Girls Love Sailors" can now be appreciated as one of Laurel and Hardy's funniest early outings. Hardy plays a nasty-tempered ship captain who kidnaps Laurel's girlfriend Nellie. In order to look around the ship, Laurel dresses in drag and struts on board. He then lures sailors one-by-one and bonks them on the head. The DVD contains two versions of the short --- one with the original French titles from the European negative and one version with new English translations.

With "Love and Hisses" (1927: vol. 7) is another rare Hal Roach comedy, previously available only in poor quality prints. However, for this collection, Hal Roach Studios located an original, tinted Kodascope print. In early 1927, Laurel and Hardy were not big stars, so this comedy short pits them against one of the biggest names at Hal Roach Studios -- James Finlayson. Laurel and Hardy interact briefly as soliders on a train and then later give drill inspector Finlayson fits, featuring a good bit where the soliders go skinny dipping, lose their clothes, and sneak back to base by using a billboard (for DeMille's The Volga Boatman) as camouflage.

"Sailors, Beware!" (1927: vol. 7) represents a crucial period in the development of a working relationship between Laurel and Hardy. Hal Roach himself wrote the original story and directed most all the scenes. His daily work with his stars may very well have helped him to see the value in placing them together as a team. In "Sailors, Beware!", Stan is the star. Movie posters at the time didn't even mention Oliver. However, Hardy plays an important role: he's the purser of a passenger ship. He greets everyone who sets foot on the ship, giving all the ladies great attention and impatiently waving the men past. Stan plays a cabbie who gets stiffed by his fare (Anita Garvin). Not one to give up easily, Stan ends up -- cab and all -- on board the ship. For many years, "Sailors, Beware!" has been difficult to locate, except in murky prints; however, Hal Roach Studios has unearthered a decent Kodascope print. It's watchable but the print quality is somewhat burnt out, grainy, and scratched. The DVD contains two versions of "Sailors, Beware!" -- one version has the French titles of the original print and a second version includes titles translated into English.

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Page 1 Introduction

Page 2 Pre-Union Solo Efforts (1919-1926)

Page 3 Together … But Not Yet a Team (1926-1927)

Page 4 The Team Solidifies (1927)

Page 5 Classic Comedies (1928-1929)

Page 6 The Transition to Sound (1929)

Page 7 About the DVDs