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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2709

Greatest Tribute to the Foremost Comedy Duo: Laurel & Hardy back on big screen

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

Laurel and Hardy, the greatest comedy pair of all time, are to return to the big screen across the UK in June on account of the 125th birth anniversary of the ‘wiser’ – the exact inverse of screen portrayal - of the two, Stan Laurel, who was born in Britain.

The two films chosen for a series of events, both in the UK and Ireland, are the Sons of Desert – a 1933-feature film - and Country Hospital – a short movie. The first show is coming to a cinema in Liverpool as early as June 1st.

Laurel and Hardy, once eulogized as the ‘sweetest pair’, were never short of adoring names in many different parts of the world, thanks to their unique combination of inherent comical nature, coupled with highly-magnetizing charm: in Germany, for instance, they were Dick and Doof; in Scandinavian nations, meanwhile, the pair were Helan and Halvan, to name, but a few.

Judging by the size, shape and nature of the moustache, even the Nazi supremo, Hitler, seemed to have failed to resist the temptation to mimic Doof – Hardy, as known in Germany . Since Laurel and Hardy were at the zenith of their careers in the 30s, it was highly unlikely that Oliver Hardy emulated a little known Austrian rabble-rouser, who was hell-bent on pursuing a pipedream of extreme German nationalism.

The association of Laurel and Hardy does not just end with Hitler. On the contrary, it is no exaggeration to say that it is already in what Carl Jung described as collective unconscious: they have been a favorite metaphor for man-made disasters; a synonym for utter incompetence; an axiom for unintended mayhem; the perfect catalyst for stubborn feminists to demonize ‘menkind’ purely on ideological grounds.

I first watched them on BBC Two about fifteen years back, then immediately became besotted with them; the sentiment never deserted me since and I bought the whole collection from Amazon on a box set of 21 DVDs. We, friends and family, may have been watching them over and over ever since as if we were psychologically recharging a biological comic cell – but, never got tired of it. In short, Laurel and Hardy are for an eternity.

Both Laurel and Hardy made us laugh while staying well within the solid boundary of family entertainment – without resorting to foul language or punctuating the storyline with endless swearing, sometimes at the expense of the most vulnerable in the modern society.

The comedy that stemmed from Laurel and Hardy was a far cry from most modern equivalents, which at times substitute controversies for laughter – a far cry, indeed. Even the controversial comedians, however, admit in their silent hours that they were inspired by magnificent Laurel and Hardy.

In addition to making the world laugh, the pair showed an army of aspiring comedians how to make the transition from stage to screen, a crucial phase in one’s career, in a seamless manner, as they used to hail from the similar background themselves.

Hardy: You said you once had an uncle.

Stan: He died.

Hardy: What happened?

Stan: He fell through a trap door and broke his neck.

Hardy: What do you mean? he broke his neck!

Stan: Yes, he was hanged!!!

We turn to comedians for fun, not for intellectual stimulation or spiritual guidance. For the latter, we have academicians and priests respectively. The fact that Laurel and Hardy thrived during two specific periods – one followed by Great Depression in America and the other, after the Second World War in Europe and beyond – clearly shows that comedy was a welcome form of distraction, indeed, for the unfortunate folks in that era, in order to get away from trials and tribulations of daily life.

Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood actor, once defended the quality of some Hindi movies while sticking to the same line of analysis – when challenged by a western movie critic. He said that the directors and producers know very well what the majority of audience really wanted – as a way of diversion from daily struggles to survive.

The story of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy would not have been complete, if the pair had not met the other unique talent that complemented what was then offer in the comedy circle – Hal Roach, the veteran director and producer who died in 1992, aged 100.

There may be more than one simple reason for the choice of Stan’s birthday for the celebration of the pair in the form of a biopic – the little known fact that Stan was the one who masterminded most of the popular comedies, in spite of portraying himself simpleton, vulnerable and ignorant on screen.

- Asian Tribune -

Greatest Tribute to the Foremost Comedy Duo: Laurel & Hardy back on big screen
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