During our angst-ridden teen years, which were complete with thick brown glasses and imaginary social life, we discovered Laurel and Hardy.
We had seen classic films before, but didn’t realize how seemingly free-wheeling and fun these films could be. Laurel and Hardy showed us something new: filmmakers in the silent era were clever and witty, and didn’t need spoken dialogue to make great movies.
Our discovering Laurel and Hardy is a long story, so if you’d like to skip the next two paragraphs, we understand.
When we were growing up, Sunday mornings at our house were nothing but tumultuous. There were five children in our family, all of whom had to be washed, fed and packed into the car so we could go to Mass and learn how to Behave. In order to have some bathroom privacy before the mad pre-church rush, we (as in, yours truly) would get up at 6:00 a.m.
But one morning, in a cranky and rebellious mood, we turned on the television instead of brushing our teeth – and our world changed. We discovered that one of our local television stations showed Laurel and Hardy shorts. Not only that, these good television folk dedicated thirty minutes to Laurel and Hardy every Sunday morning. Watching these shorts became our new Sunday morning routine. We embraced it more enthusiastically than going to church, we’re afraid to say.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a hugely popular slapstick comedy duo during the early years of Hollywood film. Laurel, the thin Englishman, was goofy, naive and endearing. Hardy, the stout American, was wily and often a little too smart for his own good. They made over 100 films together, 32 of which were short silents.
One of their shorts, Liberty (1929), is the one we most remember from our childhood. It may not be the most celebrated Laurel and Hardy short, but we feel it should be. Liberty has all the elements we love about the duo, including a fairly twisted ending.
Liberty is only 19 minutes long, but what a wild 19 minutes! It’s a crazy little flick about two escaped prisoners, portrayed by our lads Laurel and Hardy. During the first half of the film, the two try to exchange pants. During the second half of the film, they try not to fall off an under-construction skyscraper.
Here’s how Liberty captures our first impressions of Laurel and Hardy shorts:
- It’s filmed outside, which gives us an interesting view of 1920s Los Angeles. As a teenager, we were fascinated by these outdoor scenes.
- The gags are fresh and clever, and make us laugh out loud.
- The skyscraper scene, which appears to be filmed at least 20 stories above the street, makes us feel like a kid watching a magic act for the first time.
- We identify with Laurel and Hardy. We know all too well what it’s like to be in a ridiculous situation of our own making.
Laurel and Hardy in general, and Liberty in particular, made us hungry for classic film. They knew how to give movie audiences a good time. They seem to have so much fun, which makes it fun for us.
And for opening a new world to a teenage girl with thick brown glasses, we are eternally grateful.
Liberty: starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Directed by Leo McCarey. Titles by H.M. Walker. Hal Roach Studios, B&W, 1929, 19 mins.
This post is part of the FILM PASSION 101 blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Be sure to read all the other fab entries!