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Interview with Stan Laurel - 1959
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:41 pm    Post subject: Interview with Stan Laurel - 1959 Reply with quote

LAUREL WITHOUT HARDY
GIVES A RARE INTERVIEW AND DISCUSSES THEIR JOINT CAREER


BY BOYD VERB,"Films in Review", 3rd of march 1959

Q. Mr Laurel,how did you get into show business?

A. Well, I Was born in show business.My family were all theatrical.

Q. How did you happen to team up with Oliver Hardy?

A. It's kind of a long story. It all began when I was directing a picture which Hardy was to appear in. One Friday, three days before we were to start shooting the picture, Hardy was cooking a leg of lamb at home. As he was taking the lamb out of the oven he slipped and the grease went all over his arm, giving him a third degree burns. So he had to be hospitalized and couldn't appear in the picture. We tried to get someone else for the part,but nobody was avaliable. Mr Roach then asked me to play Hardy's part. Of Course,we had to rewrite it, but when the picture was finished, Roach liked it and he asked me to write myself into the next one. By then Hardy was ready to go into the next picture and I appeared with him in it. That was the first time we appeared together. We made several other silents, not as a team, but we were in same pictures. So, finally, it just evolved that Roach said we ought to call them L&H Comedies, for we were starting to be know as a team. So, really our partnership was due to a leg of lamb.

Q. Did you never work for Mack Sennett?

A. No,I never did, although I knew him very well.

Q. You and Mr Hardy made more than 200 pictures. Which are your favorites?

A. I have none in particular. There are parts in each that I like. I don't know of any one that I thought was the perfect picture.

Q. You were once Charlie Chaplin's understudy weren't you?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. What did you think of him as an artist and as a man.

A. I don't think there's any greater in the business or ever will be. He's the greatest artist that was ever on the screen. In real life I only knew him when together in the old days in vaudeville. He was just a regular guy and I always found him quite pleasant.

Q. Did sound bother either you or Hardy?

A. Not a bit. We had decided we weren't talking comedians and of course preferred to do pantomine like in our silents. So we said as little as possible - only what was necessary to motivate the things we were doing. If there was any plot to be told,we generally would have somebody else tell it. We used sound chiefly for the effects and after a while we really liked sound because it emphasized the gags and as time went on we became a little more accustomed and did more talking than first intended.

Q. Which do you consider better - your talkies or your silents?

A. Well frankly I preferred the silents.

Q. Did you use a working script in your silents?

A. We did have a script, but it didn't consist of the routines and gags. It outlined the basic story idea and was just a plan for us to follow. But when it came to each scene we and gagmen would work out ideas. Oh a few gags were mentioned here and there in the script but they were always WORKED OUT (in corsivo..) on the set. We'd rehearse them a few times and then shoot them.

Q. How long approximately did it take to shoot a silent picture?

A. It depended on the type of the picture. Some pictures came easy but some didn't because of a lot of mechanical effects that were hard to do. Sometimes we would be on a gag and it wouldn't work, so we'd have to wait a couple of days to have the set re-built. Things like that mean delay. We never had a regular schedule, but just worked to get a good picture. The Studio didn't mind because in those days the salaries weren't much money, there weren't any unions and we never used a big cast. In many pictures Hardy and I worked alone except for a dog or something like that.

Q. Many people compared Harry Langdon with you. Do you think there was a similarity?

A. Oh there was a similarity, but I don't think we were like each other.

Q. Did sound ruin Harry Langdon?

A. well, it shouldn't have. I think it was bad choice of material. He was a very fine comedian and at one time many people thought he was going to take Chaplin's place.

Q. Would you care to express an opinion on today's comedians?

A. Oh I think they're all good. But frankly I feel sorry for them. All this burden on them-a schedule of one show every week is a terrible ordeal. I don't know how they manage. I really feel for them. In the days of vaudeville, if you created an act, you could go on for three or four years. Some comics even used to go for 15 or 20 years with the same act. They didn't even have to change it. But on television they have to change it once a week. It's just not in the cards.

Q. Weren't you and Mr.Hardy supposed to make pictures for television?

A. Before I had my stroke Roach studios wanted us to do one a week-you know, one of those 39 "shorts" series. I refused and told them the only way I'd make pictures was one every three months.

Q. Do you mean as infrequently as a color spectacular?

A. Yes. It's the only way for a comic. I mean,look at Milton Berle, Gleason, Sid Caesar - they all knocked themselves out. It's too much of a mental strain. I'd go screwy.

Q. "Life" once said in an article on silent screen comedy that work was play at the silents studios?

A. It was! It was fun! If something went wrong we'd cut, laugh and talk it over.

Q. What is your opinion of Red Skelton?

A. I like his "tramp" character and him himself.

Q. Some critics say he's very close to Chaplin.

A. Oh no! There's nobody who can compare with Chaplin.

Q. Did you have many imitators?

A. There were a few in show business who attempted to do Laurel & Hardy. But it was done in good faith. I mean they didn't try to get away with anything - they called it an imitation. But we had many imitators among our fans. They sent us pictures of themselves-from all over the world - two women doing Laurel & Hardy or two kids or two men. And they'd win prizes at local affairs - you know, church socials, masquerades what have you. We have one collection of pictures of Japanese and Chinese people doing us. In fact, in China there were two guys who did real movies made up like L&H. They'd copy our pictures scene for scene and no bones about it. I've seen some of those films. They're very funny although they're nothing like us except for the fat and thin.

Q. Weren't you and Hardy know in Europe as "the fat one and the thin one" ?

A. Yes, that's right. We were called about sixteen diffirent things in different countries.

Q. Was your success bigger in the US or the foreign market?

A. Oh the foreign market. We're still big stuff abroad. In Germany today they're running pictures we made 28 years ago and they play in a theatre for six months - with no other picture! Our pictures still line them up - that's right, today!

Q. What about Russia?

A. I don't know. I never had any information about that.

Q. Oliver Hardy was unique because he mastered the SLOW BURN and would always look at the movie audience. Would you say he was the first one to do this?

A. I think he was... definitely!

Q. Did you see much of Hardy between pictures?

A. No, we both went our separate ways. Hardy never liked to work on the preparation of the picture. He was more of a playboy. He used to belong to the Lakeside Golf Club.

Q. Wasn't he a champion golfer?

A. He was quite a good golfer. He did win quite a few cups. He loved the horses, card games, entertaining and what have you. I liked to go fishing and things like that. I would keep on working till it was ready for preview - on the cutting etc. Then I'd work with the writers on the next story. So, all the time between pictures I was working at the studio.

Q. You handled the business end?

A. Yes, that's right.

Q. Were you pleased with the presentation of you and Mr.Hardy on the television program "This is Your life"?

A. No,I was very disappointed. It was quite a shock - so unexpected. I don't like to be unprepared. I'm a stickler for having everything just so. But that was such a surprise. It was very difficult for me because I wasn't in character and didn't know what was coming. And also because TWO lives were involved. I mean, it takes all the time to tell one life, so naturally all the really interesting things that could have been brought out, weren't.

Q. Was there any truth in the rumor that you opposed the presentation of yourself and Mr.Hardy on television because of his heart?

A. No, that was all false. I read a statement in some New York newspaper about that,and it was even claimed that the tv show was the cause of Mr.Hardys death. But that's ridiculous and entirely false.

Q. There was once something about Jackie Gleason and Art Carney playing your lives in the movies.

A. Well, the idea had been suggested to make a picture about Laurel & Hardy. I was asked who I thought should impersonate us. I thought the only two who would be eligible would be Gleason and Carney. They're very capable and clever performers, I'm very fond of them and enjoy the similarity.

Q. You and Mr Hardy were perhaps the best "milkers" in motion pictures. You could milk a comic situation and get more laughs from it than anyone else. Do you think this added to your success in pictures?

A. Well, sometimes it was good and sometimes it was bad. For instance, we'd do what you call a milker routine and we'd take it to the preview. If,from the audience reaction we felt they could stand more, we'd go back and add more and more to it. But,as you know, every audience doesn't react in the same way. It's like being in vaudeville. You can go on the first show and be riot and the next show they don't know you're on the stage. So, audiences differ and their reactions differ. Sometimes our pictures were what you call "over-milked".

Q. Was your theme music written for you?

A. No. Originally, there was a Radio Station at the Roach Studio and it had a program from 7 to 8 in the morning, mostly advertising, but they had a little orchestra consisting of a piano, violin, cornet and drums or something like that. Well, they called it "The Cuckoo Hour" and our theme was their opening music. We heard it one morning in a restaurant and thought it was a funny sounding music that would be good to start our pictures off with. So,somewhat as a gag, we had a copy of it made on the tape and had it recorded for our next picture. The preview audience laughed at it, everyone thought it seemed to fit and we decided to continue using it. It became very popular - in fact, the Boston Symphony Orchestra made a big thing out of it.

Q. Is that available on a record?

A. I don't know. I doubt it, because they would have had to get permission from us.

Q. Wasn't THE ROGUE SONG one of your best sound pictures, originally made without you and Mr.Hardy?

A. Yes. It was made at MGM with Lawrence Tibbett,the opera star. It was a singing picture with a Russian background,and in color. After they previewed it they decided it needed some comedy - it was strictly a singing picture with romantic situation.They also realized Tibbett didn't have a name overseas. So they decided to get Laurel & Hardy to supply comedy and boost the foreign sales and we were sent down from Roach to fit ourselves into the picture (we were then releasing through MGM). Some of the sets were still up and we studied the picture and put funny sequences into different spots. We wrote ourselves in as members of Tibbett'gang - Tibbett was a "Russian Robin Hood", you know,one of those dashing guys. After he had finished the picture he returned to New York and so had to fly back to Hollywood to shoot a scene with us - the only scene in wich he and we appeared together. Well, when it was released abroad it starred Laurel and Hardy - we had the bigger name overseas.

Q. Do you ever watch your pictures on television?

A. Very seldom. It's very disappointing to me because they're always cut. For instance, one of my favorite pictures is THE DEVIL'S BROTHER. It originally ran 90 minutes, but on television they ran it in 45 minutes that were full commercials. If you remember it, we were introduced on the mule and the horse and Diablo, the head of the robbers, was introduced on his white horse. On television all of that was cut and they opened with where we held up Diablo. So all the sense of it was gone and the television viewers thought we were robbers. They didn't know we had been robbed of our life savings. Naturally,all sympathy for us was gone. Also, some of the routines were cut out to put advertisements in and the ruined the gags. It was very discouraging.

Q. Do you have any advice for people just entering show business?

A. Oh, that's difficult. It's a tough business with many heartbreaks. You have to have a lot of stamina. There were times when, if I could have gotten something else to do, I would have been out working.

Q. Do you think a young person should go to college first before trying to enter show business?

A. Definitely. Education is the main thing in any career. That is definite - no arguments. I, unfortunately, didn't get to opportunity. When I was a kid I neglected school, because I got into show business at early age. I didn't think education was that necessary as long as I could count and read. But I was sadly mistaken and I've certainly regretted it.

Thank you to "the wolf" who found the full interview in July 2000!

Bye, Ency
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Last edited by Enciclopedia on Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wonderful! Thanks "The Wolf" and Benedetto!!! Razz
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a facinating interview, thanks for posting it.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dean wrote:
What a facinating interview, thanks for posting it.


I was vaccinated once too....in my arm! Laughing
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was a wonderful interview thanks for posting it ! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome, boys! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marvellous, a truly fascinating interview, with m any interesting points.
Note that in his admiration for Chaplin, Stan never says he was funny, just great.
He also says Fra Diavolo is ONE of his favourite L & H films. In another interview he said it was his favorite L & H film of them all.
His comments on the origins of Dance of the Cuckoos is interesting. In another interview he said he had paid 25 dollars for it from a local radio station.
Interesting that Stan did not correct the interview over the "more than 200 films" question. You'd think he would have said the correct number. He did the same thing in an interview in Sweden, when the interviewer asked him about the "250" L & H films - Stan did not correct the statement.
Stan said he and Hardy did not socialise much, emphasising Babe's "playboy" lifestyle. Elsewhere, Stan emphasised how well they got on as friends in private life, and they sometimes went fishing and played golf together, and spent considerable time in each others' homes. See Stan's home movies elsewhere on the Forum.
Well done The Wolf for posting this. Extracts of this interview have been quoted in the past, but I've never seen the whole interview before.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely--a great interview!

I think the reason Stan didn't correct the interviewer was out of sheer politeness--he may have if he said he'd done 400 movies or 100: I suspect media people and scholars had been coming up to him and quoting picture numbers all the time.

Despite Stan's phenomenal recall on such matters, he himself probably didn't know the exact number since he'd gone into the L&H movies soon after being in (and writing/directing) his own pictures--also this was in 1959, long before accurate filmographies of many performers had been put together (light years before the IMDB) and if someone came up to you and said you'd done 200 pictures, and if you'd been in the industry since the silent days, you tended to believe them (Ralph Edwards made a similar comment to Ben Shipman in the "This Is Your Life" show, and he said 'That is correct, sir.")

Also prolific actors didn't really know how many movies they had done--do you think Arthur Housman had know how many he'd been in when 60% of them were walk-ons, usually as a drunk.

Another example--legendary character actor Charles Lane--who celebrated his 102nd birthday in January--would on occasion be appearing in 4 movies at once when working for Columbia in the early 30s: he'd go from one soundstage to the next, do bit bit parts in each picture, and get paid at the end of the week (one of the reasons he was one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild)

I think the first official filmography of L&H was included in John McCabe's "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy" in 1961 and was updated in the decades to come.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points, Brian. Stan wrote his own filmography of all his films at some time later in his lfe. It was partly typed, partly in his own handwriting. It was published in the Laurel and Hardy Magazine about 20 years ago. His list includes "Just Nuts" instead of "Nuts in May" (Just Nuts was a Harold Lloyd film), and he completely misses "Nothing But Trouble", so you can't really trust anything! Try fathoming Stan's education!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

About the theme tune - on the Paul Merton programme it had Marvin Hatley talking about how he used it for the Hal Roach radio (obviously from archive footage)
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marvelous....

As John McCabe puts it....

Very Happy Stan Jefferson....he of the funny ways.... Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

a great and fascinating interview Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you've ever heard the audio versions of Stans interviews you will find like me that you can actually hear Stan's voice (in your head) saying the words in the interview posted above. Thanks for posting this. A great read and always nice to hear things straight from the horses mouth.
Or is it just me who is hearing voices in their head??? Shocked
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ross wrote:
Or is it just me who is hearing voices in their head??? Shocked

I ignore them. 2 of the things they say I should do are illegal, and at least 1 of them is physically impossible!
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing
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