Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Blockheads" from Edcon Publishing.

Laurel and Hardy may be gone, but they have left behind a treasury of their classic wit and humor.

An accident that resulted in an injury to Oliver Hardy as he cooked a leg of lamb, was to be a key factor in the formation of the world famous comedy team of Laurel and Hardy that has entertained audiences for years.

Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were veterans of show business before that freak incident in 1926. Slender, meek looking Laurel had already made more than fifty silent films before he joined Hardy. Stout, mustached Hardy had appeared in about the same number. Together, the English-born Laurel and the American, Hardy, were to star in ninety silent and sound films. They would win acclaim from both the columnist and the average moviegoer.

Stan Laurel, an experienced comedian, was working for a time behind the scenes as a film writer. Oliver Hardy, who was to play the butler in a silent picture, "Get 'Em Young," was not attentive to details while enjoying his hobby of cooking. He burned himself so badly that he could not perform. Although Laurel preferred not to step in as a substitute, a $100 bonus from the director made him change his mind. It wasn't long before the next film was made and this time it featured both Laurel and Hardy.

In order to understand what made Laurel and Hardy the foremost comedy team of their day, we should examine some of the more famous sketches that are mentioned even today by reviewers and columnists.

"Liberty," one of the last silent films the duo made, has a distinct, sparkling humor. Stan and Ollie are trying desperately to escape from prison in a getaway car with the police in fast pursuit. In addition to this action, they must take off the prison uniforms and get into their ordinary street clothes. Not being very attentive to what they are doing, Ollie struggles to put on Stan's much too small trousers while Stan is obviously having a difficult time with his friend's overly large ones. As they try to adjust their clothing, they are forced to leave the car, requiring them to continue dressing in the street in a series of extremely amusing movements. As they pass a fish market, a crab falls into Ollie's tremendously large pants which Stan is still fussing with. The crab starts to pinch Stan causing him to jump and damage merchandise in a nearby record shop. Finally, Stan and Ollie turn into what appears to be a deserted building site. They each take off the ill fitting pants and as they exchange them, they realize that they are on an elevator used in the construction of a skyscraper. Before long,they are on a beam high above the city with the ground several stories below them. At last they adjust their clothing and then, as they proceed to walk down to ground level, the crab has a grand time biting the fat Ollie.

An early sound film, "The Music Box," won them the acclaim of an Academy Award in 1932 and still gets laughs from almost every viewer. Laurel and Hardy own a moving company. They are delivering a piano at the top of a long flight of stairs at a home located on a hill. The men grunt and groan getting the piano up the steps. As they struggle, a maid, pushing a carriage, blocks their way. When Stan and Ollie try to get the piano off to one side, they lose control and the piano makes its way jerkily down the stairs to the street below, its keys playing by themselves. The maid, meanwhile, laughs, and she angers Stan, who kicks her. Before long, Ollie gets hit with the baby's bottle and the maid leaves to tell a policeman about the woman beaters.

Stan and Ollie get the piano up the steps again, when the officer summons them. As they tum, the piano, almost as if it had intelligence, again descends the steps, one at a time. After numerous other problems, the two movers finally get the piano up to the house only to be informed that a side road exists, making their labor unnecessary. Laurel and Hardy do what is obvious for them. They carry the piano down the steps and push it up the side road.

Although they were among the foremost comedians of the silent film, Laurel and Hardy were equally as successful in films with sound. In the film "Helpmates," Ollie is telephoning Stan, and asks him where he had been the previous night instead of at a party. Stan answers that a dog had bitten him. "Where?" Ollie asks. "Here," replies Stan, and places the telephone receiver next to the wounded area to show where he had been injured.

One of the unusual features of an early film, "Leave 'Em Laughing," is that when Stan does something unbelievably stupid, Ollie responds and looks at the camera to stop the action. The movie goers naturally laugh at Stan's silly behavior and at Ollie's expression. For some strange reason, the action doesn't seem to start again until after the audience has finished laughing.

When this film was made, Stan and some of the writers previewed the picture in different theaters. They timed how long the audience laughed at different scenes. Then, they went back to the studio and lengthened or shortened the time that Ollie looked at the camera to stop the action.

It is not hard to see why audiences all over the world grew to love and laugh at Laurel and Hardy. In a way, these comedians used fantasy to reach their viewers. It was not the fantasy of outer space or superhuman strength, but, rather, of silliness. In the silent films, viewers from all language backgrounds could easily understand the situation and were able to enjoy the zany antics of the duo. Their sound films contained both visual and verbal humor that got laughs from viewers of all ages.

In "The Big House," there is a classroom scene in which the jail's teacher is educating prisoners, including Stan and Ollie.

Teacher: Spell "needle."
Teacher: There is no "i" In needle.
Stan: Then it is a rotten needle.

Their movie, "Blockheads," has a memorable scene. Stan has started his sentry duty in a trench during World War I and has continued to do so for twenty years after the war is over. He has followed the same routine for the entire time patrolling, stopping for meals at the proper time and heating a can of beans for lunch. The pile of empty bean cans is seen towering above the landscape. Stan, the last soldier, finally learns that the war is over and is once again united with Ollie who invites him to meet his wife and have dinner. What does Stan want to eat? Naturally, he asks for beans!

During their lifetimes, Stan and Ollie enjoyed the acclaim of millions of people who saw their movies in all parts of the world. Their films are still among the most popular. Audiences to come will enjoy the antics of these comedians who truly knew how to make people laugh.

1. Laurel and Hardy made up a successful _____
a. cooking team.
b. comedy team.
c. film directing team.
d. police team.

2. An important factor in the team's formation was ____
a. their English birth.
b. their work in the film, "The Music Box."
c. a car accident.
d. a cooking accident.

3. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy _____
a. entered show business before 1926.
b. entered show business in World War I.
c. started their acting careers together.
d. entered show business after 1926.

4. After Stan and Oliver formed a team, their popularity _____
a. remained the same.
b. decreased.
c. increased greatly.
d. increased very little.

5. These comedians used the fantasy of ______
a. the classroom.
b. outer space.
c. superhuman strength.
d. silliness.

6. One of the funniest films shows the team ______
a. digging a trench during World War I.
b. cooking a leg of lamb.
c. pinching a crab.
d. delivering a piano.

7. Film clips of Laurel and Hardy might be seen on the following television special:
a. "The Laugh Makers."
b. "Cooking Safely."
c. "Favorite Comedians of 1925."
d. "A Forgotten Comedy Team."

8. People will probably ______
a. forget about Laurel and Hardy films.
b. continue to enjoy Laurel and Hardy films in the future.
c. become bored with film comedy.
d. not understand the silly actions of Laurel and Hardy in the future.

9. Another name for this selection could be _______
a. "A Team of Comedy Kings."
b. "Laurel and Hardy, Stars of Sound
c. "The Best of Laurel and Hardy's Silent Films."
d. "Leaders of the Silent Film."

10. This selection is mainly about _______
a. Laurel and Hardy's silent films.
b. Laurel and Hardy's sound films.
c. some of Laurel and Hardy's little
known films.
d. a famous pair of comedy actors.

Laurel and Hardy in Wikipedia
Laurel and Hardy, Official Website

This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other
materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Laurel and Hardy in "Pick a Star", Youtube
Laural and Hardy in "Hollywood Party"

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    A quick introduction from my end-Iam Chinmaya from Bangalore,India. The reason for my mail is that I understand that the "sons of the desert" are having their next convention at Hollywood and would want to know if you are attending it. You may check this for more details- http://www.laurelandhardywood.com/ .
    Incase you or anyone whom you know are,please let me know as there are somethings that i want to discuss regarding the same.My id is-chimayaprakash@gmail.com Else,you may ignore this.

    Regards and best wishes,