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Movie corner ‘Stan and Ollie’ delightful

By HOWARD McQUITTER II

oldschoolmovies.wordpress.com

howardmcquitter68@gmail.com

2019, Sony Pictures

4.5 out of 5

A delightful, modest biopic about Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly), the best comedy duo in Hollywood at its golden age.

Director Jon S. Baird (“Filth” 2014, “Cass” 2008) and writer Jeff Pope  put together a very fine biopic about Stan and Ollie in phases of their careers. The first is when both comedians worked for Hal Roach Studios in 1937, at the height of their careers; the second phase, fast-forward to 1953, their popularity and money has greatly waned. The lion’s share of the film is spent in the latter period.

Stan and Ollie (nicknamed “Babe”) go on tour in Great Britain attempting to rekindle their fame even after the two men split for many years. They start in Newcastle before bouncing around in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, England; then to Glasgow, Scotland; then to Dublin, Ireland. Their famous acts, including their classic dance duet, in theatre after theatre witnessed half-filled seats. Some people thought Stan and Ollie had died. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the good performances by each man’s wife (Ida Kitaeva Laurel  played by Nina Arianda and Lucille Hardy played by Shirley Henderson), both women with forebearance joining their spouses on the tour.

Altogether Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made over 100 movies, but that was in the 1920s-1930s when the two had great success in money and fame. By 1953, they were trying to make a comeback, but now Ollie is obese and suffering from heart trouble. Although they say some unkind things to each other, and resentments surface going back in the Hal Studio days, the two men love each other.

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when Stan (d. 1965) and Ollie (d.1957) were still alive yet well beyond their primes. I watched them on television and on big screens at the local theaters. (The houses in those days was one big screen.) Those are the days when kids went to the movies for 25 cents (it went up to 50 but that’s still a deal), seeing a full featured film (in color or black-and-white), adding to it “Laurel and Hardy” “The Three Stooges,” a Bugs Bunny cartoon, etc.). As such, “Stan and Ollie” is a must for me. 

Cast: John C. Reilly (Oliver Hardy), Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), Danny Huston (Hal Roach), Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel). Director: Jon Baird. Writer: Jeff Pope.

Running time: 97 minutes. Rated PG

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