I recently went to see the movie, Stan and Ollie. It was about the last years of the legendary comedy team, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. They were one of the top box office draws from the 1920’s to mid 1940’s after which their popularity went into decline. The film focuses on a last-gasp music hall tour of England in 1953, after a number of years of only sporadic work. Oliver Hardy, now in his early 60’s, was in poor health with heart problems and he had trouble doing some of their standard slapstick routines due to his bad knees and being very overweight. The tour started slowly with poor crowds, as they had been out of the public eye for a number of years, but after they started doing promotional events the tour became a big hit playing to large crowds at the top venues in England. However, due to Oliver’s poor health this ended up being the last performances of Laurel and Hardy.
The movie focuses on Stan and Oliver’s close relationship and their love of performing their comedy routines, whether it was to a large audience or one women while checking into a motel. They were constantly practicing new skits developed by Stan with Oliver’s input. This is what they were created to do and they were great at it. They had hoped their tour of England would lead to a new movie but it was learned during the tour that the funding could not be raised. However, they continued to develop and practice gags for the movie although they knew it was never going to be made. At one point, Stan turned to Ollie and asked why they kept practicing when they both knew the movie would not be made. Oliver replied, “what else would we do?”
This is a great movie with a compelling story and I highly recommend it. The acting was suburb with John C. Reilly playing Oliver and Steve Coogan as Stan along with a great supporting cast.
Oliver’s health continued to deteriorate and he died only four years after the tour in 1957. Although Stan continued to get offers to perform he refused to do so without his long-time partner and spent the last eights years of his life continuing to write Laurel and Hardy material.