Laurel and Hardy
As the title suggests, this movie is a portrayal of the behind-the-scenes real life story of the famous comedy team at the very end of their careers. The plot re-enacts their reunion after 16 years of separation for several months of engagements in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Their breakup as a team was occasioned by Laurel’s contract expiring while Hardy was still legally bound to the studio. And although Laurel had been the driving force in inventing new plot material and the pair was still much in public demand, the producer rebuffed his request for a salary increase.
The consequences were that Laurel was replaced by a stand-in who audiences refused to accept after which the studio dropped further productions. Laurel was deeply disappointed at Hardy’s supposed lack of support.
Hardy is lured back to the stage by a lingering affection for his friend and the promise of a new movie which Laurel has written and for which he hopes to find financing.
And in a parody of their vaudevillian performances we are shown Hardy’s futile attempts to finance gifts for his wife by betting on slow horses and the equally ineffectual attempts of Laurel’s wife to curtail her husband’s drinking. On the other hand, as befitted the times, everyone smokes like chimneys.
The story is bitter-sweet as the simple brilliancy of their performances are at first ignored and only finally come to greater attention as they re-hone their timing and material. But as success looms, their prior personal disagreements resurface even as they honestly struggle to overcome them. What nevertheless shines through and makes this movie memorable is the human decency and even innocence of all involved. And it was perhaps these personal qualities that carried over into their skits and made them such a delight to one and all.
This small and underplayed story is not dramatic or consequential or profound. But for all that it is nevertheless engaging, heart-warming, and wholesome to a degree and that will leave all but the truly insensitive with a warm glow of comforting emotional satisfaction. If one can find the time or is in doubt of one’s next movie selection, this is a story I can unreservedly recommend.