“That’s another fine mess you’ve got me into,” were the words spoken by one of the funniest men who ever lived, Stan Laurel.
He was the partner of Oliver Hardy and as a Hollywood comedy team they made many movies and shorts in the 1920s and 30s. Their comedy consisted of slapstick and sight gags, usually showing Hardy as the pompous and bossy leader in situations and Laurel as the bumbling follower. Their appearance added to the comedy. Laurel seemed thin and slight compared with Hardy’s six foot rotundity. Laurel wore his hair tall on the top and Hardy had his hair slicked down on his round head.
Stan Laurel was often seen to cry as he uttered his famous words as it was usually Hardy who got them into a fine mess. Stan Laurel took the brunt in a sadly humorous way.
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As children we adored their movies as they made us laugh, even though I often had sympathy for poor old Stan.
Another comedian we adored was Charlie Chaplin. We loved his funny waddling walk and his twirling walking stick. We children saw him as hilarious and entertaining. We were not then aware of his brilliant pathos and social comment.
Another famous comedy duo was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello who made many movies during the 1940s. Their comedy differed from that of Laurel and Hardy in that it consisted of routines with wise-cracking and word play. Lou Costello, like Oliver Hardy, was a jolly fat man who somehow made his way through messes. Bud Abbott was the straight man and the contrast between the two was the secret of their comedy.
In the 1940s Hollywood movies were made with the intention of entertaining the armed forces. The Andrews Sisters with Abbott and Costello made films that were sure of box office success. I only occasionally went to the movies when I was a child, but the Saturday afternoons were a delight. I fell about in my seat trying not to laugh in case I missed the next joke. Trying not to laugh but at the same time exploding into uncontrollable giggles could make me feel almost nauseous, especially if I had consumed a threepenny ice-cream at interval.
All these films were in black and white with no special effects (except for an occasional stunt man). They often contained romance and there was no shortage of glamorous girls and song and dance routines. In the 1920s and 1930s the world was recovering from a world war and coping with the threat of another war. In the 1940s the world was again at war and light entertainment was desperately needed.
The comedy was unsophisticated; perhaps even naïve but brilliant in its own way. My own childhood was made richer by Hollywood fun and I will never forget the sad, funny, adorable Stan Laurel.
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What were your favourite films when you were younger? What delighted you? Tell us your memories below!