25 July 2001 | andy stew
Two hundred years with Stan & Ollie? Bliss
Originally advertised as the first 'official' Laurel & Hardy film (although still part of the Hal Roach 'All-Star' films - designed to feature old stars of the Roach 'stable' on the downgrade, and showcase those whom Roach hoped would be future stars - in which Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had been appearing since the previous year; the first film in the 'Laurel & Hardy' series would be SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME?, released in 1928), this is a mildly amusing little comedy, with Stan ('Little Goofy') and Oliver teamed as convicts who escape from prison and assume different disguises. Part of the interest surrounding this film stems not only from the fact that it is the first 'official' Laurel & Hardy film, but also from it being the film that led Stan Laurel to acquire his famous spiky hair that became a part of his screen image. Both Stan and Oliver had their heads shaved for this film, and later, as his hair was growing back, Stan noticed that his constant attempts to keep his hair under control were causing the crew and other people on the Hal Roach lot to laugh. So Stan, the greatest gag inventor (and gag executor) that ever lived, decided to keep his hair spiked in his films, due to its usefulness as a laugh-getter. Stan and Oliver's shaved heads can also be seen in the next film they made together, a cameo in the Max Davidson comedy, CALL OF THE CUCKOOS.
This film can be enjoyed to a greater extent (as can all the silent films) with the addition of wonderful recreations of the Shields and Hatley tunes by the Beau Hunks orchestra - those who own a copy of THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS on VVL as I do are fortunate enough to have these marvellous little melodies playing in the background; if you don't, buy the CDs and play them while you're watching.