Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cuckoo: A Celebration of Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy

"A film in the BBC TV Omnibus series, first screened in December 1974 with a repeat the following year. This major project remains a key work among Laurel & Hardy documentaries, offering constructive examination (not analysis) of well-chosen clips, intelligent narration (delivered by Britain's top double-act, Morecambe and Wise), appropriate stills and, perhaps of the greatest value, interviews with surviving friends, relatives and colleagues. Many of these are no longer with us: producer Hal Roach; Babe's widow Lucille; composer T. Marvin Hatley; Jean 'Babe' London; early Laurel producer Joe Rock; journalist Kenneth Tyson, whose 1950s review of their stage act remains among the better tributes; and documentary-maker Basil Wright, always one of the team's champions in the UK. Others include actress Dorothy Granger, biographer John McCabe, mime artist Marcel Marceau, critic Dilys Powell and comedians Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Bob Monkhouse and Spike Milligan. At least 40 of the Laurel & Hardy films are incorporated, if only through momentary fragments. Some are presented more than cleverly: Angora Love and Be Big are intercut during a routine common to both films, while Ollie's request to see 'the future Mrs Hardy' (in Oliver the Eighth) precedes an interview with his widow. Footage of Our Wife is mixed with home movie film of Babe London with Stan Laurel, seemingly watching themselves on TV. Other peripheral footage includes colour home movies of an older Laurel playing with Laurel & Hardy marionettes, amateur film of their 1932 UK trip, 1947 coverage of the team's visit to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway plus a glimpse of Laurel solo in The Noon Whistle (1923). Flaws are that Laurel's birthdate is given as 1895 instead of 1890 (common in earlier publicity) and footage from Come Clean, showing the pair acting like children, is used with the explanation for their behaviour deleted. The post-Roach output is treated very sweepingly, although there are many aficionados who would encourage this trend. The programme, written and produced by Robert Vas, attracted much favourable attention in its day and one can only lament its subsequent disappearance."

Glenn Mitchell, The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopaedia

On the other hand, maybe there is some good news:

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