I HAVE a lot of love for Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The Laurel And Hardy Show was a big part of my childhood, and my family are all diehard fans.
There is something magical about the comedy of the iconic duo. Their humour is so innocent, so simple, that it is hard not to smile thinking about them, and belly laugh every time they appear on the screen.
The duo made their first appearance in a short film in 1926, and it was in 1927 that their partnership was solidified.
They made more than 100 movies together, starting out in the silent film era, and moving on to the talkies.
Laurel and Hardy aren’t seen on our TV screens very often anymore. They are kept alive in my family, with the newest generation introduced at a young age, but for many others, they have disappeared into the sands of black and white film. This new film might just change all that.
Stan & Ollie tells the story of the dynamic duo’s later years. As with many performers, following years of being box office gold, Laurel and Hardy have fallen out of favour with audiences.
We see something from their early days, the 1930s, when Stan Laurel (Steve Coggan) and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly) are at the top of their game.
Stan felt that the duo were being undervalued by the film studio. His contract is up for renewal and he wants to negotiate better terms and conditions for himself and Oliver.
Stan is right, they are undervalued and have worked hard for the studio, earning plenty of money for the producers, but seeing little of it reflected in their pay packets.
Oliver, however, is wary of ruffling feathers. The outcome of the negotiations causes a rift between Laurel and Hardy, one they work hard to ignore, but like every unresolved issue, it comes back to bite them years later.
Move on to the 1950s and the boys are embarking on an extensive tour of first the UK, and then Ireland, a tour which included a trip to our own Rebel County.
Oliver is suffering from ill health but determined not to let it interfere with the tour. He also has gambling debts to pay off, which he can’t do because he continues to place bets on horse races. Ever the professional, he hits the stage each night, his health struggles hidden from the audience.
They know some of the shine has gone from their career but are still surprised to find themselves in rundown accommodation and booked into small, local venues. Their UK agent Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) blames everyone else for the accommodation and the bookings, but they can see through it.
Neither Stan nor Ollie act like divas. They accept that this is now their lot, valiantly performing their hearts out each night as if they were on a fine Broadway stage and not in a community hall in the back end of nowhere.
They are led to believe that if they continue with the tour their latest film script will be greenlit, and are also under the illusion that once they reach London, they will be offered better accommodation and a far better stage.
Something does change things for the comedians, and their luck appears to be turning in time for their wives’ arrival from America.
Ollie’s wife is a tiny woman but fiercely protective of her big-hearted man, and Stan’s wife is a Russian firecracker, all bark, and bite. They make for a great comedy team, thrust together by their love for the men, but having absolutely no love for each other.
Just as things are coming right for Stan and Ollie, that unresolved issue from their past rears its ugly head, and Ollie’s declining health is set to stop them all in their tracks.
It is rare to see a film where the lead actors take on the physicality and nuances of their real-life counterparts to such an extent that it feels, at times, like they have in fact come back to life.
Coogan and Reilly are extraordinary in every way. Every look, every stance, every movement has been carefully replicated.
It isn’t just the perfect take on Stan and Ollie that makes this wonderful film sparkle. It is the immense love that these men had for each other that really shines through, making this an absolute gem of a film.
There are elements left unsaid, things hinted at and referred to that stop this from being the perfect biopic, making it a four-star film, but to my heart this is a five star movie. Make sure you see it.
CARA'S TOP FIVE MOVIES THIS WEEK
1. The Favourite
Darkly humorous palace drama with a trio of splendid performances.
2. Stan & Ollie
An absolute gem of a film that looks at Laurel and Hardy’s twilight years. See review on left.
3. The Front Runner
Thought-provoking political drama with an excellent Hugh Jackman in the lead.
True story of a trailblazing French author played by Keira Knightley. See review on facing page.
5. Creed II
Rocky and Adonis are back and ready to fight — and are boxing clever.