Just in

Stan & Ollie

The various trailers before the main film I had to sit through all bore the notice Based on a true story/inspired by a true story and a biopic fits into that category. The film features Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s final UK tour in which Ollie was to sustain a heart attack. After that neither worked again although Laurel continued to write Laurel & Hardy scripts.

There were a number of omissions and inaccuracies. The film of Robin Hood which failed to materialise for lack of finance was a project for them some 7 years beforehand; despite Laurel being born in Ulvaston the movie did not major on his English connections – the landlady of the Nottingham pub was his sister but the pub featured without this relationship to show how the two careers had descended by reference to their accommodation.

The tours were always successes though the clear impression was given by impresario Bernie Delfont (Rufus Jones) that this one did not start well playing before empty houses as their careers were over, Delfont being more interested in his latest discovery Norman Wisdom.

Despite all of this I enjoyed the film.

It worked best in revealing the chemistry between Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) – the clever one that wrote the gags – and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly) who was particularly good at the dancing sequences.

It’s always interesting to see how the chemistry works both on and off stage.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had different length contracts with Hal Roach. Laurel sued Roach but Hardy continued to work for him which caused a tension between the two, Laurel accusing his partner of betrayal.

I preferred the Reilly portrayal as it brought out the warmth and vulnerability of Hardy, a pleasure seeker and gambler. Both had several wives and messy divorces.

I kept on thinking of Alan Partridge with Steve Coogan which is unfair but there was something about his representation which failed to convince.

This said, it’s a warm-hearted bittersweet film which deserves to be made if only to keep the flame burning of a double act which must be regarded as the most successful in film history.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts