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Frame by Frame

Posts Tagged ‘Laurel and Hardy’

Frame by Frame Videos on Film History, Theory, and Criticism

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Here’s a carousel of more than sixty videos in my Frame by Frame series; click here, or above, to play!

Frame by Frame is a series of short videos I made with Curt Bright on film theory, history, and criticism — each is about 3 minutes long or so. Episodes of Frame by Frame cover The Hollywood Blacklist, Ridley Scott, Commercials in Movie Theaters, Inception, 3-D, Film Critics, War Movies, Film Composers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Subtitles vs. Dubbing, The Aura, John Ford, Remakes, Special Effects, John Huston, Ridley Scott, Fritz Lang, Howard Hawks, Alice Guy Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, Horror Movies, Deep Focus, Pan and Scan, Jean-Luc Godard, Camera Movement, Metropolis, Psycho, Movie Trailers, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Minorities in American Film, The King’s Speech, Alfred Hitchcock, The Great Gatsby in 3-D, Digital Cinema, Special Effects, John Huston, Manoel de Oliveira, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Westerns, Nicholas Ray, Busby Berkeley, Claire Denis, Woody Allen, Film Archives, George Cukor, Roger Corman, Billy Wilder, trailers, the Hollywood Ratings System, and many other topics.

Check it out! Useful for your classes; feel free to download as you see fit; use as you wish.

Coo-Coo Nut Grove (1936)

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Click here, or on the image above, to see Coo-Coo Nut Grove (1936).

Here’s a classic Warner Bros. cartoon from 1936 which has long been a favorite of mine; not so much for the humor, but for the parade of Hollywood caricatures that populate the film. The person who originally posted this on YouTube helpfully provided this list of the stars depicted in the cartoon, many of which will probably be unrecognizable to contemporary viewers. Here it is:

“At 0:53 – Ben Bernie; 1:11 – Walter Winchell; 1:29 – Hugh Herbert; 1:34 – WC Fields & Katharine Hepburn ;1:45 – Ned Sparks; 1:50 – Johnny Weissmuller & Lupe Velez; 2:04 – John Barrymore; 2:18 – Harpo Marx; 2:50 – George Arliss & Mae West dancing; 3:10 – Laurel and Hardy; 3:22 – Edna Mae Oliver; 3:33 – Clark Gable; 3:41 – Gary Cooper; 4:01 – The Dionne Quintuplets; 4:51 – Groucho and Harpo Marx; 5:00 – Helen Morgan, a famous torch singer of the period; 5:18 – Wallace Beery; 5:59 – Edward G. Robinson & George Raft.” Directed by Isidore “Friz” Freling, with animation by Robert McKimson and Sandy Walker, and music arranged and conducted by Carl Stalling.

It’s a sweet reminder of a Hollywood long since past.

MeTV — Classic Television Programming

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Would you like to see some real television programming? You know, with actors, scripts, solid production values, as opposed to something like American Idol, 1,000 Ways to Die or Hoarders? Well, you may be in luck. A new cable television channel, MeTV (short for Memorable Entertainment Television) may be able to help you, assuming it’s available in your area. What do they run?

How about 12 O’Clock High, Batman, The Big Valley, The Bob Newhart Show, Bonanza, Cannon, Car 54 Where Are You?, Cheers, Columbo, Combat, Daniel Boone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dobie Gillis, Family Affair, The Fugitive, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-O, Honey West, I Love Lucy, Kojak, Laurel and Hardy shorts from the 1930s, the British teleseries The Invisible Man,The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple, The Phil Silvers Show, The Rockford Files, The Rogues, The Untouchables, The Wild Wild West, Thriller and a whole lot more?

Tempting?

The best way to use MeTV is to simply set it up to record any of the series above that you wish on your DVR, and then save them up for a night when you can’t sleep, and can thus fast forward through the commercials, which are not, by the way, excessive. I flip on the television, and voila, there are about twenty or so programs saved up for me, and I can skip around as I choose, and enjoy the best of it.

The quality of these programs just leaps out at you, both in the dedication of actors and directors, but also the scripts, and the care of production. They’re television from the Golden Era of the late 50s through the late 1970s, and my only suggestion is that they add Topper and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to the mix. So, if this is an option for you, by all means take advantage of it; the series above might remind older viewers of the excellence of these programs; younger viewers may be surprised at just how thoughtful and intelligent television once was.

Classic Comedies: The Music Box

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the original “dumb and dumber” comedy team, or, as Stan Laurel (who thought up most of the team’s gags) once put it, “two minds without a single thought.” In all of their two-reel, or twenty minute short films, they are usually presented as down and out, penniless vagrants, who drift from one job to the next with stunning incompetence. One of their best shorts, The Music Box (1932), finds them working as piano movers.

The entire film, which is actually a three reel, or 30 minute film, and their only film to win an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (in 1933), chronicles their nearly futile attempts to deliver a player piano (a surprise birthday gift from his wife) to the irascible Professor Theodore von Schwarzenhoffen (Billy Gilbert), whose house is at the top of an incredibly long, steep flight of stairs.

No matter how Laurel and Hardy struggle to make it to the top, the piano repeatedly slips from their hands, falling down the stairs over and over.  After many unsuccessful attempts, they finally get the battered piano to the top of the stairs, only to be told by a passing postman (Charlie Hall) that they could have simply take a back driveway to get to the house, thus avoiding the steep climb altogether.

The genius of Laurel and Hardy is evident in their response to this useful bit of information: although the piano is now, at long last, right in front of Professor Schwarzenhoffen’s house, they nevertheless laboriously drag the piano back down to the bottom of the stairs, load it into their horse drawn wagon, and deliver it via the driveway.

But even this isn’t the end of their troubles; when they discover no one is home, Laurel and Hardy break into the house, and, using a block and tackle, haul the piano in, with numerous false starts, through a second story front window. Although the piano falls into a wading pool several times, Laurel and Hardy finally manage to drag the waterlogged piano downstairs into the living room. In the process, the duo inflict an enormous amount of damage to both Professor Schwarzenhoffen’s house and the piano itself, when the Professor himself finally appears, justly furious at the destruction to his home.

As Depression era symbols of eternal optimism, even when the odds are stacked hopelessly stacked against them, Laurel and Hardy made audiences laugh at their endless incompetence, and took viewers’ minds off the grim reality of their everyday existence. Although the team made feature films, it is in their short films that their comic genius most truly shines, and The Music Box is a prime example of their art. Laurel and Hardy never succeed at everyday tasks in their movies, but they keep on trying, no matter how tough the going gets. In this, they served as the ideal comic team for one of America’s darkest eras, and brought hope and laughter into the lives of millions of moviegoers.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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