First Stan Laurel Birthday Party for 2015 at Our Next Meeting
As any serious fan of Stan Laurel knows, Stan was born in Ulverston, England, on June 16, 1890. That's right, he was born 125 years ago this June! Sons of the Desert Tents in the UK and Ireland have already set dates and sites in June to screen Laurel & Hardy films at movie theaters throughout their countries. A great idea, by the way! Tents all around the world are having special meetings in June to honor Stan's birthday. But, if you join us Tuesday night at The Mayflower Club on May 26th, you will be able to proudly say, "I was at Stan Laurel's first 2015 birthday party!"
Our first film for the evening will be Stan's solo classic Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (1925). As you might guess from the film's title, this two-reel silent is a spoof of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is one of twelve film parodies that Stan made in the middle 20's for director/producer Joe Rock (who was also a longtime honorary member of our Tent). If you haven't seen the film before, carefully read each title card, consider the ingredients that Dr. Pyckle puts in his potion, enjoy all the "terrible things" that Mr. Pride does to his victims, and laugh at Stan doing things that you've never seen him do before.
Duck Soup (1927) is a silent short and is the first film in which Stan and Babe actually performed as a team. In the film, while fleeing a group of forest rangers who are looking for people to fight forest fires, two vagrants (the Boys) seek refuge in a unoccupied mansion. When they find out that the owner is on vacation, the Boys pose as the owner and servants (Stan plays both butler and maid) of the house and in doing so ends up trying to rent the house to an English couple. Though the vagrants in Duck Soup don't look and act very much like the Stan and Ollie characters that we've learned to love over the years, you do get to see a little bit of the comic timing and chemistry developing between the two actors. As a side note, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the supervising director of the film, who first saw and touted the possibilities of creating "a Laurel & Hardy comedy team." That director was the famous Leo McCarey, who in 1933 directed another comedy team, the Marx Brothers, in a film also called Duck Soup.
Over the years, Stan and Babe did a few remakes of their past films, making silent films into sound films. Their first remake was Another Fine Mess (1930). The plot of the film is very close to Duck Soup. The Boys again are vagrants, but this time they look like and act like the Stan and Ollie that we have grown accustomed to. Again, they are running from a policeman, seek refuge in an unoccupied mansion, find out that the owner of the house is on vacation, pose as the owner and servants (Stan in multiple roles, again), and end up trying to rent the house to an English couple. The real owner of the house (Colonel Buckshot) is played by James Finlayson, and the wife of the prospective renter (Lady Plumtree) is played by Thelma Todd, who has a very interesting conversation with the maid (Stan). By being able to see the two films back to back, I hope that you'll see just how much both Stan and Babe developed their film characters in three plus years.
Our final film for the evening will be Laurel & Hardy's first ever feature film, Pardon Us (1931). When bootleggers, Laurel and Hardy, get caught selling their own homemade beer and are sent to prison, things look even worst when one of their cell mates is "Tiger" Long (Walter Long). It seems that Tiger is the toughest, roughest, and meanest inmate in the whole prison. Luckily, Tiger takes an immediate liking to Stan, mistakenly thinking that Stan is also a tough guy. The big question, as in every prison film, when will there be a prison break? The teacher for the prison school is played by James Finlayson and in Pardon Us, he again shows that he is the "master of the double take." Look for Babe, when he sings "Lazy Moon."
The Mayflower Club is located at 11110 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Our meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. "Fisher Franks" (100% beef hot dogs) with your choice of chips will be sold at The Mayflower Club Kitchen. Refreshments will be sold at The Mayflower Club Bar. Free birthday cake will be served on our second break. Don't miss a "night of firsts" and a lot of fun, join us May 26th!
Notes From Our March Meeting
Our March film program began with the screening of Our Gang's Pups is Pups to honor a longtime member of our Tent, Dorothy DeBorba. If Dorothy were alive, she would have celebrated her 90th birthday on March 28th. Then we ran films of Laurel & Hardy as their own kids (Brats), with a dog (Laughing Gravy), and parenting a kid (Pack Up Your Troubles). All the films for the evening showed examples of popular themes used throughout Roach films. As always, our members were a great audience, but seemed to particularly enjoy Pups is Pups. Thanks to Bob Duncan, Bob Satterfield, Ken Runyan, and Jayne Barnhart for helping me with the toasts and singing "The Sons of the Desert Song."
Happy Birthday Mr. Smith!
One of the nicest guys in the Sons of the Desert, Dwain Smith, will have his 90th birthday on May 30th. Anyone who has been to an International Convention probably knows Dwain. I'm sure he would appreciate birthday cards from all his friends. His address is: The Plains at Parish Homestead, 163 Heritage Circle, Apartment 315, Oneonta, NY 13820.
L&H Film Festival At Old Town Music Hall
On the weekend of June 26th, 27th, and 28th, the Old Town Music Hall will once again do a special all Laurel & Hardy film program. The Old Town Music Hall is located at 140 Richmond Street, El Segundo (310-322-2592). Their evening programs will begin at 8:15 on Friday and Saturday. Their matinee programs will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the theater is $10.00 per person or $8.00 for people 62 or older. Each program begins with a Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ audience sing-along. For more information, go to: http://www.oldtownmusichall.org/films.html
From The Grand Sheik
At our May 26th meeting, to cue our members that all the Stan Laurel Birthday Cake has been eaten and it's time to get back to their seats to see Pardon Us, we are going to play Harry Nilsson's rendition of "Lazy Moon." If you haven't heard Nilsson's recording of "Lazy Moon" before, you're in for a treat. Maybe some of our younger members don't know about Nilsson, so I'll tell you a little bit about him. Harry Nilsson was (he died from a heart attack in 1994) a very talented American songwriter with a beautiful three octave range singing voice who had many hit records in the middle 60's and early 70's. He even got to hang out with the Beatles! In 1973, Harry released an album of old standard songs mainly from the 40's and 50's (but in the case of "Lazy Moon," a lot older than that). The first cut on his album was "Lazy Moon." Why "Lazy Moon?" It seems that Harry Nilsson was a big fan of Laurel & Hardy. A big enough fan that he joined the Sons at our 1986 International Convention in Philadelphia. If I remember correctly, Nilsson was introduced by Roger Gordon, our host for the Convention, at the Babes In Toyland Banquet. I recently emailed Roger and Roger said "He (Nilsson) seemed quite delighted to be there and kept repeating his positive feelings to whomever he talked to. He was a great new person to introduce at the Convention and it kind of uplifted the Convention."