STAN AND OLLIE: The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy

Simon Louvish, Author
Simon Louvish, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $27.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-312-26651-6
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-4668-2722-6
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Louvish has written a biography of Laurel and Hardy that brims with affection and still preserves an honest, unbiased view of their creativity and personal traumas. He presents a fully rounded, well-paced portrait of their contrasting backgrounds (Laurel was born in England; Hardy in Georgia), early separate careers and eventual union in a Hal Roach production, 45 Minutes from Hollywood, in 1926. Roach claimed to have discovered them before reluctantly conceding partial credit to Leo McCarey, who directed many of the duo's best movies. After appearances in five undistinguished pictures, their careers soared with such classics as Duck Soup (not to be confused with the Marx Brothers version) and The Second Hundred Years. The two saw themselves as working actors who happened to hit on an incredible streak of good luck. However, their off-camera lives were anything but lucky, and Louvish, in his chapter "Multiple Whoopee or Wives and Woes," poignantly chronicles each man's domestic catastrophes, with particularly painful emphasis on Hardy's marriage to his alcoholic second wife, Myrtle Lee. Laurel, after four disastrous unions, finally found happiness with Russian opera singer Ida Kitaeva Raphael. Thanks to Louvish's erudite yet accessible style, in-depth studies of Laurel and Hardy films are even more absorbing to read than their marital conflicts. A touching example of Louvish's deep feeling for his subjects occurs when he describes Hardy's huge 150-pound weight loss, in which he concludes, "it probably never occurred to Oliver Hardy that his fans actually considered him beautiful." It's clear the author does, and this tender admiration invites the reader to share his view. (Dec.)

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