Errata list for Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward by Scott MacGillivray

Observations by David Hayes

Publication of Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward by Scott MacGillivray filled a gap left by earlier earlier films on the team.  Whereas most such books devoted much fewer column inches to the 20th Century-Fox and M-G-M films than they did to the Roach ones, MacGillivray sought to even the score.  Previously, the only recycling of the films given discussion had been William K. Everson’s discussion of the compilations in The Films of Laurel & Hardy, yet MacGillivray researched and wrote of the theatrical re-releases of the late 1940s and the companies that participated.  Errors in any book are unfortunate, and perhaps one should not think unkindly of an author whose errors are few.  With an appreciation for what I learned from Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward, I herein present what is a list of what is mostly errata.  I say “mostly” because in a few instances I found it instructive to my reader to include mentions of what was omitted from the book where the absence of the information might differently color the text or where the reader of the book might be curious about something left unsaid.

Statement in the book: In relating the production history of A Chump of Oxford, it’s said that after the film had been presumed finished, producer Hal Roach “called Laurel & Hardy in to shoot two more reels of footage.  The added material was an employment-agency sequence, which preceded the street-sweeping scene.”  (page 3)

What was omitted or mistaken: The employment-agency sequence is a very few minutes in the length, so let’s assume that MacGillivray meant his statement to embrace all of the footage in the longer cut which precedes the street-sweeping sequence.  (The street-sweeping sequence had originally been filmed as the opening scene and remained the opening scene in the shorter cut.)  Even making this allowance, MacGillivray’s account does not correspond to the facts.  The employment agency sequence and the scenes it leads to (where Stan and Ollie work as servants) total about twelve minutes, not two reels (about twenty minutes).  The new cut was indeed two reels longer (21 minutes, on the basis of subtraction from the two running times), but with the Oxford sequence now longer, because of incorporation of the previously-unused takes that are mentioned in MacGillivray’s next paragraph.

Statement in the book: The lightbulb gag in Great Guns is said to be similar to that in their previous feature, Saps at Sea. (page 15)

What was omitted or mistaken: This is not an error, but I would add that the gag is more similar to the lightbulb bit in the comedians’ 1932 short Their First Mistake.

Statement in the book: MacGillivray discusses the gag in Great Guns where on the bridge Stan is carrying planks, befuddling Ollie by appearing where he shouldn’t. (page 17)

What was omitted or mistaken: MacGillivray said that this is “one of the oldest gags in the Laurel & Hardy book.”  The earlier film is not identified as The Finishing Touch.  In that film, the routine had been a throwaway gag; in Great Guns, it was a highlight of the whole film.

Statement in the book: MacGillivray writes of Hardy, “He does the unimaginable in Great Guns; not only does he look straight into the camera, he actually talks straight into the camera for the only time in history.  This then-fresh device was popularized in the Hope & Crosby ‘Road’ Pictures.” (page 12)

What was omitted or mistaken: Wrong on two scores: Hardy had talked to the camera in the French version of Be Big.  Exhausted by the attempt to get Stan’s boot onto his own foot, Hardy surmises to the audience, “Peut-etre c’est moi!,” translating “Maybe it’s me!”  (This is noted in Leonard Maltin, The Laurel & Hardy Book, 1973, pg. 30.)
    Secondly, the device wasn’t fresh because it had been used by the Marx Brothers the previous year; it would also be used by Maurice Chevalier the same year as Be Big.

Statement in the book: Discussing a stop on the train trip in A-Haunting We Will Go, he writes: “Incidentally, the depot is based in Georgia, which was Hardy’s home state.” (page 24)

What was omitted or mistaken: Not mentioned is that one of the stops the train will make is Milledgeville, a specific city where Hardy had lived most of his youth.

Statement in the book: “In 1942… . Fifteen years earlier, Laurel and Hardy first became partners under M-G-M’s sponsorship.”  (page 31)

What was omitted or mistaken: Actually, Laurel & Hardy first had acted as partners in films released by Pathé.  These were just before Roach changed his distribution from Pathé to M-G-M. The first films that were officially sold as Laurel & Hardy were indeed M-G-M releases, but this is a matter of labeling and marketing, not one of establishing the team as screen partners.

Statement in the book: In discussing Virginia deLuce, who was in Jitterbugs, it’s said that she “made more of an impression in Broadway musicals, notably the stage and movie versions of New Faces of 1952.” (page 54)

What was omitted or mistaken: No film titled “New Faces of 1952” was copyrighted, nor does such a title appear in standard reference works consulted.  However, there was a New Faces of 1954, known also as New Faces (copyrighted under that title December 1, 1953), a collection of review sketches presented by Broadway talent then unknown to movie audiences.

Statement in the book: Discussing the climactic runaway-bus sequence of Dancing Masters, MacGillivray writes “The sequence was augmented with inserts of a very obvious toy bus scooting across a model rollercoaster.” (page 75)

What was omitted or mistaken: Although the bus looks like a matchbox car on the screen, it in fact was about 18 inches long, probably made of wood, and painted in detail.  I’ve seen it.

Statement in the book: “Even Stan Laurel admitted to a fondness to The Big Noise. According to Bob Burns, Stan’s friend and frequent visitor in later years, this was the only Fox film that Laurel singled out for honorable mention.”  (page 86)

What was omitted or mistaken: This is in contrast that with quotation from letter written by Stan in Randy Skretvedt’s book Laurel and Hardy: the Magic Behind the Movies.  In 1962, Stan wrote fan Richard Sloan, “Note you saw Big Noise film recently -- 'NUFF SAID!” (Skretvedt, page 407)  John McCabe in his text to Laurel and Hardy picture book cites that rather than the upper-berth sequence, “Stan would have preferred a new gag but deferred to pressure from Fox executives who insisted on the old laugh-getter… . He pointed out that the gag would be made funnier by placing the berth in an airliner hitting air pockets… The Fox studio rudely told Stan that the gag was to be done the old way.”  (Laurel and Hardy, page 396, also recounted in McCabe’s The Comedy World of Stan Laurel, first edition, page 78) These incidents scarcely reveal a “fondness” Stan might have had for this film, but merely leaves the possibility that Stan could have had limited appreciation for some aspects of it (perhaps that the structure left the most room for comedy sequences).

Statement in the book: Regarding the reissue of Pick a Star as Movie Struck, MacGillivray refers to Laurel and Hardy’s “unbilled guest appearance” in the original titles and that the reissue “left the production credits alone -- so Laurel & Hardy didn’t get screen credit this time, either!” (page 126)

What was omitted or mistaken: In both issues, we do see in the credits a film clip of L&H and hear their theme music during that clip, with both image and music serving as a substitute for the omission of their names.

Statement in the book: Regarding the three Hal Roach titles that Astor reissued during the 1940s, it’s explained why they subsequently were not issued by Astor. “The Astor Laurel & Hardys, however, could not be released again, since M-G-M still maintained the copyrights.  So the films were withheld from theatrical, television, and home-movie circulation for years, while fans eagerly awaited their chance to see these rare movies.  The films were available only in truncated ‘highlights’ versions, their identities obscured by false titles.” (page 126)

What was omitted or mistaken: Even while the eight abridgments were in distribution, the complete films could also be seen.  Stan Laurel talks about seeing Devil’s Brother on television in an interview published in the March 1959 issue Films in Review (reprinted, Pratfall, vol. 1, number 12, 1975).  Minneapolis television during the 1970s apparently had it, judging from an interview with the host of “The Laurel & Hardy Show” which appeared in Variety and was reprinted in The Laurel & Hardy Times, vol. 1, number 3 (undated, but seems to be 1977).  (The item in Variety is dated December 21, but without the year given.)  Films Inc. rented the film on 16mm at that time.  Budget Films rented 16mm of Bonnie Scotland (listing it on page 277 of their 1979 catalog).

Statement in the book: The book states that after The Bullfighters, “Fox offered to sign the comedians for another five years.”  And:  “History fails to record whether Laurel & Hardy were offered a slot in the 1947-48 schedule.  Stan’s daughter Lois does not recall any such proposal being made.” (page 129)

What was omitted or mistaken: The coming-productions lists in at least two trade publications of 1946-47 list as a planned 20th Century-Fox attraction one starring “Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy” entitled “Servant Trouble.”  One such announcement appears under “To Be Reviewed or In Production” in The Exhibitor of May 21, June 4, June 18, and July 2, 1947.

Statement in the book: In discussing the version of Atoll K called Utopia, the book states, “One of the film’s distributors cut out most of the political rhetoric and a good deal of the romantic subplot totalling [sic] eighteen minutes of footage… . The shortened, eight-reel edition does not always make sense, but that is the version that is usually seen (under the title Utopia).” (page 140)

What was omitted or mistaken: Although there is a greater proportion of political material among the deleted footage than in the footage that was released widely, the majority of the political footage did make it into the eight-reel version.  Those seeing the 82-minutes version don’t miss out on: “Every country now will want to have you”; the writing of the constitution; “Some government’s flag” said disparagingly; “You are the people”; etc.

Statement in the book: It said of Cherie, the character played by Suzi Delair, that her “audition song, ‘Come and Get It,’ is dubbed in English.” (page 142)

What was omitted or mistaken: It’s dubbed in English in the English-language versions, but it was performed and heard by many audiences in French.  Even a Spanish-dubbed TV print has the song in French, the dubbing company apparently deciding it better that the song be heard in a Romance language with the music than for said company to attempt a translation and the expense of providing the music to go with a new vocal performance.

Statement in the book: Regarding the TV titles, the author correctly states that “Saps at Sea was split into two TV shorts, Where to Now (a singularly bizarre reissue title) and Horn Hero.”  Elsewhere in this paragraph, he said, “The first portion of Block-Heads became a TV two-reeler called Better Now.” (page 150)

What was omitted or mistaken: Although he mentions that “the first portion of Block-Heads became a TV two-reeler called Better Now,” he makes no reference that Block-Heads, like Saps at Sea, had been split into two shorts, the second half of Block-Heads becoming Do It Yourself.

Statement in the book: “The new ‘shorts’ were prepared as cheaply as possible… .  The freshly-minted title footage failed to mention Laurel & Hardy’s names, and the production credits were also overlooked.” (page 151)

What was omitted or mistaken: Regal did do a good job on the opening credits of Another Fine Mess, superimposing a title where there had been none over the proscenium.  Originally, there had been the two girls reading the credits on the stage, preceded by the L&H theme music heard while we saw a proscenium.  Regal added to this image the words “Regal Television Corporation presents Laurel & Hardy in Another Fine Mess.  In one case, they didn’t merely give the short’s title, but told audiences who appears in it.

Statement in the book: The Governor TV releases, the author points out, were “Taken from the trio of Astor/M-G-M reprints.  The Devil’s Brother was sliced into four twenty-minute chunks (only one of which, titled Cry Babies, made any sense).  Bonnie Scotland was divided into three episodes.” (page 151)

What was omitted or mistaken: The “four” and “three” are reversed, each number modifying the wrong feature film.  The three abridgments from The Devil’s Brother were:

    The four abridgments from Bonnie Scotland were:

Statement in the book: Continuing on the Governor TV releases, “Taken from the trio of Astor/M-G-M reprints”: “For many years, the only way a Laurel & Hardy fan could see any of these rare movies was via one of these random remnants.” (page 151)

What was omitted or mistaken: As indicated in an  earlier answer, even while the eight abridgments were in distribution, the complete films could also be seen.  See elsewhere regarding Stan Laurel seeing Devil’s Brother on television; a Minneapolis television during the 1970s; Films Inc. and Budget Films rentals on 16mm.

Statement in the book: It’s said of the Governor TV releases that each abridgement began with a “cuckoo song” rendition taken from the soundtrack of Bonnie Scotland (the scene where a blacksmith exacts the music from anvils) played over the title card.

What was omitted or mistaken: There was one exception to this.  The “Easy Come, Easy Go” excerpt from The Devil’s Brother—unlike the other two cuts from The Devil’s Brother —used a music theme from The Devil’s Brother in place of the anvil “cuckoo song” for its title card.  Who knows why?

Statement in the book: Lois Laurel is quoted regarding the This is Your Life appearance, “I did not know, until that morning, of this.  Lucille [Mrs. Hardy] knew about it quite a way in advance, and then she, under pretense, got pictures from Ida [Mrs. Laurel].  Ida didn’t even know until the last, because they were afraid she would slip.” (page 154-155)

What was omitted or mistaken: Lois’s account conflicts with what John McCabe learned from (apparently) Ida Laurel and recounted in McCabe’s Comedy World of Stan Laurel: “Ida was approached in 1954 by Ralph Edwards to help in documenting events Stan’s life… .  She was able to do this but at a considerable strain on her nerves.  Stan was almost always home and because he enjoyed answering the telephone, Ida’s communications with the producers of the show were severely limited.  Finally she hit on the device of having her brother serve as conduit from Edwards to herself.  Her brother usually spoke to her in Russian, and she replied to him in the same way, thereby allowing her to give the television people what they wanted.  Just prior to the event, she had a most difficult time getting Stan to get a haircut out of his usual time sequence.” (Comedy World, first edition, page 177-178)

Statement in the book: The author acknowledge that “various explanations have been published about what caused the delay” of Stan and Babe getting to the theater for This is Your Life, but the only one given here is Lois’s version about the taxi having a flat tire. (page 155)

What was omitted or mistaken: Lucille Hardy told Randy Skretvedt that the show’s staff had calculated how long it would take Stan and Babe to reach the television stage on the basis of an average person’s stride.  They hadn’t taken into account that someone of Hardy’s age and girth would slower. (Skretvedt quickly covers this point in Laurel and Hardy: the Magic Behind the Movies, page 427)  The program itself supports this explanation, for when Stan and Babe are seen walking through the hallway that leads them to the program stage, Babe trails Stan by about three feet.  Once Ralph Edwards is in sight of Stan, Stan spurts forward, the camera recording his ascension to Edwards’s location, where the two men greet and shake hands.  These two have a remarkable amount of time to become acquainted before Hardy — who has been off-camera all this time — finally ambles into place.  It’s as if Stan had been held back by his desire not to upstage or impugn Babe, then distracted the camera away from Babe when the nation might otherwise gaze mournfully at Babe’s aged movements.
    (Other than this discreet moment, the program is an uncertain source for information about what happened behind the scenes because the genial host and his comedian guests don’t communicate on subjects unpleasant.  Edwards quips about possible car problems, then jokes that perhaps it was because the comedians were driving the car.  Hardy then, in seeming jest, concurs that he was driving.)

Statement in the book: Regarding Leo McCarey’s appearance on the L&H episode of This is Your Life, MacGillivray writes, “He had been drinking heavily to steady his nerves, and his hands were visibly shaking.  Fortunately, when he walked on stage he beamed broadly at his old friends, and smoothly related a story about the silent-movie days.” (page 156)

What was omitted or mistaken: Many of us have seen the program would dispute that McCarey’s rendition went smoothly.  He is frequently incomprehensible.

Statement in the book: Regarding The Golden Age of Comedy, it’s said: “The final cut ran 85 minutes.” (page 166)

What was omitted or mistaken:  Leonard Maltin lists the running time at 78 minutes.  This is also the length of the Pioneer laserdisc (46½ min. on side 1, not quite 32 min. on side 2; the Pioneer jacket reads 83 min., but even the inclusion of a trailer doesn’t allow the disc to reach that length).

Statement in the book: Robert Youngson’s work on Laurel & Hardy’s Laughing 20s is reported to exhibit that “…the producer’s economizing became noticeable” and that this resulted in the use of “yet another re-edited version of the pie fight from The Battle of the Century.” (page 175)

What was omitted or mistaken: Leonard Maltin contends that Youngson’s re-use of the pie fight was prompted by the desire to show audiences how a pie fight should be, after the dismal choreography of one in Blake Edwards’s The Great Race, released earlier the same year of Laughing 20s. (Leonard Maltin, Movie Comedy Teams, 2nd edition, pb., 1970/1974, page 20)

Statement in the book: Discussing Robert Youngson’s compilation 4 Clowns, MacGillivray writes, “Youngson saved on composers’ fees by using public-domain classical themes, mostly by Chopin and Gilbert & Sullivan.  He saved even more by re-using stock music from When Comedy was King and Days of Thrills and Laughter.” (page 179-180.)

What was omitted or mistaken: He had also re-used music from Further Perils.  Nonetheless, public-domain classical music had been part of Youngson’s scores since Golden Age of Comedy (wherein there’s Strauss, Mendelssohn, Brahms, et al).  A good deal of Von Suppe was used in 4 Clowns, yetYoungson was not dissuaded from paying royalties for Leroy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock,” which in 4 Clowns appropriately accompanies a segment from Seven Chances.

Statement in the book: “A typical retailer was vintage-movie enthusiast Charles Tarbox, who operated a California rental library, Film Classic Exchange.  Tarbox struck new 8mm and 16mm prints of these public-domain Laurel & Hardy comedies, and sold them outright.” (page 186)

What was omitted or mistaken: Film Classic Exchange had copyrighted ones as well.  Four of the Laurel & Hardy talkie shorts made by Roach were still be sold in the 1970s.  When a presumed Laurel & Hardy “public domain” title was sold, it was more likely to be Jeepers Creepers or Criminals at Large, both of which are retitlings of L&H subjects still under copyright.

Statement in the book: “In 1961, a television syndicator, National Telepix, brought a new selection of Laurel & Hardy shorts to the TV screen.  These were the obscure Hal Roach-Pathé silents of 1927, no longer under any legal claim or copyright.” (page 195)

What was omitted or mistaken: Hal Roach releases for Pathé were for the most part renewed, and this includes those in the “Comedy Capers” and “Mischief Makers” series.  True, a higher percentage of Pathé releases went into the public domain than of M-G-M releases, but a minority of releases did so with both outfits.

Statement in the book: “The film went out of circulation almost immediately.  Virtually no one has seen The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy since 1967.  It was nominally offered to television and film outlets by Rohauer, but his terms were apparently too prohibitive to revive the film.” (page 198)

What was omitted or mistaken: I saw Crazy World in Summer 1971 as the second feature of a double bill with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  This was in Torrance, California.

Statement in the book: “In 1980 the Reade package was taken over by a similar ‘classics’ concern, Janus Films.  Janus made new 16mm prints of Laurel & Hardy films for television stations.” (page 199)

What was omitted or mistaken: Janus distributed their prints of the L&H films to commercial stations at least as early as the 1979-1980 season.  Furthermore, prior to this, they had leased the four Academy Award-nominated or -winning Roach films to PBS stations for showings the Spring prior to the the showings on commercial stations.

Statement in the book: Talking about Janus’s handling of the feature-film abridgements from the 1950s, MacGillivray states that Janus “brought back those messy feature-film abridgements from the 1950s… .  (The meaningless monickers like Where to Now remained, unfortunately.)” (page 199)

What was omitted or mistaken: Actually, Where to Now was renamed What Next?  A few of the others were retitled, most were not.  What’s more, Janus hadn’t “brought back” the abridgments because they had continued to be shown while the previous distributor had them.

Statement in the book: The work of Al Kilgore in preparing a documentary series on the silent Laurel & Hardy period is related with this statement: “Kilgore prepared a five-hour, ten-part mini-series for PBS, The Dawn of Laurel & Hardy… . only six of the ten half-hours were aired.” (page 200)

What was omitted or mistaken: Actually, they were not half-hour programs but rather twenty minutes apiece, so the five hours mentioned would really be two-thirds that time frame, meaning three hours and twenty minutes.  Half-hour time slots were used for the programs, but they were scheduled during pledge weeks, so there would be ten minutes of pledge pitches during the half hour.  The last four episodes were shown in San Diego but not in Los Angeles.

I leave for last what was first in chronology but so inconsequential to be allowed to make the first impression.  Perhaps the author intended his text to be metaphoric.  In any event, in the interest of completeness:

Statement in the book: It’s said that when Stan and Ollie “set out for a pleasant Sunday drive, they don’t get any farther than the front door.”  (page 1)

What was omitted or mistaken: Actually, they do get farther than the front door but not than the next block.  The film is Perfect Day.

This page © 1999, 2000 David P. Hayes

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