Comedy Comes to Clifton

Forty-five fortunate followers of Laurel and Hardy gathered tonight in the fabulous Masonic Lodge in Clifton. The Lodge was built in 1925, only 2 years before Laurel and Hardy were officially teamed together, so it certainly was an appropriate and special venue for the evening’s programs.

The meeting started with a rousing sing-a-long of “The Sons of the Desert” song, with member Joan Chrislip accompanying the lyrics, which were projected onscreen. The DVD featuring these projected lyrics and music were sent to our Tent courtesy of Kenneth Runyan of California, another dedicated “Son” of the Desert – thank you, Ken!

We started the formal film festivities by showing again the “106 Clip”, produced by Jimmy Wiley III of the Way Out West tent in Los Angeles. This brief 2 minute film clip featured scene snippets from each and every one of Laurel and Hardy’s 106 films together, and was so well-received that it rquired an encore showing after the intermission just prior to the special surprise showing of the MGM “Galaxy of Stars” clip (see below)!

Our program then featured the Walt Disney animated color cartoon released January 4, 1936, “Mickey’s Polo Team” (8:47 running time). We noted that our friends Laurel and Hardy featured very prominently, (as did many other Hollywood celebrities of the day!) and it did not escape our notice that the animators paid great attention to the detail of Oliver Hardy’s delicate mannerisms – but the poor horse!

Next, here came Laurel and Hardy in their 1928 silent film production [released January 26, 1929] of “Liberty” (19:15). Joan Chrislip provided the fine linv keyboard accompaniment to this movie, whose title referred to freedom – from prison! We watch for a very young Jean Harlow, in her very first screen appearance, and then as the film progressed were thankful the last seafood meal we ordered didn’t take a “bite” out of us, instead of the other way around! It was explained that the “wrong trousers” segment on the street was actually filmed for use in the previous film that Laurel and Hardy made that year – “We Faw Down”; the bit was not used for that film, and rather than let it go to waster, it was incorporated into this film! The Boys literally “hit the heights” – in dizzying fashion – in this film.

We switched gears now to watch another of a series of other short films produced by the Hal Roach Studios – Our Gang (later to be know as “The Little Rascals”). We presented a short feature originally released on August 30, 1930 entitled “Pups Is Pups” (18:31), featuring Wheezer and some of his adorable canine companions – we noted that pup with the ring around its eye was to become the second Pete the Pup. Here was the simple plot: can Wheezer find his puppies in time to enter them in the big pet show downtown? Just like Pavlov’s dog, these dogs think that a ringing bell means dinner! This delightful little film was selected in 2004 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. We also kept a sharp lookout for Laurel and Hardy regular supporting actors Charlie Hall and Harry Bernard as an orchestra violinist and a police officer, respectively.

After an intermission which featured our usul fabulous raffle, we again (“by popular demand!”) played the “106 Clip”, and followed this with a surprise screening of the “MGM Galaxy of Stars” segment, featuring Laurel and Hardy speaking in French (dubbed), with English subtitles. This short piece of film was meant for European and African distributors only, and the story of how it was found was shown before the actual short film clip itself.

We then followed with the evening’s man presentation, the Laurel and Hardy full-length feature film, “Way Out West” (1:01:33), which was originally released on April 16, 1937. We noted that Hal Roach let this movie be released as a Stan Laurel Production. Tho notable features of this wonderful film involved The Boys singing “On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine” and the very amusing dance they performed to The Avalon Boys singing “At The Ball, That’s All”. By the way, at the end of the song “On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine”, Stan Laurel’s voice switched to a deep bass and then a high falsetto – these parts were dubbed by two of the co-stars of the film, Chill Wills and Rosina Lawrence.

The plot, as summarized on the web site, says, “Stan and Ollie are charged with delivering the deed to a valuable gold mine to the daughter of a dead prospector. However, they reckon without the machinations of her evil guardian Mickey Finn who is determined to have the gold mine for himself and his saloon singer wife Lola.” We watched to discover if our heroes could successfully complete their task…

Jimmy Finlayson (you know him – bald, big moustache, squints with one eye closed, etc.) played Mickey Finn, and Sharon Lynn was his scheming dance-hall singing wife Lola Marcel; Rosina Lawrence (who played the teacher in Our Gang’s “Bored of Education” that we showed at our meeting last May) played Mary Roberts, and of course Dinah the mule played herself. Vivien Oakland (another featured play in several Laurel and Hardy movies) featured briefly as the wife of the sheriff, and was the lucky recipient of Oliver Hardy’s smooth line: “A lot of weather we’ve been having lately!” Now who could possibly argue with that?


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