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I approached this book with some degree of anticipation, not only because I have been a fan of Stan & Ollie since childhood, but also because there are very few books (and even fewer audiobooks) about their lives and work. But from the very outset it was clear that this book is aimed purely at those who have little or no idea who Stan & Ollie were, and the Narrators monotonous drone only heightened the feeling that the listener is being addressed as if he/she were a 7 year old. The author has done little more than compile a bunch of dates and events, padding them thinly with unsubstantiated opinion and rhetoric.
As an example the author tells the tale of the young Stan, penniless after a failed theatre tour, arriving back in London and ‘Having to walk all the way from Waterloo Station to his brother’s house in High Holborn’. As a Londoner I can tell you this is no more than a mile at most, and all of it flat. It couldn’t have taken the young Stan more than 20 mins, but the tone of the narrator is so dour that the listener could be forgiven for thinking Stan had a long and arduous journey ahead of him.
This Narrator’s condescending style (in fairness hardly the authors fault) is then worsened by his tendency to explain every minor reference as if he were taking to a classroom full of kids. Example; the text mentions that Ollie liked to paint “but knew he was no Picasso.” The Narrator then adds, “Pablo Picasso was a famous painter of the time”. Now I’m not saying that most people would be able to name any of Picasso’s works but I’m confident that there can’t be many people in the western world who don’t know that Picasso was a painter. Similarly when the story mentions the Prohibition Era, they then add solemnly that this was “when alcohol was illegal in the United States”.
I don’t know how old this production is but it is also the first in a while where I’ve heard the old-style use of ‘Dateline Addresses’ as in “Paris, France” instead of just ‘Paris’, “New York, New York” instead of just “New York”. I do appreciate that some cities share names but I think in this day and age when you talk about London people will know you mean the one in England (which the Narrator also reminds us is in the UK which I found very helpful), and that Paris is the capital of France and has a very famous tower at its’ centre. (Admit it, if it hadn’t been for the eponymous film you’d never had heard of Paris, Texas). And there really is, and only ever will be, one New York.
For me (and I’m no Laurel & Hardy expert, I’m just a fan) the lack of decent research is particularly disappointing. At one point they talk about Stan’s famous crying routine, saying how he “wrought laughter from tears” (No really, they actually say that). Anyone who knows any history of the boys would tell you that Stan hated doing the crying, he did it once in an early film and it became so popular that he was saddled with it for the rest of his career. He was often quoted as saying that he felt crying made his character look weak and pathetic, whereas the whole premise of the characters was the way they would cling to their dignity no matter what life threw at them. That’s why audiences loved them.
This book would be fine for any young people who either had never heard of Laurel & Hardy or who have recently discovered the boys and want an overview of their backgrounds. For anyone over 25, I’d pass. The search for a decent L&H Biography goes on...
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book—a quick read about L&H that is far more than an outline yet not a mainline book. There are a lot of direct quotes, details of their youth, progression of contractual ins-and-outs through the years, major characters in the boys' lives, the whys and wherefores of their best and worst films, and notation of their number of marriages. There isn't much deep psychological insight but it's not that sort of book. Another Nice Mess is a good deal for the dough.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This book is better than I expected. It is only 3 hours but it is full of information. I waited a long time to read a book about Laurel and Hardy.