Q4 2018

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18 CINEMONTAGE / Q4 2018 THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY by Edward Landler K urt Vonnegut dedicated his 1976 novel Slapstick "to the memory of Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Norvell Hardy" — better known as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In the novel's prologue, the author explains, "I have called it Slapstick because it is grotesque, situational poetry, like the slapstick film comedies, especially those of Laurel and Hardy… There was often the situational poetry of marriage, which was something else again. It was yet another test — with comical possibilities…" Those possibilities of that "something else again" were most richly played out in the best of Laurel and Hardy's feature-length films, Sons of the Desert, released on December 29, 1933. This was their fourth feature, but the first that fully integrated their routines and gags from scene to scene into a story built around their characters' personal lives instead of playing off typical movie genres. And by coincidence, one day shy of Sons' 85th anniversary, the new British-made feature Stan & Ollie opens on US screens, starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, respectively, portraying the real-life team in 1953. In Sons of the Desert, however, the Laurel and Hardy characters are loyal members of Oasis 13 of the fraternal organization that gives the film its title. Reworking a premise from their 1928 two-reel silent We Faw Down, they pretend they are going to Honolulu for Hardy's health to keep their wives from knowing they are really going to the Sons' Chicago convention. With the benefits of extended length, sound and a "solemn pledge" to their lodge, the childlike comics direct our laughter at the consequences of their subterfuge and poke jabs at commonly held attitudes about being men and being married. CONTINUED ON PAGE 22 More Than Just Another Fine Mess THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY More Than Just More Than Just More Sons of the Desert. MGM/ Photofest

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