Flying Deuces Studio Portraits

Hal Roach Studios Contract - September 6, 1939

                September 6th, 1939.

Mr. Stan Laurel,
Culver City, California

Dear Sir:
    In connection with THE CHUMP AT OXFORD in which additional material is now being made to be used in the picture for its distribution abroad, we have agreed that such picture will be released abroad in a length of about fifty-seven hundred (5700) feet instead of five reels as mentioned in the letter agreement of July 14th, 1939.
    In all other particulars, the contract between is of April 6th, 1939, and the modification thereof of July 14th, 1939, shall remain fully effective.
                Yours truly,
                HAL ROACH STUDIOS, INC.
                By FRANK ROSS, Vice Pres.

Stan Laurel Signature

The ‘Little Bear’ With Big Ideas

By Thomas M. Pryor

Just in cane you’ve missed a familiar credit line in recent Paramount Pictures—“Musical director, Boris Morros”—the gentleman so named wishes to tell the whole world, or what’s left of it, that he now is in business for himself. In Hollywood’s directory of producers you’ll find him listed as the “president and producer, Boris Morros Productions, Inc.,” headquarters the General Service Studios. It’s a pretty safe bet, though, that you won’t find him there between pictures, for he has a penchant for travel. So it was that he turned up here last week with a print of his first production, “The Flying Deuces,” starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
    Admittedly, he considers himself somewhat of a highbrow—he studied under the great Rimsky-Korsakoff at the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where he was born on Jan. 1, 1895—but he concedes that he also appreciates “the common audience denominator.”
    And well he might, having cast and directed some 12,000 variety acts during his ten-year regime as czar of the Publix circuit’s stage presentations. In this respect he modestly professes that he knows as much, if indeed not more, about audience tastes as the average Hollywood producer who has been “deskbound for too many years.” At the moment his chief interest is, naturally, “The Flying Deuces.”
    According to the story he was telling the other day, the experts shook their collective heads and cautioned: “Boris, you’re looking for trouble,” when he decided last April to reunite the estranged comedy team of Laurel and Hardy.
    But when he confided to these same experts that he would shoot the picture in continuity, starting with the first scene and building to the last, they were sure that “the little Russian bear” had lost his senses or something. Still he completed the picture in four weeks and only had to devote one day to retakes.
    As Mr. Morros describes the film, “it’s completely unorthodox,” and to substantiate this statement be revealed that the picture was produced on a cooperative basis. The stars, the director Edward Sutherland, camera man, the art director and other responsible contributors all agreed to take a minimum salary and share in the profits, he explained. Confidentially, he believes the picture will be a box office wow, which should be good news to the profit-sharing artistes, the Irving Trust Company, his financial backers, and RKO, the distributors.
    It is his considered opinion that most producers lack a sense of timing, that “they forget there is a limit to audience patience,” which he thinks is one reason why Laurel and Hardy have not been quite as successful in feature-length pictures as they were in shorts. Another, is that he believes the comedians have been victimized by too much dialogue. He corrected that situation in “The Flying Deuces,” which he says is 60 per cent pantomime and 40 per cent dialogue.
    Laurel and Hardy are not gagslingers,” said he, “they’re pantomimists—great artists of pantomime. Therefore, they should not have to depend on gag-lines for laughs. Their comedy is essentially motivated by action and it should spring from funny situations,” he continued.
    The picture runs seventy minutes at present and when I sneak-previewed it in California I clocked 317 laughs. I was too happy with the Hollywood reaction, so I decided to slip into New York to give it another sneak-preview, because if New Yorkers will laugh at something you can be pretty sure that the rest of the world will too. I showed the picture in New Rochelle and clocked 236 laughs. That made me feel better, because now I know where the weak spots are and they can be eliminated.”

—The New York Times
    September 24, 1939

Stan Watermark