OCEANA LETTERHEAD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN EXCERPT

In those early sound films you mention, we purposely didn’t talk much—wanted to get familiar with the new medium before discarding the knowledge we were experienced with.

Stan Laurel

                JAN.3rd.'62.

In those early sound films you mention, we purposely didn't talk much - wanted to get familiar with the new medium before discarding the knowledge we were experienced with. I think that's why we survived the advent of sound - many of the good old silent comics, all of a sudden thought they were actors & resorted to dialogue comedy which they knew nothing about - hence they went out of business. Yes, I remember the "Below Zero" film very well, one of our early talkies. The sound at that time was recorded on disc records, so wasn't too good - they [were] experimenting then. I enjoyed listening to the tape you sent me recently, brought back many memories - sweet & sour.! Stan Laurel Signature

OCEANA LETTERHEAD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JANUARY.11th.'62.
My dear Sir "Filthy" [Richard Sloan]:
    Thanks your interesting missive of the 7th.inst. conveying your good wishes for '62.
    No, Chuck [McCann] did'nt tell me as yet regarding the Larry Harmon situation - I certainly hope Chuck will qualify [for] the job successfully. I very seldom see or hear from Mr Harmon, so know little about his affairs concerning the cartoon series - I understand they have started production (I read in the trade papers here) thats all I know about it.
    Regarding the L&H placque (Lake L&H) as far as I know it is still at the Hal Roach Studio.
    I heard about Jackie Gleason & Sir Alec Guiness being mentioned for the L&H roles in the David Susskind production - I've heard nothing officially on this rumor - its just loose talk I guess - frankly, I doubt if this story will ever be made - its been talked & discussed for the last three years - thats as far as it goes.
    I never ever quoted that Dick Van Dyke was my choice to play my character & during his visit with the matter was never discussed. PERIOD.!
    All for now "Dirty"-
                As ever:
Stan Laurel Signature                 STAN LAUREL.

Notes from the Editor

On June 3, 1961, Sir Alec Guiness wrote to Stan to congratulate him on winning an honorary Oscar saying:

Dear Mr. Laurel,
    I meant to write you immediately after you received your so richly deserved recognition from the Academy, but was unable to trace your address immediately and then got caught up in my work and forgot. But now someone has got it for me.
    Unfortunately I leave in about four days time, returning to England, and I have looping, etc., to do at the studio, otherwise I would have loved to have called on you. But I will try to reach you on the telephone before I go.
    Your Academy Award gave such tremendous pleasure to everyone—but it was a particular joy to me. For me you have always been and always will be one of the truly greats. I think one of my earliest ambitions was to emulate you in some way, and certainly one of my first successes (although a modest one) in the theatre was playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night rather on the lines you might have played it. I was only twenty-three at the time and I think the copying of you was unconscious—but it was certainly noticed by the critics, and that goes to show how much I had absorbed and loved your work.
    Anyway, this brief letter is just to pay homage to a great comedian and to wish you all happiness and the hope that I may meet you some day.
                Yours sincerely,
                Alec Guiness



POSTCARD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.12th.'62.
Dear Ernie [Murphy]:
    Am sure you'll be sorry to hear the sad news of Frank Fouce - he died yesterday afternoon.
    Hope you enjoyed a Merry Yuletide, we both here wish you a wonderful New Year, Good health & a Happy successful 1962.
    Our love & best.
                As ever:
Stan Signature

OCEANA LETTERHEAD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.15th.'62.
Dear Lenny Pitt:
    Thanks for your interesting letter of the 5th.inst. with drawing of of the L&H billing at an Orpheum Theatre for which I appreciate very much.
    Note you are undecided on the career you want to follow 'Mime' or Art Design - I agree with with your family Lenny, show bus. is so unpredictable, heartbreaks & disappointments & once you get involved in this medium of make-believe its very difficult to get away from. Anyway, if you would like to make your 'Miming' talent a Hobby & to make occasional appearances for your own satisfaction that would be a sensible solution to your problem, but I think you would be foolish to take the profession seriously.
    Incidently, I had a nice letter from Marcel Marceau yesterday, he's at present on tour in Europe & is coming to the U.S. again sometime in June.
    Hope you & yours enjoyed a very Merry Yuletide - Mrs L. joins In wishing you a wonderful New Year, lots of good health & a happy successful 1962.
    Nice to hear from you again Lenny.
    Good luck & God Bless.
                Sincerely as ever:
Stan Laurel Signature                 STAN LAUREL.

Leonard Pitt Adds

I was headed for a career in advertising design, took mime classes on the side, and met Stan Laurel in L.A.—just called him up one day. I visited him at home several times. It was the thrill of a young lifetime.



Postcard from Stan Laurel to Gary Alexander
POSTCARD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.16th.'62.

Thanks [Gary Alexander] for your note & kind wishes. Much appreciated.
    We here too wish you & yours a wonderful New Year, a Happy, healthy & successful 1962.                 Very sincerely:
Stan Laurel Signature                 STAN LAUREL.


POSTCARD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.17th.'62.

Thanks Bob & Marie [Hatfield] for belated Valentine greetings. Note you will be spending a few days here - we shall look forward to seeing you both again, in case you forgot our phone, its EXbrook 3-5656.
    All news then.
    Eda joins in kind thoughts.                 In haste:
Stan Signature                 STAN LAUREL.

P.S. our best to your Mother.!


Letter from Stan Laurel to Bob and Marie Hatfield
OCEANA LETTERHEAD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.17th.'62.
Dear Bob & Marie [Hatfield]:
                Thanks yours 15th.inst.
Pleased to know you had a Happy Holiday Season. We had a nice time too, friends & relatives dropped in for the usual 'Same to you' business - Nothing much exciting.! Just another day to me except everybody makes a big fuss.!! Enough to make a man burst out crying.!!
    Weather here has been lovely too in the daytime, but the nights are bitter cold.
    Nothing new to tell you, so bye for now.
    Eda joins in kindest regards & again wish you all a wonderful New.
    Cheerio & God Bless.
                As ever:
Stan Signature                 STAN LAUREL.


POSTCARD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN EXCERPT

                JAN.22nd.'62.

Thanks for your nice letter - I too enjoyed the pleasure of meeting you and your charming Renee. Shall be pleased to see you again sometime.
Stan Laurel Signature

POSTCARD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.29th.'62.

Thanks your letter Dean [Kaner]. Pleased to know you have the L&H book - hope you'll enjoy & find it interesting. Sorry I do'nt remember the name of the person that played "Mr Barnaby" in "Babes in Toyland", he was'nt too well known in the movie business - I believe it was his 1st appearance in films actually.
    Again my regards & best wishes to yourself & family.
                Sincerely as ever:
Stan Laurel Signature                 STAN LAUREL.

Note from the Editor

Henry Brandon (1912–1990) was a character actor in over 100 American films, usually playing villains. Many people remember him for his role as “Silas Barnaby,” the evil character in the Laurel and Hardy 1934 classic Babes in Toyland. Confirming Stan’s recollection, it was almost his first appearance in films. He actually made his motion picture debut in 1932’s The Sign of the Cross in an uncredited role.



OCEANA LETTERHEAD - 849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA - TYPEWRITTEN

                JAN.30th.'62
Dear Tom [Sefton]:
    I checked with my attorney Ben Shipman re the tape I made for the Academy Award radio coverage. He advises me that he wrote to Vanessa Brown sometime ago in effort to get a copy of the tape, but to date has never heard from her. However, he gave me her address in case you would like to try & contact her: Vanessa Brown, 14340, Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. 24. CALIF. I just had a card from Ben [Chadwell] - he had recd. the photo enlargement & was having a copy made from it for you, he tells me it will [be] in 'Pastels' !! finally L&H made the 'cheesecake' dept.!!. Again - regards & best to you all from us both here.
                As ever:
Stan Signature

An Interview with Stan Laurel

By Larry Goldstein

The Hal Roach Studio is silent now. Occasional noises from rented sound stages are clue to low-budget TV filming, but otherwise the Southern Plantation style building lies bleak and quiet and deathlike-with black asphalt fields stretching toward a barbed-wire boundary. The studio is all laughed out. The magic that once filled the Washington Boulevard landmark is gone. But the comic classics that were produced within its walls still serve, like chuckling ghosts, to recall that golden era when Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the Hollywood ambassadors of fun, frivolity and foolishness.
    The low comedy that Laurel and Hardy made so popular has a universal appeal. “It’s simplicity is the common language for everyone in the world.” Stan Laurel explained. “It contains an element of sympathy and simple truth that is absent in common slapstick, especially as practiced by the Keystone Kops and The Three Stooges.” Laurel leaned back in his swivel chair and grimaced slightly at the comparison. Photos and caricatures of his former self grinned down at him from the walls while busts and puppets of him and Hardy were strewn haphazardly about the apartment.
    Laurel began to reminisce about his experience in the traveling troupes in England. where he was born in 1890. He recalled the common practice in road shows of changing roles from night to night to spice up the laughs. “One day I might play the butler, the next the maid, and so on. The show never made much sense but it was always loads of fun.” This adaptive ability was later to change Laurel’s life.
    Searching for new worlds to conquer, an English vaudeville troupe with which Laurel was performing (top banana: Charlie Chaplin) crossed the Atlantic in 1912. The next year Laurel was under contract in Hollywood.
    Once there, Laurel became a writer-director for many of the silent films at Hal Roach Studios. One day when he was directing a two-reeler, a comedy star got hurt and couldn’t appear in the film, which had already begun shooting. Things became frantic until Roach, recalling that Laurel had been trained to interchange roles and impressed with Laurel’s acting prowess. cast him as the unwilling co-star to another ex-vaudevillian. Georgia-born Oliver Hardy. The result produced an explosion at the box office. “The two complemented each other perfectly.” Roach recalled, “The camera could pan on one and get a laugh, back to the other for another laugh, and then swing out to include both for still another.” The comedians were paired in a few more trial films and then, in recognition of their obvious success, were officially teamed in 1927.
    Stan Laurel recalled these memories with a slightly nostalgic smile. Now living in a comfortable Santa Monica apartment house, the former comedian bears little resemblance to his old film image. The lugubriousness which was so chronic on the screen has been replaced by a pervasive, warming mirth, and his thinness-a former trademark-has given way to a slight paunch. Laurel was deeply saddened by Hardy’s death in 1957, which brought the 30-year companionship to an end. “Babe (Hardy’s nickname) and I were always good friends,” he recalled, “even though we seldom met socially. He was more of a playboy and spent a great deal of time on the golf course and at the races with his friends, whereas I preferred boating and fishing.”
    The actual filmmaking, as Laurel describes it, was necessarily primeval. “We just shot the film with a mere outline of the story and gags. As the film progressed the director would suggest a new line which we might try out and then either keep or reject it.” There was a constant emphasis upon spontaneity in the filming—the director or stars would ask each other “Is this funny?” or “How would this look?” and propose a stunt they thought could be incorporated into the action. The director. Laurel said, was merely an overseer who kept the production under a modicum of control. Haphazard as this system may seem, the results were usually more so. “The film might be cut down to fit another previous sequence.” Laurel explained. “or (as in the case of Pardon Us) it might be stretched out into a feature length movie if the ideas came thick and fast enough.”
    The films became progressively better as the two comedians became used to working with one another. An example of this cooperation was the “helpless burn.” a sequence used repeatedly in every story. This would take place after Laurel might accidentally push Hardy into a mud puddle the size of a swamp, or unwittingly knock him down a flight of stairs, etc., representing a kind of pathos, a “what’s the use” attitude that made the next action even funnier. “This violence-pause effect also gave the audience a chance to relax,” Laurel added, “and gave them a short breather until the next brick fell on Ollie’s head. Then there would be another short pause before the next accident and so on...”
    Laurel pointed out another difference between modern comedy and that of earlier age. “We never dealt with satire or suggestive material. Although some of our films were broad parodies or burlesques of popular dramatic themes, there was no conscious attempt at being either sarcastic or offensive.&lrdquo; Because of this, the team had no trouble with pressure groups; they did, however, incur the disdain of the serious and influential motion picture critics who felt their films were serving no social purpose and were catering to the lowest element in society. These cockeyed critics were usually ignored by the general populace, however, and particularly by the Academy of Arts and Sciences who awarded an Oscar to the Laurel and Hardy short, The Music Box in 1932.
    The flow of pictures dwindled in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and after the war stopped altogether. “I suppose that there is no other reason to offer than the public just got tired of low comedy. They began to demand more art in filming and less corn.”
    So Laurel and Hardy packed up their troubles and sailed to England, where their films had always enjoyed the greatest popularity. There, they made personal appearances and improvised a successful performance at various vaudeville theatres. When they returned to America they were offered a weekly TV show which Laurel turned down because of illness. Hal Roach also approached them with another TV idea; they would film feature length “spectaculars” for television release in this country and subsequently as motion pictures abroad. The format would have been like The Shirley Temple Show, and would have involved singing and dancing as well as comedy. The duo was interested in the Roach project, but Hardy suddenly died before any work had begun.
    Stan Laurel, who spends a good deal of time watching television (even moving from Malibu when TV reception became to weak in that area) very rarely watches his own films on the tube. “They’re cut to pieces,” he assailed. “Whatever continuity we achieved has been ruined by blue-penciling,” Unfortunately, Laurel gets no residuals from these reshowings just as he never received a percentage when the movie was originally released. “They would have thrown us out of Hollywood if we had asked for a cut,” he explained. On the whole, he feels that comedy on TV has great promise but seems to be running out of original material. “There should be more of a blend of the different types of humor, and without laugh tracks!” he advised, while at the same time explaining that he himself enjoys most of the TV comics.
    The career of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy thrived during three transition periods in American comedy. It ran parallel to the slapstick, the scatterbrained and the sophisticated, and emerged into an aura of respectability that had long been denied it. The style, the technique, which these men developed has not yet been matched by the many comedy couplets that followed them. Hal Roach admits that “as a team I don't think there was ever anyone better...they were in a class by themselves,” a judgment that will draw little disagreement from the millions who have laughed themselves well, watching Stanley blankly scratch his head, or waiting for the next brick to fall on Ollie’s patient head.
    I saw Laurel again last summer, my visit occasioned only by a spontaneous desire to speak to the man once more. Relieved of the pressure of interview, Laurel chatted more freely about the old days, recalling nostalgically the practical jokes, film-making accidents and romantic involvements which made Hollywood so legendary. Listening to Laurel’s anecdotes about Mack Sennet and Mabel Normand while overlooking the beach where so many of their films were shot, I could not help but lament a golden age I had never seen. A golden age because it ushered in an art with such gaiety and grace that no man could resist it. Movies are an institution now, and who of us will deny that many of the films we see are seen from sheer sense of duty, not for entertainment alone. The death of Stan Laurel last week reminds us of the energy and skill which were the origins of an art form we appreciate from habit. The fate of Hal Roach Studio reminds us also. Torn down last year amidst the insults and tears of a public old enough to remember, the Studio has given way to an empty field. Later this year, businessmen plan to fill the space with light industry and used car lots.

—Intro Magazine
    1961

Stan Watermark