July 20, 2001
WHILE I'M OFF at the Comic-Con International in San Diego, I thought I'd post some links and recommendations here, starting with
a plug for Randy Skretvedt's terrific book, Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies. I never like to use the word "definitive" to
describe something because it asserts that there's no reason for anyone else to tackle the topic...and, of course, there's always more to be said
about anything. But Randy, who has had access to scripts, notes, studio records and data, has assembled a stunning portrait of how Stan and
Ollie did what they did — which, of course, was to make the best run of comedy films ever made by anyone anywhere. You can order your
copy of this "must-have" volume from
Amazon-dot-com or, better still, via the website for Past Times Publishing.
YOU CAN ALSO order some obscure Laurel & Hardy films (as well as other vintage videos) from A-1 Classics. They have a number of tapes that feature the solo comedies of The Boys but what interests me most
are the foreign language films. For a time, the films Stan and Ollie made were not dubbed for other countries. They would actually
re-film each movie — sometimes, several times in several languages — with Laurel and Hardy doing their dialogue phonetically and other
actors brought in, where necessary, to play supporting roles. Hearing Stan and Oliver speaking Spanish or German is fascinating enough...but
these foreign films also feature many scenes that were either never filmed for the American versions or filmed and cut out. Usually, they would
take two two-reel comedies done for the American market and stitch them together with added scenes to form a makeshift feature for foreign
release. Los Calaveras, for instance, is a Spanish language feature that combines two shorts — Be Big and Laughing
Gravy — along with bridging footage and, for the Laughing Gravy part, an entirely different ending. Fascinating stuff.
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL of The Producers (which we loved) will be the subject of a fancy coffee table book that will reprint
the script along with photos and facts of its production. And on Sunday, August 5, PBS will premiere "The Producers": A Musical Romp With
Mel Brooks, which will take us behind-the-scenes of the recording of the cast CD. If you can't wait 'til August 5, you can see about 5
minutes of the recording session (and hear samples of most of the songs) at this
SPEAKING OF MEL: You can download sound clips and images from all his movies at The Mel Brooks Humor Site. But the most interesting thing there is a 1997 interview he did with
The Jewish Journal in which he talks about doing The Producers as a big, splashy Broadway musical and maybe getting someone like Nathan
Lane to star in it.
IF YOU'RE A FAN of Sheldon Mayer's wonderful comic book, Sugar & Spike, there are two websites you'll enjoy.
Here's the link to one of them and here's the link to the other one.
FUNNY COLUMN by Molly Ivins on the proposal to rename North Dakota. Here's that link.
GOOD ARTICLE over on Salon by Jaime Weinman about how Nick at Nite and
TV Land, among other channels, delete scenes from the shows they're running to make more room for commercials. Here's that link.
LASTLY: Michael Kinsley has a good piece on the stupidity inherent in the notion that we should have a constitutional amendment
to ban flag-burning. (Like me, he thinks it's a cure for which there is no known disease.) Here's that link.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME