Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

This forum is nearly identical to the previous forum. The difference? Discussions about comedy from the SOUND era.
Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2350
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Oct 09, 2015 9:46 pm

Pasquale Ventura wrote:
Richard M Roberts
Absolutely Pasquale! (and it's Richard, BTW)


Oops, pardon me, was typing too fast. It's been corrected.

In the many past years of a life long love with silent and early sound comedy, one thing I have always made a strong effort was make up my own mind about comedies and comedians and never pay attention to what's written in books critically or folks opinion's, which turn out to usually be just that, worthless personal assumptions who claim to know it all.

I really enjoy watching everything, all these comedians are so worth watching because they come from a incredible time when each of these comedians were so uniquely different from one another with a personal distinctive approach to comedy all their own. Gags may seem familiar but the way Lupino Lane did them would be drastically different from how Billy Bevan or Larry Semon execute it.

After years of reading how lousy ATOLL-K was and see the many photographs of how Laurel and Hardy appear in the movie I finally got a video of it, lucking out with a transfer from a good clean print was used. What I experienced was a delightful comedy with a rather unusual topic for Stan and Ollie. Not bad, I laughed at Laurel and Hardy doing what they do best, physical comedy. It has a European feel to it and of course it should, it's a European produced movie.

Watching Red Skelton every week in our household, I never knew he made movies in the 40's and 50's. Wasn't at all concerned he was older. He was just a funny guy. I didn't see his features until way into the 90's when TCM started.

Even the Three Stooges kept popping up on various TV show throughout the 1960's. Hey, who's that funny little guy in the Milk Duds, many other commercials, and frolicking on the beach with Annette and Frankie performing those sight gags? I would ask....Buster Keaton my Mom answered.

Pasquale Ventura



Yep, that's how I was introduced to the Stooges too, Curly Joe DeRita was my first third stooge, which is why I have never had a problem with him either (then again, Shemp is my favorite third stooge anyway). I still think Skelton was better on television than he ever was in the movies (but when you're a star comic at MGM for that long, how much chance do you really have, even with Buster Keaton for a gag writer?).

When you compare the careers of the British Variety Comics from the same era, most of them kept working till they were planted, Tommy Trinder and Arthur Askey were television mainstays into the 1980's, but then, British actors in any genre get to have lifetime careers, they get wheeled out when their bald and toothless (the guys too, but for Brits that can be in their forties too) and continue to work, it's just in America where we have this youth nonsense, goes with the plastic surgery nonsense.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
Cugine
Posts: 656
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:15 am
Location: Sonoma, CA
Contact:

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Gary Johnson » Fri Oct 09, 2015 10:20 pm


In the many past years of a life long love with silent and early sound comedy, one thing I have always made a strong effort was make up my own mind about comedies and comedians and never pay attention to what's written in books critically or folks opinion's, which turn out to usually be just that, worthless personal assumptions who claim to know it all.

Pasquale Ventura


So you are saying that we should ignore all of your opinions that you post here?

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2350
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Oct 10, 2015 4:04 am

Gary Johnson wrote:

In the many past years of a life long love with silent and early sound comedy, one thing I have always made a strong effort was make up my own mind about comedies and comedians and never pay attention to what's written in books critically or folks opinion's, which turn out to usually be just that, worthless personal assumptions who claim to know it all.

Pasquale Ventura


So you are saying that we should ignore all of your opinions that you post here?



Why not? We ignore all of yours.

I think the message is that opinion regarding quality of films in film history books is always subjective criticism, and should be considered as such, it frequently tells more about the author than the subject or the films. Read any film history book, then you make up your own mind about any particular film AFTER viewing it, rather than after reading about and before seeing it.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

William Ferry
Cugine
Posts: 67
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 1:37 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby William Ferry » Sat Oct 10, 2015 1:20 pm

Excellent thread!

I'm probably going to ramble, but I do want to express a few points...

As we all get older, there's a lot to be said for perspective. Conventional Wisdom, when we were all young (and first becoming interested in all these films), made a number of conclusions:
1. L & H's Fox/MGM films were terrible.
2. Keaton's and Langdon's post-independent work was awful.
3. Columbia was a cheap studio filled with has-beens.

Like many generalizations, there is some element of truth in these. But as we learn in life, everything isn't "either/or". The simple truth is, times had changed, these comedians were no longer making films in the same world as when they were at their peak, and they were getting older. There's no denying that some of these films ARE lousy - I just disagree with writing them ALL off as worthless.

I find some of Stan and Ollie's post-Roach work very enjoyable. The Boys are always charming, and you're eager to root for them. Sometimes, just their personalities and charisma alone is enough - on occasion, it's the only saving grace of the film.

Keaton's MGM films are well-produced, and are generally solid comedy vehicles - in some cases they would great, IF someone else starred in them. As I see it, they're just not tailored to the Buster Keaton with which we were familiar.

Perhaps the issues with the Columbia shorts (I'm including Chase, Langdon, Clyde, The Three Stooges et al), are the same issues common to all major studio releases: budget and scheduling. I suspect none of these comedians had the time to step back and try to get some perspective on what they were doing and how it could be done better, or differently. I may be overthinking this - it may not have mattered to them: they were working, and maybe they were making the films as they wanted to make them.

I'd welcome anyone else's take on this. I think this is a very interesting topic that's been raised.

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2350
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Oct 11, 2015 1:13 am

Well, if one is going to be analytical regarding any comedian's body of work, you really cannot consider the entire body of work as a whole, you really have to break it down into various periods with proper context, the general flow of the Hollywood Industry at the time, the own comedian's life and career at the time, history period at the time, etc. I mean, you can compare Buster Keaton's Educational or Columbia Comedies to THE GENERAL, but what does that get you? They were made in what were really two completely different industries in terms of everything else that was going on around the times of their production, and they are utter apples and oranges in what they are setting out to achieve.

Now, when you put Keaton's Educational and Columbia Comedies in their proper historical perspective, you get a different picture. In 1936-37, when Hal Roach was basically out of short comedy production, Mack Sennett was out of business completely, Al Christie was just a Producer at Educational, you really have to look over who was still producing live action short comedies in 1937, basically RKO, Columbia, and Educational (MGM to a lesser degree, with the Robert Benchley and Pete Smith comedies and later on, the Our Gangs). In that year, and in comparison with the other work then being done, Keaton's Educational Comedies really come out some of the best short comedy product being produced at the time, comparable to Columbia's Three Stooges and Andy Clyde comedies, and RKO's Leon Errol and Edgar Kennedy series. By 1939-40, with Educational out of the picture, Keaton's Columbia Comedies still have to compare favorably with the other Columbia and RKO product.

In the early 1940's, the "Golden Age" of film comedy in general was definitely ebbing, most of the major comics who had come out of the Silent Era, and even the comics who had found their stardom after the coming of sound found their careers slipping in one way or another, many were still working, but in vastly different circumstances. Comparing the field in 1941-42, in features, the main comedy producer in terms of both quality and quantity had to be Universal, with stars like Abbott and Costello, Olsen and Johnson, W. C. Fields, and Hugh Herbert all making starring vehicles, a lot of the same old comedy hands who were working at Columbia were also working there, Paramount had Bob Hope, Warner Bros, RKO and MGM were basically cranking out the occasional comedy featuring stars whose had no specialty in that line (The Marx Brothers retiring from MGM in 1941). In terms of shorts, it was up to Columbia and RKO for the most part for steady series using known comedy stars, and though the budgets had shrunk or bought less for the same dollar, they were still making comedy shorts of generally good quality.

So, for Fox, who hadn't had a regular star comedian since Will Rogers, to take on Laurel and Hardy to star in a regular comedy series was a major move for them in a direction they had shown little interest in for a number of years, and the quality of Stan and Babe's Fox product in comparison to what else was being made at the time is perhaps slightly less than the best of Universal's comedy product, but as good or better than what any of the other studios were making at the time. Comparing them to their Hal Roach product of the early 30's is pointless, that product was being produced in a time where they had a lot of stiffer competition in a still thriving Comedy Film Industry. To a wartime audience starving for good comedy, they were welcome indeed, and made Fox a pretty penny at the boxoffice.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
Cugine
Posts: 656
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:15 am
Location: Sonoma, CA
Contact:

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Gary Johnson » Sun Oct 11, 2015 5:01 pm

I love putting film careers into a historical context. It adds so many more dimensions to what we are watching. It certainly isn't a requirement, by any means. Great comedy will always carry the day on it's own merits, but knowing the circumstances of the times can only enhance the experience. But there is a reason we search out Lloyd's or Keaton's sound work and that is because we are so enamored with their silent work. And we come to know when L&H and the Marx Bros were riding high and when they weren't. And with that knowledge comes some critical judgements based on what came previously. That's only human nature. Most film fans understand that a comedian will have career arcs, It's hard to stay on top throughout one's lifetime. Comedy tastes seem to change every decade. But a comedian's peak work will live forever and their lesser work will remind us of when they could do no wrong.

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2350
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:50 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:I love putting film careers into a historical context. It adds so many more dimensions to what we are watching. It certainly isn't a requirement, by any means. Great comedy will always carry the day on it's own merits, but knowing the circumstances of the times can only enhance the experience. But there is a reason we search out Lloyd's or Keaton's sound work and that is because we are so enamored with their silent work. And we come to know when L&H and the Marx Bros were riding high and when they weren't. And with that knowledge comes some critical judgements based on what came previously. That's only human nature. Most film fans understand that a comedian will have career arcs, It's hard to stay on top throughout one's lifetime. Comedy tastes seem to change every decade. But a comedian's peak work will live forever and their lesser work will remind us of when they could do no wrong.


Okay Johnson, so pick which side of the argument you're on, what you've just said is a long way different from saying, "Oh, I can't watch Laurel and Hardy's Fox comedies, they look so old and tired!".


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
Cugine
Posts: 656
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:15 am
Location: Sonoma, CA
Contact:

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Gary Johnson » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:45 pm

You really want to keep picking at this scab? You know, I originally wrote in my first post that this subject always ends up veering from discussion to argument. It always did back in the good old bad days of the usenet newsgroups and it doesn't look like anything has changed since.
I'll try again but try to keep the condescension down to a low boil. I'm getting annoyed with you....

Now, I don't see how agreeing with you about keeping a comedians career into a historical context jibes with my feelings towards L&H's FOX films. In fact it fits in perfectly. L&H had a stellar career, but they did have career highs and lows. You do agree with that? And the post-Roach films are where their lows started for the simple reason that the creative heart and soul of the team was not allowed to collaborate like before and it shows. I grew up on these films, as I said before. One week FRA DIAVOLO would air, the next week THE BIG NOISE. For me it was night and day. (I know we are not supposed to compare and contrast films but you have so many rules about watching comedies that I can't keep up). I would still watch THE BIG NOISE every time it aired because it was L&H, but there was no joy in it for me. It became a chore.

And to this day they still are. It's as simple as that. Those films produce a few smiles now and then for me. That's it. Sue me if I want to spend my time with the greatest comedy team receiving more than a few smiles. Now, have I said that no one else can watch these films? No I have not. Watch them to your hearts content. But I will keep them in the historical context of L&H's lesser films and not be a party to those who want to re-write history by elevating their stature as if they are the real reason we remember L&H to this day.

Pasquale Ventura
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:52 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Pasquale Ventura » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:53 pm

There were many movie goers of the 30's and 40's, born in the late 1920's, who were seeing Harry Langdon, Buster Keaton, Andy Clyde and Laurel and Hardy having no idea they made silents. Whole groups of people were enjoying these comedians work in the Educational, Columbia shorts and Laurel and Hardy's later features having no knowledge of any of their past work but simply found them funny, having nothing to compare them to. They were new comedians to the younger folks.

Pasquale Ventura

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2350
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Greenbriar Comedy Team Discussions

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:22 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:You really want to keep picking at this scab? You know, I originally wrote in my first post that this subject always ends up veering from discussion to argument. It always did back in the good old bad days of the usenet newsgroups and it doesn't look like anything has changed since.
I'll try again but try to keep the condescension down to a low boil, I'm getting annoyed with you....


Yeah, ain't it annoyin' when somebody actually tries to make you think about what you are saying, maybe challenges you to look at your own beliefs? Oooh, better go back to Facebook where you can have your own little fiefdom where your virtual friends don't dare disagree with you lest they be "unfriended", that's everyone's safe little cocoon these days, where they can spout whatever nonsense they like without ever having to be informed by anyone that perhaps they don't have a clue.

Over her, it ain't like that kids, and if you're going to discuss things with me, just remember that I ain't virtual and I may or may not be your friend.





Now, I don't see how agreeing with you about keeping a comedians career into a historical context jibes with my feelings towards L&H's FOX films. In fact it fits in perfectly. L&H had a stellar career, but they did have career highs and lows. You do agree with that?



Absolutely, the question and the kicker being the level of those high and lows. Laurel and Hardy may have not had total control of what they were doing, but hey, they weren't workin at Monogram either, they were still top comedy stars making successful features for a studio that (at least in Fox's case) was not MGM but a studio that was trying to accommodate two stars who were working in a field in which that studio was not particularly versed in. Stan and Babe's Fox films are indeed "lesser works" than their Roach product, but at the same time, they are not on the level of say, Buster Keaton's MGM product, which has that whole problem MGM always had with comedians (and Laurel and Hardy's two MGM's forties features suffer the same problem).

At Fox, it's obvious that Fox knows there is a problem, and are trying to fix it as best they can within a rigid studio system, and their Laurel and Hardy films show improvement in that direction as they go along, the Mal St. Clair-directed films head the Boys back in the direction of their original characters and milieus, and the gags show more of Stan Laurel and some of his original gagmen's hand, the films get better and better. And at the same time Laurel and Hardy's stardom was not threatened, these films were all moneymakers and they could have continued to make them if Stan Laurel had wished (then again, Stan Laurel was also the guy who thought he could get better working conditions than he had at Hal Roach and would not renegotiate there either, so perhaps Stan was not really the best judge of how to handle his own career either).




And the post-Roach films are where their lows started for the simple reason that the creative heart and soul of the team was not allowed to collaborate like before and it shows. I grew up on these films, as I said before. One week FRA DIAVOLO would air, the next week THE BIG NOISE. For me it was night and day. (I know we are not supposed to compare and contrast films but you have so many rules about watching comedies that I can't keep up). I would still watch THE BIG NOISE every time it aired because it was L&H, but there was no joy in it for me. It became a chore.




Oh please, if THE BIG NOISE was such a "chore" for you to watch, you didn't have enough chores when you were a child, cause it's actually the best of the Fox L and H's in my book, Everson and those Medved idiots be damned. It has a genuine Laurel and Hardy feel to it, they are not treated like idiots by the rest of the cast (in fact, they may be the only sane ones in the household they are guarding), the Boy's performance energy and focus is good (I really like Hardy's reactions in the whole "food-pill" sequence) and there are some genuinely good gags in it, along with a charming ending which rivals any of Laurel and Hardy's endings in their films, Roach or otherwise.

And frankly, however great Laurel and Hardy's scenes in THE DEVILS BROTHER are, there's a decent amount of operatic tedium in it as well, I can't say it is my favorite of their Roach films.

Of course it is okay to compare and contrast Laurel and Hardy's work, I said that before if you hadn't noticed, but it is saner and wiser to compare them on a realistic basis than an overemotional and irrational one. Of course Laurel and Hardy's Forties films are not on the level of their best Hal Roach work, but they are not horrible traumas to be avoided at all costs either, they are not even on the level of what would be construed as other of their contemporaries worst work. And it is perfectly valid to say that they have gotten a unfair bad rep from some of the earlier historians and deserve a look and a reappraisal today, too many audiences without agendas have laughed at these films to take the word of some writer alone.

And when I hear you going on about how "tired and sad" the Boys and the films look, I know damn well you read the Everson book before you ever saw most of those films, c'mon, cop to it, you know it's true, we all did!

Hey, you're not even the worst case I've known, I know a guy who says he can't watch any of Stan and Babe's talkie work because it is not as brilliant as their silents, and they look to middle-aged and have slowed down their pace too much to be funny in talkies. How pathetic is that?



And to this day they still are. It's as simple as that. Those films produce a few smiles now and then for me. That's it. Sue me if I want to spend my time with the greatest comedy team receiving more than a few smiles. Now, have I said that no one else can watch these films? No I have not. Watch them to your hearts content. But I will keep them in the historical context of L&H's lesser films and not be a party to those who want to re-write history by elevating their stature as if they are the real reason we remember L&H to this day.



History gets re-wrote everyday, both for the good and bad, that's why it pays to not be so rigid in lieu of new information and opinions. If you never want to watch the Laurel and Hardy forties features, fine, we're not going to tie you down, staple your eyes open, and make you watch them, but you were the one who came over from the safety of your Facebook confines into the dangerous badlands of Silent Comedy Mafia to protesteth too much about not being drug into a discussion over the merits of these pictures when the word over here on them was headin' positive. What did you think you were gonna get, no "Like" buttons over here. This is the right room for an argument, and it's just discussin' comedy by old dead comedians so why get flustered by anything said here? Nothing here is all that serious.



RICHARD M ROBERTS


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests