Reprinted from TV Guide April 23-29 1955
No Laughing Matter
LAUREL AND HARDY FIND THEMSELVES ON TV...FOR FREE
One night last winter, a thin man and a plump one sat down to some drinks in a Hollywood hotel room with an old friend from England. Or, at least, that's what they thought they were doing.
But the friend proved to be live bait for a TV show, and before Arthur Stanley Jefferson (better known as Stan Laurel) and Oliver "Babe" Hardy could reach for a whiskey and splash, they found themselves in the arms of Ralph Edwards on This Is Your Life. Though their famous two-reel comedies of the Thirties now making the TV rounds, this was their first live television appearance.
"It was," says Laurel, a native of Ulverston, England, "a staggering experience. Babe and I are both great television fans, and we've been planning to do something on TV. But we certainly never intended to start out on an unrehearsed network show!"
"And I," says Hardy, summing it up in terms natural for 285-pound fellow, "couldn't eat for a week." Actually, television has not been kind to these possible immortal clowns. About 50 of their original short subjects and two or three feature-length films have appeared on TV.
"We made all the films on salary, "says Laurel, " and everybody figured the life of a movie then was five years. It's a little disturbing to see ourselves on TV now. We're being used to sell products we never even heard of, and someone else is making all the money."
Their popularity in America is nothing to what it is abroad, where it has never abated. In Argentina, China and Italy, imitators of Laurel and Hardy prosper. In Germany where they are known as Dick and Doof (Fat and Stupid), their films can fill a movie theater for months.
" In Italy they call us Stanlio and Ollio," says Hardy. "In Spain we're known as El Gordo and El Flaco-The Fat One and The Thin One. In Sweden it's Helan and Halvan." On American TV it's going be Laurel and Hardy vintage 1930, for the time being.
"We're definitely planning a TV show." Laurel says, "though we do not want to talk about it yet. But we won't be live. We made hit movies because our pace made slapstick funny. Instead of hitting someone in the face with a pie, we slowed down and showed our reactions. Reactions make slapstick funny. For that you need film."
"It takes a lot of preparation," says Georgia-born Hardy, no man to rush into anything. Witness Laurels attempts to get the show on the road the last time they went on tour (they tour the Continent almost every year):
"I've been thinking," Laurel said, calling up Hardy one day in June."We open in London in October. Don't you think we ought to freshen up the act?"
"Good idea," Hardy panted to the phone. "But it's pretty hot today. What do you say we wait until it cools off? Call me back in September."
Weather permitting, viewers may see a Laurel and Hardy TV show yet!
The content of this artical has been reproduced exactly as it appeared in 1955. We have also reproduce the feature in our 'Laurel and Hardy' printed magazine as it actually appeared in print.
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