Four newly restored films from 1927 will be screened how they were intended to be shown in a theater with an appreciative audience.
OAK CLIFF - Nearly 100 years have passed since legendary comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were teamed up at the Hal Roach Studios to make short comedy films. The Texas Theatre in association with nonprofit Dallas VideoFest, will present four of Laurel and Hardy's newly restored, early short silent films to celebrate the third annual National Silent Movie Day on Sat., Sept. 30.
While silent films are available on disc and YouTube, watching them this way is much different than the experience 100 years ago. During the silent movie era, films were enjoyed on big screens with live music filling the auditoriums.
Silent films were never shown silently. Depending on the theater's size and the ticket cost, there might be an orchestra, an ensemble of musicians, a single pianist, or an organist who played along to support the film. While there are still accompanists who play for films in the 21st century, this collection of Laurel and Hardy short films will have music provided by musicians Neil Brand and Donald Sosin, which is recorded on the films' soundtrack.
National Silent Movie Day was started in 2021 by three film archivists Brandee Cox of the Academy Film Archive in Hollywood, Chad Hunter of the Pittsburgh Silent Film Festival, and Steven K. Hill of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. They were looking for a way to celebrate the enjoyment and artistry of silent movies.
The offerings are locally presented by Bruce Calvert of Plano and Dallas VideoFest.
"Laurel and Hardy differed from other comedy teams in that most comedy teams had one "straight man" and one comedian. Laurel and Hardy were both good comedians who built laughs off each other. Whenever Stan Laurel gets a great idea, the boys' execution usually leaves Ollie saying, 'Why don't you do something to HELP me?' or 'This is another nice mess that you've gotten us into,'" said Calvert about the uniqueness of the teaming of Laurel and Hardy.
The four films presented in this program were reconstructed by Lobster Films from 35-mm and 16-mm film prints from various sources and countries. They have been digitally cleaned up and, in some cases, look just as good as they did when released in 1927.
ABOUT THE SELECTED LAUREL AND HARDY FILMS:
In THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS (1927), Laurel and Hardy play prisoners trying to escape from jail. One escape attempt fails, as they tunnel under the prison and straight into the warden's office. Later they disguise themselves as painters, and while the ruse works, they are forced to paint everything in sight so a watchful policeman is not suspicious.
In PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP (1927), Hardy meets his nephew from Scotland. Laurel is wearing traditional Scottish clothes, including a kilt. We all know that Scotsmen wear nothing under their kilt, so Hardy tries to force Stan into a pair of pants.
THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY (1927) is a spoof of the Jack Dempsey fight that had a famous extra-long count before a knockout. Hardy enters Laurel in a boxing match, hoping to get some money even if Laurel loses. Later, he gets the idea of taking out an insurance policy on Laurel, hoping Laurel will injure himself. They get into a tiff next to a delivery truck full of pies, and passersby are drawn into a gigantic pie fight. Look for Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello) as an extra in the boxing match audience.
THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY was once considered a lost film, but the film's first half was rediscovered in the 1980s and the second half just a few years ago.
The Max Davidson comedy CALL OF THE CUCKOOS (1927) will be presented as an extra treat. Laurel and Hardy were so popular after THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS that they were "guest-starred" in this comedy. Davidson plays a Jewish father who thinks he saves money by swapping houses rather than selling his old house. Unfortunately, the new house is a money pit and Laurel and Hardy are two of the "cuckoo" next-door neighbors.