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Retro : A Day of Laughter : AMC DEVOTES AN ENTIRE SUNDAY TO LAUREL AND HARDY SLAPSTICK

July 17, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his book "Filmgoer's Companion," movie historian Leslie Halliwell proclaims that Laurel and Hardy are "the screen's finest comedy team."

Few would refute Halliwell. Comedy teams have come and gone, but Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have withstood the test of time. Like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, their antic exploits are as fresh and funny now as they were 60 years ago. Cable's American Movie Classics devotes an entire Sunday to the duo with its "Laurel and Hardy Laugh-a-thon," featuring 44 Laurel and Hardy shorts and feature-length comedies.

Both Laurel and Hardy had appeared in films for more than a decade before producer Hal Roach teamed them up for the 1926 short film "Slipping Wives."

Born in 1892, Oliver Hardy began acting in film as far back as 1913. He even played the Tin Man in the 1924 silent version of "The Wizard of Oz." Stan Laurel was born in England in 1890. Fred Karno's troupe of entertainers brought him to America--in the early 1900s Chaplin came to the United States with Karno's company--and he began doing short films in 1915.

But neither found real success until "Slipping Wives." The duo were extraordinary visual comedians, masters of slapstick. And their bizarre appearance, complete with baggy pants and bowler hats, always got a chuckle. Fans loved to watch the rotund Hardy as he would slowly go into an angry rage when the inept Laurel would make a mistake. And audiences loved the skinny, sad-faced Laurel's whimperings when Hardy would scold him.

Though they became famous in silent films, the two managed the transformation to sound films with great ease. One of the main reasons was because they kept their dialogue to a minimum. But a lot of their dialogue has found its way into pop culture:

"Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into it."

"Why don't you do something to help me."

"I have nothing to say."

Their 1931 short film, "Music Box," received an Oscar for best short subject (comedy), and Laurel also received a special Oscar in 1960 for his "creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy." It was Laurel who devised the team's sight gags and directed many of their films. Hardy passed away in 1957, Laurel in 1965.

AMC will air the following Laurel and Hardy films Sunday:

"Another Fine Mess" (3 a.m.)

"Be Big" (3:30 a.m.)

"Beau Hunks" (4 a.m.)

"Below Zero" (4:40 a.m.)

"Berth Marks" (5 a.m.)

"Busy Bodies" (5:20 a.m.)

"Dirty Work" (5:40)

"Blockheads" (6 a.m.): Enjoyable 1938 romp finds Laurel still marching in a trench 20 years after the end of World War I.

"Blotto" (7 a.m.)

"Chickens Come Home" (7:30 a.m.)

"Pardon Us"(8 a.m.): This 1931 spoof of "The Big House" was the duo's first feature-length film.

"Brats" (9:10 a.m.)

"Murder Case" (9:30 a.m.)

"Chump at Oxford" (10 a.m.): The two head to England and Oxford University in this 1940 farce.

"Oliver the Eighth" (11:05 a.m.)

"Music Box" (11:30 a.m.): Oscar-winning short.

"Perfect Day" (noon)

"Our Wife" (12:20 p.m.)

"Scram" (12:30 p.m.)

"Saps at Sea" (1 p.m.): Hardy tries to relax on a boat with Laurel in this 1940 comedy.

"Them Thar Hills" (2 p.m.)

"Midnight Patrol" (2:30 p.m.)

"Men O'War" (2:40 p.m.)

"Hoosegaw" (3 p.m.)

"Going Bye Bye" (3:20 p.m.)

"Helpmates" (3:40 p.m.)

"Our Relations" (4 p.m.)

"Swiss Miss" (5:15 p.m.)

"Laughing Gravy" (6:30 p.m.)

"Sons of the Desert" (7 p.m.): This 1933 comedy is considered their best feature. The two run off to a fraternal convention without telling their wives.

"Babes in Toyland" (8:05 p.m.): Laurel and Hardy star perform Victor Herbert's operetta in this entertaining 1934 musical-comedy.

"Live Ghost" (9:30 p.m.)

"Nightowls" (9:50 p.m.)

"Thicker Than Water" (10:10 p.m.)

"Pack Up Your Troubles" (10:30 p.m.): The duo enlist in World War I in this enjoyable 1932 entry.

"Twice Told" (11:30 p.m.)

"Hog Wild" (midnight)

"Fixer Uppers" (12:30 a.m.)

"One Good Turn" (12:40 a.m.)

"Tit for Tat" (1 a.m.)

"Towed in the Hole" (1:20 a.m.)

"County Hospital" (1:40 a.m.)

"Me and My Pal" (2 a.m.)

"Their First Mistake" (2:30 a.m.)

"This Is Your Life: Laurel and Hardy" (2:40 a.m.)

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