Very interesting...too bad the films made during this era just weren't that good
Between 1941 and 1945, Laurel and Hardy made six rather mediocre films for Fox studios. These six films as well as another film for MGM and RKO were all sub-par--mostly because these studios didn't have the same special touch for making Laurel and Hardy films that Hal Roach Studios had. The boys were there, but the films themselves were very much unlike their earlier efforts. Some of this no doubt was due to their advancing age as well as the repetitive nature of the films, but most of the problem seemed due to a real ambivalence by these larger studios for the team. Instead of allowing them creative control and asking for their input, they were simply handed scripts by hacks and were expected to follow them exactly and with no improvisation. That was just nuts, but the powers that be demanded it.
However, despite all these deficiencies, this documentary that was prepared for the DVD release of the six Fox films seems to indicate that these films were STILL Hollywood gold. While I have recently seen all six and agree they aren't collectively as bad as some books on the team have asserted, they certainly weren't much better than genial time-passers. The best of them, JITTERBUGS and THE BULLFIGHTERS were perhaps a bit better and the worst, THE BIG NOISE, was like a giant migraine--certainly not the great films the documentary claims.
However, when not shamelessly promoting these mediocre films, the documentary gave some very nice insight into the team outside of the camera--particularly regarding Stanley. The final portion about some kids who often visited with the genial Mr. Laurel was really touching and actually made the whole thing worth while. While Stan's personal life had problems (several failed marriages), it was nice to hear what a sweet fellow he was to ordinary fans.
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