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Walking North, Facing South. Laurel and Hardy in “The Live Ghost” (1934)

Housman

Walter Long was the most memorable of all of Stan and Ollie’s “heavy” antagonists, the ones who will pummel and mutilate our heroes rather than just yell at them.  It’s well worth referencing his performances in Pardon Us (1931), Any Old Port (1932), and Going Bye Bye (1934).  In this film, Long plays the captain of a ship rumoured to be haunted and therefore unable to secure or retain a crew.

Stan and Ollie are fishing on a wharf before accepting the Captain’s offer to help shanghai crew members from among the patrons of a rough looking dockside pub.  Stan plays a trick on sailor after sailor involving eggs, while Ollie blips each enraged sailor on the head as they chase Stan out.  These sailors are either very drunk or very stupid (or both) as they are successively dropped unconscious below the deck of the Captain’s ship until Ollie decides that Stan may have started finally to arouse some suspicions – even amid this bunch of innocents.  Bungling Stan’s trick, Stan and Ollie both end up blipped on the head atop of the pyramid of prone crew members.

The rest of the crew, waking up out at sea, soon discover who shanghaied them, and determine that they will wreak revenge on Stan and Ollie as soon as they’re onshore an the Captain can’t protect them.  Accordingly, Stan and Ollie determine never to take shore leave.

Crucial to what follows is Arthur Housman.  Housman only ever played drunks – that’s all he did.  He was a professional drunk – notably in Scram (1932), someone who could lurch plausibly.  Housman, berthmate with Stan and Ollie, steals off the boat to get a little drink.  Stan finds a gun, accidentally shoots it in the direction of the lump Housman has created in his bed, and it’s immediately assumed that Housman is dead – particularly as he’s stone cold.  Mae Busch appears all too  briefly onshore as Housman’s jilted wife, now being courted by the Captain.  Housman falls into whitewash.  Everyone now assumes there’s a ghost onboard, particularly the credulous crew who all leap into the briny without a thought of challenging this phenomenon.

Eventually the Captain challenges Stan and Ollie to say what they saw and makes good on a previous threat that anyone who mentions the word “ghost” on his ship is to have his head twisted 180 degrees so that when they’re looking north, they are facing south.  Thus Stan and Ollie are left at the end of the movie – making this the second movie which concludes with Walter Long warping their two bodies into an improbable configuration (Going Bye Bye).

The film’s main strengths involve the elegance of the blipping on the head routine in the first half, and the double takes in the second.  It’s a blipping and double take movie.  Stan takes a hilariously long time to process anything that he’s seen, making his terror all the more funny.  Best of all is the scene where Ollie is lecturing what he assumes to be the blanketed form of Stan in the bunk while Stan’s face appears outside in the porthole.

Stan and Ollie are less terrified and foolish than the rest of the crew, it must be said – and merely run rather than plummet.  The only people who aren’t afraid of a whitewashed drunk are the Captain and Mae Bush.  The Live Ghost is therefore about the ludicrous and ill-directed nature of fear – about laughing at how people can fear whitened drunken Arthur Housman more than Walter Long’s real life monster.

At one point there is even a theological discussion as Stan and Ollie discuss the ultimate fate of their former shipmate.  Ollie shakes his head when Stan hopefully suggests that he’s gone to heaven, referencing “the other place”.  And when Ollie gets Stan to look for coal to weigh down the bag, Stan asks if you need to bring your own coal with you when you go to the “other place”.

Like all children, Stan is a thoroughgoing materialist, and can only imagine spiritual realms in the most physical and literal of terms.  When I was a child, it was of course Long and not Housman I was scared of.  I couldn’t help thinking about Stan and Ollie having to live the rest of their lives waking north and facing south and couldn’t help wondering what such a life might consist of.   I had yet to fully understand the blessed way in which the universe is rebooted every time with every new Laurel and Hardy film.   Well, almost every time.

I’ve some thoughts about some other Laurel and Hardy films.

Like:

Babes in Toyland

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/babes-in-toyland-1934-laurel-and-hardy-and-the-unheimlich/

Them Thar Hills:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/28/la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-pom-pom-laurel-and-hardy-in-them-thar-hills-1934/

Going Bye Bye:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/couldnt-you-see-that-he-was-annoyed-laurel-and-hardy-in-going-bye-bye/

Hollywood Party:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/in-the-middle-of-it-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-hollywood-party-1934/

Oliver the Eighth:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/i-was-dreaming-i-was-awake-then-i-woke-up-and-found-myself-asleep-laurel-and-hardy-in-oliver-the-eighth-1933/
Sons of the Desert

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/the-greatest-marital-comedy-ever-made-laurel-and-hardy-in-sons-of-the-desert-1933/

Dirty Work:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/you-can-always-drop-another-brick-laurel-and-hardy-in-dirty-work-1933-2/

Wild Poses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/are-you-a-laurel-and-hardy-completist-of-course-you-are-thats-why-youll-watch-wild-poses-1933/

Busy Bodies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/the-one-in-a-sawmill-laurel-and-hardy-in-busy-bodies-1933/

The Midnight Patrol:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/cold-blooded-murder-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-midnight-patrol-1933/

The Devil’s Brother

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/a-little-light-opera-a-little-gallows-humour-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-devils-brother-aka-fra-diavolo-1933/

Me and my Pal

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/how-to-wreck-a-high-profile-wedding-easier-than-you-think-laurel-and-hardy-in-me-and-my-pal-1933/

Twice Two:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-cakeman-always-rings-twice-laurel-and-hardy-in-twice-two-1933/

Towed in a Hole:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/perhaps-as-good-as-it-gets-laurel-and-hardy-in-towed-in-a-hole-1932/

Their First Mistake:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/oliver-she-says-i-think-more-of-you-than-i-do-of-her-stanley-well-you-do-dont-you-oliver-well-we-wont-go-into-that-laurel-and-hardy-in-their-first-mistake-1932/

Pack Up Your Troubles

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/labour-of-love-laurel-and-hardy-in-pack-up-your-troubles-1932/

Scram:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/see-what-a-little-kindness-will-do-laurel-and-hardy-in-scram-1932/

County Hospital:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/hasnt-he-suffered-enough-stan-visits-ollie-in-county-hospital-1932/

The Chimp:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/is-there-a-primatologist-in-the-house-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-chimp-1932/

The Music Box:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/stairway-to-heaven-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-music-box-1932/

Any Old Port:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/33082

Helpmates:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/ollies-worst-and-finest-twenty-minutes-laurel-and-hardy-in-helpmates-1932/

“On the Loose”:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/on-the-loose-41-seconds-of-laurel-and-hardy-2/

Beau Hunks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/no-time-for-levity-its-laurel-and-hardy-in-beau-hunks-1931/

One Good Turn:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/we-havent-eaten-for-three-whole-days-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-laurel-and-hardy-in-one-good-turn-1931/

Come Clean:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/well-tell-the-truth-about-this-woman-well-come-clean-now-you-go-in-and-tell-em-laurel-and-hardy-in-come-clean-1931/

Pardon Us:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/they-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won-laurel-and-hardy-in-pardon-us-1931/

Laughing Gravy:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/and-now-a-choice-of-endings-laurel-and-hardy-in-laughing-gravy-1931/

The Stolen Jools:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-stolen-jools-all-of-1931-hollywood-in-2-reels-part-of-why-laurel-and-hardy-is-great-2/

Chickens Come Home:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/everybody-has-a-past-laurel-and-hardy-in-chickens-come-home-1931/

Be Big:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/these-boots-arent-made-for-walking-laurel-and-hardy-in-be-big-1931/

Another Fine Mess:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-most-famous-misquoted-catchphrase-of-them-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-another-fine-mess-1930/

The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/oh-the-grimacing-butler-the-laurel-and-hardy-murder-case-1930/

Hog Wild

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/what-price-decent-reception-laurel-and-hardy-in-hog-wild-1930/

Below Zero:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/what-have-they-done-to-deserve-this-laurel-and-hardy-in-below-zero-1930/

Brats:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/child-is-the-father-to-the-man-laurel-and-hardy-in-brats-1930/

Blotto:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/they-should-never-have-ended-prohibition-laurel-and-hardy-in-blotto-1930/

Here is Night Owls:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpres

Angora Love:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/angora-love-laurel-and-hardys-last-silent-comedy-the-one-with-the-goat/

The Hoose Gow:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-hard-time-had-by-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-hoose-gow-1929-reviewed/

They Go Boom:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/they-go-boom-1929-they-really-do-this-laurel-and-hardy-title-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin/

Perfect Day:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/perfect-day-laurel-and-hardys-not-lou-reeds/

Men O’ War:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/men-owar-and-the-dawn-of-doh-laurel-and-hardy-in-1929/

Berthmarks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/berth-marks-1929-laurel-and-hardy-and-the-comedy-of-confined-spaces/

Unaccustomed as We are Are:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/unaccustomed-as-we-are-laurel-and-hardys-first-sound-film-in-1929/

Bacon Grabbers:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/repo-men-original-and-best-laurel-and-hardy-in-bacon-grabbers-1929/

Double Whoopee:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/double-whoopee-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-set-entirely-in-a-hotel-lobby-and-in-the-street-just-outside-it/

Big Business:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/retributive-perfection-laurel-and-hardy-in-big-business-1929/

That’s My Wife:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/the-marriage-of-true-minds-laurel-and-hardys-thats-my-wife-1929/

Wrong Again:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/rich-people-are-different-laurel-and-hardy-in-wrong-again/

Liberty:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/laurel-and-hardy-nearly-plummeting-to-their-deaths-over-and-over-again-liberty-1929/

We Faw Down:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/secrets-and-lies-laurel-and-hardy-in-we-faw-down-1928/

Habeas Corpus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/knowing-where-the-bodies-are-buried-laurel-and-hardy-in-habeas-corpus-1928/

Two Tars:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/appetite-for-autodestruction-two-tars-1928-reviewed/

Early to Bed:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/will-success-spoil-oliver-hardy-oh-you-betcha-early-to-bed-1928/

Should Married Men Go Home?:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-golfing-one-laurel-and-hardy-in-should-married-men-go-home-1928/

Their Purple Moment:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/their-purple-moment-1928-dont-you-just-love-it-when-stan-and-ollie-are-all-shy-and-flirty/

You’re Darn Tootin’:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-descent-to-trouser-fighting-youre-darn-tootin-1928/

From Soup to Nuts:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/laurel-and-hardy-embarrassing-rich-folk-satisfaction-guaranteed-from-soup-to-nuts-1928/

Leave em Laughing:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/leave-em-laughing-1928-gas-attack-in-culver-city/

Battle of the Century:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/battle-of-the-century-1927-the-pie-fight-is-sublimely-vindicated/

Putting Pants on Philip:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/putting-pants-on-philip-laurel-and-hardy-and-coming-to-america/

Hats Off:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/indiana-jones-why-dont-you-try-to-find-hats-off-the-lost-laurel-and-hardy-film/

Call of the Cuckoo:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/call-of-the-cuckoo-1927-laurel-and-hardy-are-bit-players-again-and-their-hair-hasnt-grown-back-yet/

The Second Hundred Years:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/laurel-and-hardy-in-the-second-hundred-years-1927-it-begins/

Flying Elephants:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/flying-elephants-laurel-and-hardy-were-never-faster-or-crazier/

Sugar Daddies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/sugar-daddies-1927-laurel-and-hardy-and-finlayson-go-to-venice-beach/

Do Detectives Think?

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/watching-the-detectives-laurel-and-hardy-do-detectives-think-1927-this-one-is-the-real-thing/

Sailors Beware!:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/laurel-and-hardy-in-sailors-beware-1927-the-worlds-first-eisenstein-parody/

With Love and Hisses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/with-love-and-hisses-1927-laurel-hardy-and-the-archaeology-of-kickdownism/

Love ‘Em and Weep:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/love-em-and-weep-still-not-a-laurel-and-hardy-film-but-say-hello-to-james-finlayson-and-mae-busch/

Slipping Wives:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/slipping-wives-1927-and-yes-i-am-going-to-blog-a-review-of-every-single-laurel-and-hardy-movie-i-genuinely-think-its-a-good-use-of-my-time/

45 Minutes from Hollywood:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/45-minutes-from-hollywood-some-context-for-laurel-and-hardy/

Duck Soup:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/duck-soup-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-the-first-laurel-and-hardy-film-arguably/

The Lucky Dog:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/the-lucky-dog-laurel-and-hardy-first-meet-on-film/

 

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Milk is thicker than Blood. Reposting on the occasion of Samuel Richardson’s birthday.

conradbrunstrom

irichaa001p1

Samuel Richardson’s birthday reminded me of this…

https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=43645

Certainly the first (and last) time I will ever co-publish in a book about global healthcare strategy.

Anyhow, it’s listed on my academia.edu page now.  Thus:

http://nuim.academia.edu/ConradBrunstrom

The final chapter in the book is written by myself and my PhD student.  Siobhan O’Donnell  has just successfully completed her doctorate on bad mothers of the eighteenth-century.  This particular chapter concerns the centrality of breastmilk within the novels of Samuel Richardson.

There’s a deal of nursing in the novels of Samuel  Richardson.  Pamela Part II (1741), admittedly the grand-daddy (or is it grand-mammy?) of all unnecessary sequels deals with the central issue of whether or not a wife is allowed to choose to nurse her own child.  The twenty-first century (praise be) has sort of agreed on this issue, which is why it is so compellingly terrifying to read the section where Mr…

View original post 509 more words

Aretha Franklin sings the Beatles

Rigby

As we mourn the greatest voice of our generation, or the previous generation, or the next generation, I started to look up some of her covers.

To my knowledge, she covered five Beatles tracks.

Lady Madonna.

This is far far too short because it only exists as the title music for the first season of the sitcom “Grace Under Fire”.  It was replaced after one season by something much blander.  Anything after Aretha Franklin would have been blander.

Let it Be.

There’s something perhaps a little obvious about Aretha Franklin singing “Let it Be”.  Paul McCartney knew he’d written a gospel song as soon as he’d written it and successfully pitched it to Aretha Franklin even before it was a hit for the Beatles.  It sounds amazing of course, but it sounds amazing in ways that you could extrapolate before you’d heard it.

The Long and Winding Road.

Another Paul McCartney song from the same period.  It has a brooding and simmering piano and organ intro that will remind you of the intro to Dusty Springfield’s version of “Son of a Preacher Man”.  The melody is cleverly subverted, and it becomes a song that could go on forever.  The Beatles’ version of the song is long but perfectly constructed – it leads somewhere (your door).  Aretha Franklin’s version is long and winding and relentless, continually subverting where you think you might be headed.

Eleanor Rigby.

This is the most famous of Aretha Franklin’s cover versions – famous for immediately converting things into the first person… “I’M Eleanor Rigby…. etc. etc.”  Mind you, she doesn’t pretend to be Father McKenzie.  And she stays in the third person for the graveside verse.

Aretha Franklin cannot bring herself to sing the pivotal line “no one was saved”. She just can’t do it.  Understandably.

When Paul McCartney sings the song, it’s with an eerie precision and emotional detachment that is, in its own way – profoundly moving (in the same way that Samuel Beckett can be profoundly moving).  Aretha Franklin sings, as so often, as though her own life depends upon it.  She can’t intone that no one is saved because she’s busy saving herself while singing.  Wonderful.

Fool on the Hill.

This is actually my favourite Aretha Franklin Beatles cover, though it was only released decades after its recording on a sort of bits and pieces album.  The song is completely transformed, yet a central aspect of the logic of the song is preserved and enhanced.  Gone are the recorders (of course) and gone is the pastoral childlike flavour of the Beatles recording.  In its place is a sort of lounge jazz sense of relaxation – relaxation so hypnotic it becomes almost mystical.  The Fool is now in a jazz club on a hill – or perhaps in a jazz club called “The Hill”.  But he’s still cool, and the coolness implicit in the song’s celebration of ignoring the scorn of others exfoliates.  This is a re-imagining that really brings out the “not caring” aspect of “Fool on the Hill”.  It’s a very very adult version of a wonderful song.

All of these songs are by Paul McCartney.  I’m trying, meanwhile, to imagine Aretha Franklin singing “Everbody’s got Something to Hide Except for Me and my Monkey”.  It would have been a masterpiece.

Perhaps in heaven all fantastical yet imaginable things are realised, so perhaps she’s singing it right this minute.

Here’s a link to a far more educated site that (most importantly) has links to most of the songs…

https://slate.com/culture/2018/08/aretha-franklins-beatles-covers-appreciated.html

Babes in Toyland (1934): Laurel and Hardy and the Unheimlich.

March of the Wooden Soldiers - #29 in the stocks

Nothing is scarier than a good children’s movie – for the simple reason that you tend to be a child when you first see it.  And it is as a child you first witness fairy tale cuteness blended with pure malevolence.  That which is warm and familiar may be simultaneously hostile and threatening.  Exposure to such nightmares is probably very good for us in the long run.  At any rate – certain classic children’s films scare us in a particular way that no adult horror movie will ever scare us.  And they will scare us for longer.

Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers is scarier than Wizard of Oz.  It has fewer sets than Wizard of Oz making it feel like a version of stage pantomine.  The film also incorporates operetta, and Tom Tom and Bo Peep spend a deal of time trilling at one another.  It has a human/inhuman villain – Barnaby – who will throw a huge family out of that shoe house if Bo Peep does not agree to marry him.  (Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee trick him into marrying Stannie instead).  Barnaby is utterly remorseless and cruel – scarier by far than the bogeymen that surround Toyland.  When Barnaby escapes to Toyland (after Ollie has exposed the fact that Barnaby tried to frame Tom Tom for the pignap and murder of one of the three little pigs), he is immediately acknowledged as leader of the Bogeymen.  In many way, Toyland and its environs are cruel places.

The costumes are also very eerie.  The three pigs dance awkwardly. There’s an oversized cat and mouse.  There is also an actually baby in a tree top as well that ought to terrify  everyone.

There was something about the ducking stool that shocked me in particular as a child.  The spectacle of our unintelligent but supremely benign heroes being subjected to this kind of theatrical societal revenge was quite traumatic.  The fact that (almost) everyone in town seems to find this ritual humiliation hilarious is quite chilling.

In all of this, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are central figures, but the film devotes comparatively little attention to their gags in isolation.  There is very little that they do that does not have a bearing on the main plot here.  In most Laurel and Hardy features, they are given time simply to develop a tangential sketch – but not here.  Here they are actors in an actual story.  Stan has a strange and useful facility with bat and missile stunts.  Ollie is far sharper witted than he normally is.

It is well known that Stan Laurel and significant and bitter arguments with Hal Roach about the direction of this film.  Their relationship never recovered, eventually leading Stan to belief that he and Ollie would be better off working at some other studio. Fatal.

At the end of the film, the wooden soldiers are finally unleashed and the bogeymen are repelled.  Ollie (who has done more than anyone else to save the community) is accidentally shot at with a cannon and needs to have about a thousand darts removed from him.  Everybody laughs.

I can’t judge this film as I would any other film with Stan and Ollie. I can’t do so because my recollections of seeing this film with a mixture of fascination and horror as a small child are too strong.  I fear the return of the repressed.

I’ve some thoughts about other Laurel and Hardy films.

Like

Them Thar Hills:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/28/la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-pom-pom-laurel-and-hardy-in-them-thar-hills-1934/

Going Bye Bye:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/couldnt-you-see-that-he-was-annoyed-laurel-and-hardy-in-going-bye-bye/

Hollywood Party:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/in-the-middle-of-it-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-hollywood-party-1934/

Oliver the Eighth:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/i-was-dreaming-i-was-awake-then-i-woke-up-and-found-myself-asleep-laurel-and-hardy-in-oliver-the-eighth-1933/
Sons of the Desert

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/the-greatest-marital-comedy-ever-made-laurel-and-hardy-in-sons-of-the-desert-1933/

Dirty Work:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/you-can-always-drop-another-brick-laurel-and-hardy-in-dirty-work-1933-2/

Wild Poses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/are-you-a-laurel-and-hardy-completist-of-course-you-are-thats-why-youll-watch-wild-poses-1933/

Busy Bodies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/the-one-in-a-sawmill-laurel-and-hardy-in-busy-bodies-1933/

The Midnight Patrol:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/cold-blooded-murder-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-midnight-patrol-1933/

The Devil’s Brother

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/a-little-light-opera-a-little-gallows-humour-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-devils-brother-aka-fra-diavolo-1933/

Me and my Pal

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/how-to-wreck-a-high-profile-wedding-easier-than-you-think-laurel-and-hardy-in-me-and-my-pal-1933/

Twice Two:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-cakeman-always-rings-twice-laurel-and-hardy-in-twice-two-1933/

Towed in a Hole:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/perhaps-as-good-as-it-gets-laurel-and-hardy-in-towed-in-a-hole-1932/

Their First Mistake:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/oliver-she-says-i-think-more-of-you-than-i-do-of-her-stanley-well-you-do-dont-you-oliver-well-we-wont-go-into-that-laurel-and-hardy-in-their-first-mistake-1932/

Pack Up Your Troubles

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/labour-of-love-laurel-and-hardy-in-pack-up-your-troubles-1932/

Scram:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/see-what-a-little-kindness-will-do-laurel-and-hardy-in-scram-1932/

County Hospital:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/hasnt-he-suffered-enough-stan-visits-ollie-in-county-hospital-1932/

The Chimp:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/is-there-a-primatologist-in-the-house-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-chimp-1932/

The Music Box:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/stairway-to-heaven-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-music-box-1932/

Any Old Port:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/33082

Helpmates:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/ollies-worst-and-finest-twenty-minutes-laurel-and-hardy-in-helpmates-1932/

“On the Loose”:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/on-the-loose-41-seconds-of-laurel-and-hardy-2/

Beau Hunks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/no-time-for-levity-its-laurel-and-hardy-in-beau-hunks-1931/

One Good Turn:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/we-havent-eaten-for-three-whole-days-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-laurel-and-hardy-in-one-good-turn-1931/

Come Clean:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/well-tell-the-truth-about-this-woman-well-come-clean-now-you-go-in-and-tell-em-laurel-and-hardy-in-come-clean-1931/

Pardon Us:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/they-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won-laurel-and-hardy-in-pardon-us-1931/

Laughing Gravy:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/and-now-a-choice-of-endings-laurel-and-hardy-in-laughing-gravy-1931/

The Stolen Jools:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-stolen-jools-all-of-1931-hollywood-in-2-reels-part-of-why-laurel-and-hardy-is-great-2/

Chickens Come Home:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/everybody-has-a-past-laurel-and-hardy-in-chickens-come-home-1931/

Be Big:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/these-boots-arent-made-for-walking-laurel-and-hardy-in-be-big-1931/

Another Fine Mess:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-most-famous-misquoted-catchphrase-of-them-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-another-fine-mess-1930/

The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/oh-the-grimacing-butler-the-laurel-and-hardy-murder-case-1930/

Hog Wild

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/what-price-decent-reception-laurel-and-hardy-in-hog-wild-1930/

Below Zero:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/what-have-they-done-to-deserve-this-laurel-and-hardy-in-below-zero-1930/

Brats:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/child-is-the-father-to-the-man-laurel-and-hardy-in-brats-1930/

Blotto:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/they-should-never-have-ended-prohibition-laurel-and-hardy-in-blotto-1930/

Here is Night Owls:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpres

Angora Love:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/angora-love-laurel-and-hardys-last-silent-comedy-the-one-with-the-goat/

The Hoose Gow:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-hard-time-had-by-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-hoose-gow-1929-reviewed/

They Go Boom:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/they-go-boom-1929-they-really-do-this-laurel-and-hardy-title-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin/

Perfect Day:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/perfect-day-laurel-and-hardys-not-lou-reeds/

Men O’ War:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/men-owar-and-the-dawn-of-doh-laurel-and-hardy-in-1929/

Berthmarks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/berth-marks-1929-laurel-and-hardy-and-the-comedy-of-confined-spaces/

Unaccustomed as We are Are:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/unaccustomed-as-we-are-laurel-and-hardys-first-sound-film-in-1929/

Bacon Grabbers:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/repo-men-original-and-best-laurel-and-hardy-in-bacon-grabbers-1929/

Double Whoopee:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/double-whoopee-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-set-entirely-in-a-hotel-lobby-and-in-the-street-just-outside-it/

Big Business:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/retributive-perfection-laurel-and-hardy-in-big-business-1929/

That’s My Wife:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/the-marriage-of-true-minds-laurel-and-hardys-thats-my-wife-1929/

Wrong Again:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/rich-people-are-different-laurel-and-hardy-in-wrong-again/

Liberty:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/laurel-and-hardy-nearly-plummeting-to-their-deaths-over-and-over-again-liberty-1929/

We Faw Down:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/secrets-and-lies-laurel-and-hardy-in-we-faw-down-1928/

Habeas Corpus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/knowing-where-the-bodies-are-buried-laurel-and-hardy-in-habeas-corpus-1928/

Two Tars:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/appetite-for-autodestruction-two-tars-1928-reviewed/

Early to Bed:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/will-success-spoil-oliver-hardy-oh-you-betcha-early-to-bed-1928/

Should Married Men Go Home?:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-golfing-one-laurel-and-hardy-in-should-married-men-go-home-1928/

Their Purple Moment:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/their-purple-moment-1928-dont-you-just-love-it-when-stan-and-ollie-are-all-shy-and-flirty/

You’re Darn Tootin’:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-descent-to-trouser-fighting-youre-darn-tootin-1928/

From Soup to Nuts:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/laurel-and-hardy-embarrassing-rich-folk-satisfaction-guaranteed-from-soup-to-nuts-1928/

Leave em Laughing:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/leave-em-laughing-1928-gas-attack-in-culver-city/

Battle of the Century:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/battle-of-the-century-1927-the-pie-fight-is-sublimely-vindicated/

Putting Pants on Philip:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/putting-pants-on-philip-laurel-and-hardy-and-coming-to-america/

Hats Off:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/indiana-jones-why-dont-you-try-to-find-hats-off-the-lost-laurel-and-hardy-film/

Call of the Cuckoo:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/call-of-the-cuckoo-1927-laurel-and-hardy-are-bit-players-again-and-their-hair-hasnt-grown-back-yet/

The Second Hundred Years:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/laurel-and-hardy-in-the-second-hundred-years-1927-it-begins/

Flying Elephants:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/flying-elephants-laurel-and-hardy-were-never-faster-or-crazier/

Sugar Daddies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/sugar-daddies-1927-laurel-and-hardy-and-finlayson-go-to-venice-beach/

Do Detectives Think?

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/watching-the-detectives-laurel-and-hardy-do-detectives-think-1927-this-one-is-the-real-thing/

Sailors Beware!:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/laurel-and-hardy-in-sailors-beware-1927-the-worlds-first-eisenstein-parody/

With Love and Hisses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/with-love-and-hisses-1927-laurel-hardy-and-the-archaeology-of-kickdownism/

Love ‘Em and Weep:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/love-em-and-weep-still-not-a-laurel-and-hardy-film-but-say-hello-to-james-finlayson-and-mae-busch/

Slipping Wives:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/slipping-wives-1927-and-yes-i-am-going-to-blog-a-review-of-every-single-laurel-and-hardy-movie-i-genuinely-think-its-a-good-use-of-my-time/

45 Minutes from Hollywood:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/45-minutes-from-hollywood-some-context-for-laurel-and-hardy/

Duck Soup:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/duck-soup-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-the-first-laurel-and-hardy-film-arguably/

The Lucky Dog:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/the-lucky-dog-laurel-and-hardy-first-meet-on-film/

 

70 Years since the Don Bradman duck. Eerie poignant beauty.

It’s been exactly seventy years today since Donald Bradman’s very last test innings.  For two decades, Bradman had bestrode the cricketing world like a colossus.  His run aggregate of 6996 looks comparatively modest, but of course there was the little matter of World War Two interrupting him in his prime, together with the fact that far fewer matches were played between fewer test playing nations in Bradman’s day.  He played in just 52 test matches and achieved the astonishing average of 99.94.

This means, quite simply, that on average Don Bradman was likely to score a century in every test match he played.  No other player has come close to this level of dominance.  Behind Bradman, with averages of 61 and 60 come Adam Voges, Graeme Pollock, George Headley and Herbert Sutcliffe.  All of these players except for Sutcliffe played in far fewer tests than Bradman, making Bradman’s consistent genius all the more striking.

Perhaps everyone in that ground, Australian and English alike, was hoping that Bradman would achieve those four runs with an elegant boundary and be able to retire with an average of 100.  Almost everyone.  Eric Hollies, it turns out, had other ideas, and dismissed the master for a duck.

There is something exquisite about this agony.  There was nothing about this dismissal that can detract from Bradman’s lifetime achievement.  There is a good case for saying that statistically speaking Bradman was the highest achieving performer in any major sport ever.  But the denial of the 100 average feels like a perverse victory for cricket itself.  Those pristine three figures remain tantalisingly out of reach and retain a mystical allure.  It’s as though this number, so redolent of perfection itself, is something that will forever remain (just) out of mortal reach.

I could wax theological at this point but I’m really not qualified so I’ll stop.

A happy and fugitive anniversary – 130 years of listening to recordings of “The Lost Chord”.

conradbrunstrom

One of the most successful songs ever written was showcased as one of the very very first bits of music ever recorded.  Indeed, today is the single most significant anniversary of the fact that a performance of music can be recorded.

You can hear it here…

This cylinder was sent by Edison to be played at a press conference in London on August 14, 1888.

A few months later, another cylinder was sent back to Edison, by way of reply.

On this cylinder you can hear a bit of an after dinner speech by Arthur Sullivan where he accuses a previous speaker of being drunk and thanks Thomas Edison for this wonderful invention, though he can’t help feeling anxious about the amount of “hideous” and “bad” music that is likely to be preserved for posterity as a result of it.

Sullivan’s famous tune, which I’ve heard performed in drafty church…

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The Great Factotum Amusing Himself. Happy Birthday to Loose Cannon James Gillray.

conradbrunstrom

gillray

William Pitt’s right leg is supported by uncrowned King of Scotland Henry Dundas and his toe is being avidly kissed as though Pitt were Pope.  His left leg crushes James Fox and his few supporters.  Pitt doesn’t even bother to glance down at his parliamentary colleagues. The world is a sort of yo-yo to him.

But this is not a man who knows how to have fun.  His (potentially) obscene stride with legs bizarrely far apart, only accentuates the fact that he has the Royal Coat of Arms, the symbol of state authority – where his genitals should be.  This is a man who cannot even masturbate in his spare time, and he “amuses himself” therefore with the fate of nations instead.  He has no private land, no “hinterland” (as Denis Healey) used to call it, and behind his public, political persona there is nothing.  There is no “behind”.

William…

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The Birthdays of George IV and Robert Southey. Being reminded of Southey’s Godawful “Vision of Judgement”.

        Southey

 

The moderately interesting coincidence of romantic poet Robert Southey (the laureate who turned out a “Tory at” last) sharing a birthday with the Prince Regent (George IV) led me to reflect on what a deliciously awful poem his Vision of Judgement (1821) really was.  It’s an attempt by a “Laker” to harness some of the descriptive method associated with Wordsworth and Coleridge to the narrow purposes of state eulogy.

       The poem is written in the form of blank verse hexameters, elongated lines that remind you a bit of Elizabethan         era “poulter’s measure” in their studied long-windedness.  Unrhymed, such verses barely hang together and the         entire metrical effect is of tedious pomposity.  Southey is, quite literally, out of breath.

George III has finally died.  Southey is transported suddenly on a scary dream quest alleviated suddenly by this vague but reassuring “voice”…

                                                                   O son of the Muses!
Be of good heart, it said, and think not that thou art abandon’d;
For to thy mortal sight shall the Grave unshadow its secrets;
Such as of yore the Florentine saw, Hell’s perilous chambers
He who trod in his strength; and the arduous Mountain of Penance,
And the regions of Paradise, sphere within sphere intercircled.
Child of Earth, look up! and behold what passes before thee.

In other words, “you – Robert Southey – are as important as Dante – and are similarly inspired.”  However, since the poem is anything but inspired, it is impossible to credit this “voice” with any kind of autonomous identity or authority.  This is just Bob Southey telling us that he’s as important as Dante.

The poem then shows the narrator accompanying the newly deceased George III upwards towards Heaven.  Of course, George has been pretty much out of if for the past eight and a half years and so it is easy to portray his death not only as liberation but as a kind of restoration to life, or at least to consciousness.

This king arrives in paradise and is lied to as soon as he gets to Heaven, greeted by his unfortunate assassinated former prime minister Spencer Perceval…

Then as his waken’d mind to the weal of his country reverted,
What of his son, he ask’d, what course by the Prince had been follow’d.
Right in his Father’s steps hath the Regent trod, was the answer:
Firm hath he proved and wise, at a time when weakness or error
Would have sunk us in shame, and to ruin have hurried us headlong.
True to himself hath he been, and Heaven has rewarded his counsels.

Spencer Perceval still regards it as his responsibility to tell comforting lies to his sovereign.  He does not tell George the truth, which is that his dissipated offspring is as deservedly unpopular as ever and, loved by nobody, continues to devote himself to gargantuan self-gratification.

At this point, the poem descends into name dropping and name guessing.  Unnamed but identified, George’s erstwhile accusers John Wilkes and the mysterious pseudonymous “Junius” stand ashamed of themselves in the presence of virtuous King George. As if to relieve the awkward tension George Washington suddenly appears, and the two Georges all but hug – the small unfortunate misunderstanding between them all but forgotten.  They’re both good people it seems.

The role call of celestial celebrities then accelerates.  All of these big names are assimilated to a late Georgian Tory royalist agenda.  Worst of all, Southey presents Milton living as a mild mannered monarchist in paradise:

With other emotion
Milton’s severer shade I saw, and in reverence humbled
Gazed on that soul sublime: of passion now as of blindness
Heal’d, and no longer here to Kings and to Hierarchs hostile,
He was assoil’d from taint of the fatal fruit; and in Eden
Not again to be lost, consorted an equal with Angels

I’m sorry – but Milton “in reverence humbled” is no longer Milton.  I’ve no wish to meet gentle John Milton meek and mild – even in heavenly surroundings.  There must be some better Milton in 1820 who is currently ruling in Hell rather than serving in Heaven.

The mood of reconciliation has Warren Hastings and Edmund Burke as chummy co-residents of the celestial regions.  There’s also Cowper and Nelson in the same paragraph – a rather odd pairing to be sure – were it not for the fact that Southey had edited an edition of Cowper and written a biography of Nelson.  Even in the presence of the Divine, Southey is anxious to puff his own work.

The poem stutters to an end.  But of course this extraordinary and deplorable Laureate cringing has to be forever thanked because it provoked Byron’s very great satirical poem of the same name.  In Byron’s poem, George’s domestic virtues are outweighed by his destructive political cluelessness.  Byron cannot quite bring himself to damn George III to Hell, but he forces George to sneak into Heaven when nobody’s quite looking.  The real target of Byron’s satire is not dead George but living Bob – a poet of such pliancy that he’ll give anyone a good write up for a decent advance payment.  As the poem concludes, Bob Southey is negotiating to write Satan’s biography.

So I must thank Bob Southey on his (and George IV’s) birthday for helping to provoke Byron.  Southey was, if nothing else, a great straight man.

The Death of Hamnet Shakespeare, 422 years ago today.

conradbrunstrom

350px-HamnetDeath

Apparently, 422 years ago today, Hamnet Shakespeare died was buried.   Judith’s twin.  The only son of William Shakespeare.   And do I care?

Maybe.

How does the death of the boy Hamnet affect the author of Hamlet?  Does it make him bitter and twisted, rail at the gods and abandon the last vestiges of hope and faith in a benign universe?

Maybe.

Will Shakespeare of course would not have seen much of the boy – living and working in London while Hamnet went to school in Stratford.  The tangle of emotions felt by the distant Dad may have been expressed and maybe repressed.  Maybe Will got drunk or maybe he got prayerful.  Maybe he displayed a callous indifferent to the departure of his little seen and little known only male offspring while making a mental note to try for another boy when he next headed home.

To lose a…

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Asterix in Switzerland. Eventually and very affectionately reviewed…

asterix

While visiting a French bookshop in Montreal, I seized the opportunity to collect a couple of childhood faves.  Heaven knows what happened to the Asterix books I owned as a child but before a second childhood engulfs me there are worse uses of my meagre ill gotten lucre than purchasing a few replacement Asterix books.  This time in French of course.

Asterix in Switzerland/Astérix chez les Helvètes struck me, as a boy, as a work of hypnotic perversity.  It’s not really about making fun of the Swiss, it’s about a dramatic juxtaposition of filth and cleanliness.  In fact, the central joke in this book involves the impossibility of staging Swiss orgies.

Asterix and Obelix are in search of edelweiss – an essential ingredient in an antidote potion needed to save the life of a quaestor who has been poisoned before he can fully audit a corrupt and degenerate local governor.  This quaestor looks like being the only Roman who might actually die in an Asterix book, since all other military violence in the series consists of being “bashed”.

While in Switzerland/Helvetia there are some jokes made about cheese with holes, yodeling,  and there’s a fastidious innkeeper who has yet to acquire a cuckoo clock and has to make do with shouting “Coucou!” on a regular basis.  There are also such things as Swiss bank accounts, which make great hiding places. Obelix gets drunk for the final part of the book and returns home with the impression that Switzerland is rather flat.

When the Helvetians are given some magic potion to repel the Romans, they bandage them up after bashing them, just to reinforce their neutrality.  “C’est une vocation: nous secourons tous les belligérants quelle que soit leur nationalité…”

Oh, but the orgies… Asterix in Switzerland was the first time I ever heard of orgies as a child.  The earlier orgies in Gaul have been choreographed by one “Fellinus” we are told.  Fellini’s Satyricon had been released a year before this book was published and Albert Uderzo’s illustrations of these sickly bacchanal’s look like stills from the movie.

Central to the Goscinny and Uderzo concept of the orgy is the cheese fondue that gets out of hand.  When a minion is dispatched to prevent Asterix and Obelix completing their mission, he is given “a packed orgy/a panier-orgie”.  However, as the minion subsequently reflects… “une orgie tout seul, ce n’est pas drôle”.

The Helvetian governor, with similar tastes to his Gaulish counterpart, meanwhile complains that you can’t have a proper orgy if the local keep trying to clean up after you all the time.  His orgies are marked by sado-masochistic forfeits.  If you drop your bit of bread in the fondue, you are first beaten with a stick, then whipped, and finally thrown into the lake with weights tied to your feet.  One cheerful little fellow goes through all three stages before crawling back into the palace, dropping his bread and demanding the stick again.

I was fond of cheese as child, and fonder still today.  There was something intoxicating about the prospect of these sticky orgies in which melted cheese dissolves all social inhibitions.  Perhaps no form of perversion was more brilliantly designed to appeal to my pre-pubescent consciousness.  And the most innocent looking fondue set has long been compromised and besmirched by its very early association with this extraordinary book.