Fat Head


Current mood.

Watching actual Laurel & Hardy after watching STAN & OLLIE is a revelation, even if one knows exactly what kind of revelation to expect. “So THIS is what laughing until you can’t breathe feels like!”

(None of the endless succession of guffawing extras in STAN & OLLIE evokes the painful hysteria a good L&H routine can produce under halfway favourable circumstances.)

Of course, as in TIT FOR TAT here, the hilarity comes with a measure of discomfort. As a child, Fiona feared for Charley Hall’s life when the boys embed his head in a huge tub of Rex’s Pure Lard (no impure or half-hearted lard would do). A friend reports still feeling greasy after watching this a week ago. Hall, clawing a face-hole for himself in his new, literal fat-head is both funny and horrible, as is the moment when he wrenches the entire disgusting mass from his cranium and hurls it splat on the floor, and the later moment when he scrapes fistfuls of clinging fat from the back of his neck. Ugh!

His cash register being filled with syrup gives me a distressing sticky-fingered feeling too. It’s like Salvador Dali’s Atmospheric Chair, which no-one could look at without feeling great anxiety.

6 Responses to “Fat Head”

  1. Yep. Somebody has to clean up those messes, but it is all in a good cause – my laughter.

  2. I love this film. Also interesting in that Hardy was on an obvious diet at the time and seems not much heavier than Stan here. Would the team have been as iconic if they’d appeared as such throughout their career? Seeing as how beloved TIT FOR TAT is, I fear poor Babe needn’t have gorged himself as much as he did in later years.

  3. A lady friend about my age (mid-sixties) had real trouble with “The Music Box” as a kid. She never handled frustration well, and seeing them have to start up the stairs again drove her crazy.

    Part of the brilliance of the boys is how they could do the full spectrum from tiny, nuanced moments to big, crude slapstick — often tying them together, making the small moments more absurd and the big moments more outrageous.

    An all-time personal favorite gag: The boys are trying to sneak into Jimmy Finlayson’s house and clatter around the back yard. When they overhear a servant say it’s probably cats, Ollie has the bright idea of meowing. Fin chucks a pair of shoes and hits them both. You laugh and figure the gag’s over. But Stan takes umbrage and throws a shoe BACK, and Fin “takes it big”.

  4. Ha!

    The thing about the boys is, Ollie could get a little thinner and he still had a big round head compared to Stan’s narrow one. But when he lost a LOT of weight later in life, friends were disturbed. There was some flexibility, but only so much.

    I think also that they could have late-period triumphs on stage late in their lives but the movies, being more unforgiving, would always have eluded them once they no longer looked like their thirties selves. They’re supposed to be ageless.

  5. At some point after “Blockheads” they were never again shown as married and middle-class. I think that’s a pity because that would actually work with their aging.

    Ollie would be the model of the proud, civilized, and wonderfully useless civic leader; the rising local light as seen in “Chickens Come Home”. He might even be exhausted leader of the local Sons of the Desert, and a softer version of Robert Benchley’s public speakers. If married, he’d probably escape the waves of crockery visited on him in the old films. But the little woman’s anger would still be a source of terror and motivation.

    The confusing postwar world would negate any gains in common sense Stan had made over the years. I see him with a stern, upper-crust British wife who regards Hardy as a parvenu; as in early days Stan is torn between marital obedience and his natural leader. “Blotto” begins with Stan, wearing a smoking jacket, sitting uneasily with a good book while Anita Garvin watches him like a hawk. She is going to make him contentedly domestic if it kills him. One can imagine an old Stan having similar evenings, trying to fit the mate’s vision of connubial bliss.

    Either of the boys could have a normal yet understanding daughter as W.C. Fields always had; if one had a son there’s your subplot.

    It’s one thing for the boys to be tramps during the depression, when they were comparatively fit and no worse off than most. But by WWII you worried about them. MGM’s “Nothing But Trouble” put them in a realistic modern flop house, and it’s horrible. You want to know they have some stability because they can’t shrug off an exploded house or ruined business any more. Besides, society was full of cozy berths for fools who’d muck things up. Might as well put the boys in one.

  6. Agree. The outlines for their later movies treat them contemptuously, as if the writers were anxious to assert their superiority.

    Kurt Vonnegut’s line “They could so easily be killed,” expresses his concern for the boys but strikes me as misguided. Theirs is a hostile but *comic* universe, and we’re clearly meant to feel that they’ll bounce back from the worst insults it can throw at them.

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