My Two Centurions

There didn’t seem to be any reason for it to happen, but while discussing 55 DAYS AT PEKING with Shadowplayer Randall William Cook yesterday, I flashed on the quite unrelated idea that George Stevens should have cast his old chums Laurel & Hardy in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.

After all, everyone else was in it. The boys had to have felt left out. And they wouldn’t have been any more absurdly distracting than John Wayne.

We started imagining dialogue: “Well, Stanlius, this is another great story you’ve gotten me into.”

Randy topped that: “Truly, this man was the son of God.” “He certainly was.”

I imagined Ollie stepping on a nail. Randy supplied the line: “OOOH HOO HOOO!”

Max Von Sydow looks down compassionately.

Then I realized that Stevens would never have cast Stan and Max in the same film owing to the danger of audience confusion.

It was only this morning that I realized that Ollie died in 1957 and TGSET was made in 1965. But anything’s possible if you have imagination. Use out-takes from THE BOHEMIAN GIRL? The costumes are close enough. I mean, if the audience is bothered by the sudden switch to academy ratio and black and white and the appearance of a dead comedian in the wrong clothes, I think it’s fair to say you’ve already lost them.

(In fairness to Stevens, he DID cast Ed Wynn in a dramatic role, and the guy’s good, too. I kind of like TGSET as an experimental film: the tableau style is really radical. It’s kind of boring to watch, but so are a lot of experimental films if you’re looking for the wrong things in them.)

6 Responses to “My Two Centurions”

  1. chris schneider Says:

    I’m having visions of another Stevens actor, Katharine Hepburn of ALICE ADAMS and WOMAN OF THE YEAR, following up the Wayne exclamation with “… really He was!” Or maybe an insert of a ‘30s Warner’s cartoon of Hepburn saying that.

    Well, at least it works better than Hepburn saying, of Dorothy Maguire’s Virgin Mary, “Cut this hideous story out of her brain!”

  2. He should have just had Dietrich reprise her epitaph for Hank Quinlan.

  3. “Cut this greatest story ever made out of her brain!” A simple piece of looping. Hepburn can talk fast, as we know.

  4. Best epitaph ever. Though Falstaff’s is pretty good too. And Black Irish O’Hara’s for Elsa Bannister.

  5. John Seal Says:

    Surely this can’t be a coincidence? First you featured a snap of Frank Thring from Brian Trenchard-Smith’s THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, and then you spent time discussing 55 DAYS AT PEKING, which is specifically mentioned by Hugh Keays-Burns’ character in…THE MAN FROM HONG KONG! It seems that if you haven’t seen TMFHK, you urgently need to.

  6. Definitely… pure coincidence, or impure…

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