Here's what inevitably happens. I share a movie with a friend or a loved one. Something I think they'll really like but probably have not seen. They love it, and I tell them "That was one of my Dad's favorite movies."

So here are some of those movies, my memories and thoughts, and what made them my Dad's favorites.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are arguably the only comedy act to successfully navigate the transition from silent to sound films, becoming even more popular once their voices could be heard, and going on to win an Academy Award for the tour de force that is “The Music Box,” where the duo spend the lion’s share of the film’s 29 minute length trying to negotiate a piano up an impossibly long and steep flight of stairs. The pair’s mastery of sound in the service of comedy is nowhere more evident than in “Way Out West.”

Although a slight effort when compared to “Blockheads, ” “Sons of the Desert,” and even shorts such as “The Music Box,” “Way Out West” yields two of the most memorable, magical, and frivolous musical numbers in cinema history. And it is these, especially the dance sequence to “At the Ball, That’s All,” that so delighted my Dad.

This is not the only instance of unexpected and incongruous moments of cinematic grace that appealed to my Dad . Another instance is the ice skating scene from “The Bishop’s Wife,” the topic of a later entry. It is also not the only instance where a musical number provides the most memorable moment for my Dad, as “High Hopes” did in “A Hole in The Head,” also the subject of a later entry.

TRIVIA: “At The Ball, That’s All” is performed by the Avalon Boys. You might recognize Chill Wills singing baritone and yodeling. He also performs Stanley’s deep singing voice in “On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Wills went on to an interesting and active acting career, providing the voice for “Francis, The Talking Mule,” and appearing in such films as “Rio Grande,” “Giant” and “McLintock!” An overly-aggressive campaign on his behalf to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “The Alamo” temporarily tainted his reputation in Hollywood, but he was a regular on many television shows throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

On a side note, it is infuriating that this and other classic Laurel and Hardy films are unavailable on DVD. The best you can hope for is to catch them on Turner Classic Movies.

© 2009 Edward Bowen

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© 2009 Edward Bowen