Laurel and Hardy, The Lovable Geniuses of Comedy

Laurel and Hardy

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

It is over seventy years since the heyday of Laurel and Hardy yet their movies are still popular, still make us laugh, still surprise us with their brilliant inventiveness. The essence of their humor is the physical differences between the two men. Stan Laurel was the thin one, seemingly short, although actually of average height but short compared to the six feet two inch, 300lb bulk of Oliver Hardy. Their mannerisms also made uks laugh. Stan with his ‘fright’ hair and tendency to high pitched crying, Ollie with his slow, pompous manner, nervous tie twiddling and slow, burning looks directly at the camera, bringing us, the audience into the action.

For thirty years from the mid 1920’s when they were first paired up (initially by accident until the producer, Hal Roach realised how funny they were together), they made over seventy short comedies together and over twenty feature length films. Their one Oscar was for ‘The Music Box’ in 1932, which became one of their best known images – the two men pushing a piano up a seemingly endless staircase.

One of their best known comic routines, which became one of their trademarks, was the ‘Tit for Tat’, controlled violence routine. The best example of this is in one of their earliest works, ‘Big Business’ in 1929. The pair destroy a house gradually as the home owner gradually destroys their car. The escalating violence is genuinely funny.

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Irene Dunne, Five Best Actress Nominations

Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne was a beautiful and highly talented film actress who had an extremely successful Hollywood career during the 1930’s and 1940’s but who has been seemingly forgotten and ignored in recent years. She appeared in several fine romantic comedies and combined great focus and dramatic depth with brilliant comic timing and a natural flair for offbeat and screwball comedy. Many people would be surprised to know that during her career she was nominated for five Best Actress Academy awards.

After her early ambitions to be an opera singer were thwarted Irene turned to the theater and she made her Broadway debut in 1922 in ‘The Clinging Vine’. The beautiful girl soon got noticed by Hollywood scouts and after performing in “Show Boat” on the East Coast, she was contracted to RKO Pictures in 1930. The following year she appeared in ‘Cimarron’, for which she received the first of her five Academy Award nominations.
After doing some comedy routines in ‘Showboat’ in 1936 she was persuaded, albeit reluctantly, to star in a comedy movie ‘Theodora Goes Wild’, also in 1936. the movie was a big success and Irene gained her second Academy Award nomination. She gained her third in 1937 with ‘The Awful Truth’, co-starring with Cary Grant for the first time. She went on to star with him in ‘My Favorite Wife’ in 1940 and ‘Penny Serenade’ the following year.

Irene’s fourth Best Actress nomination was in 1939 for her performance in ‘Love Affair’ with Charles Boyer, and which she always claimed was her favorite film. some fans may disagree and instead nominate the wonderfully moving ‘I Remember Mama’ in 1948 which won Irene her fifth and final nomination. What a shame that such a fine actress got so close on five occasions but never actually gained the coveted Oscar! She did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985 from the prestigeous John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her many brilliant performances. Irene Dunne biography and filmography

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Tyrone Power, Too Short a Life

Tyrone PowerTyrone Power is still a name which inspires strong emotions, particularly in female moviegoers of a certain age. Even so it is difficult nowadays to realise just how big a star, and a heartthrob star at that, that Tyrone Power was.

Tyrone Power was one of the great swashbucklers of Hollywood’s golden Age,  on a par with Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks.

His career total movies is about 50 and he began at the age of 22. Almost immediately his spectacular good looks marked him out and within his first full year of movie acting he leapfrogged from supposedly fourth lead in ‘Lloyds of London’ in 1936 to become a leading man and top star. 

He appeared in ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’, and ‘Suez’ in 1938 which, along with ‘In Old Chicago’ which he had starred in the previous year, became three of the top four of Twentieth Century Fox’s highest grossing films.

Power then cemented his status with a series of highly successful swashbuckling costume dramas such as ‘The Mark of Zorro’ in 1940, ‘Blood and Sand’ in 1941 and ‘Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake’ and ‘The Black Swan’ both in 1942. He had become Godlike and he continued at the top until the 1950’s.

 In November 1958 Power collapsed while filming a dueling scene and died from heart failure. He was buried at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever) with an inscription on his tombstone which reads, “Good night, sweet prince…”.

The Mark of Zorro

Tyron Power, the Swashbuckler

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Norma Shearer, The ex-Queen of Hollywood

'The Women' 1939, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell

'The Women' 1939, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell

Norma Shearer is one of a number of actresses who, although once household names, are now largely forgotten or ignored by the film-going public.
There has been a resurgence of interest in her career and she is now being reevaluated as one of the first “modern Women”, a feminist in all but name who made it permissible on screen to be single and a girl about town. She pioneered the depiction of a new type of emancipated woman, living her own life.
She began he career in Silent movies and came to the attention of the dynamic young MGM producer, Irving Thalberg, who gave her a five year contract, and she was cast in the studio’s first official production ‘He Who Gets Slapped’ in 1924.
Norma soon became a major silent movie star with MGM and when she married her boss, Irving Thalberg in 1927, her career began to skyrocket.
The transition to Talkies caused her no difficulties and she appeared in a string of successful movies in the early 1930’s such as 1931’s ‘Private Lives’ and ‘Riptide’ in 1934. She lost her mentor in 1937 when Irving Thalberg died but she made 6 more movies with MGM, including one of her best works, ‘The Women’ in 1939.

It was almost her last throw of the dice. In 1942 she retired from movie making and consistently refused all inducements to return.
Norma Shearer died in 1983, aged 80.
Norma Shearer Biography
Irving Thalberg Biography

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Jane Russell, More Than a Pretty Face


For two decades Jane Russell was one of the most famous movie stars in the world. she became one of the US armed forces favorite pinups along with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, and the photo of her cleavage in ‘The Outlaw’ became one of the most iconic glamor photographs of the era. Her fame was based on her smouldering good looks and her spectacular 38-24-36 figure but Jane Russell was most certainly more than just a pretty face.

She was quite different in real life from her screen, “femme fatale” image. She maintained that the secret of her happy life was religion, and even at the peak of her fame in the 1940’s and 1950’s, she held weekly Bible study classes at her home in Hollywood.

Jane Russell was born in June 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota, into a well to do Army family and developed an early interest in music a;nd acting. She starated a part time modeling job when she left school and her spectacularly curvy figure soon attracted the attention of Hollywood talent scouts.

She was signed by #RKO’s Howard Hughes and made her debut in 1943 in his Western ‘The Outlaw’. The movie itself was not special but Jane’s cleavage in her pose in the hay was unforgettable and it made her an internationally famous pinup.

Her appearance as Calamity jane opposite Bob Hope in ‘The Paleface’ in 1948 cemented her fame and gave her credibility as a movie actress.

She is best remembered for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ made in 1953 and co-starring Marilyn Monroe. It was without doubt the high spot of Jan e’s careere and the two stars compemented each other perfectly, in a high quality musical, each displaying a marked talent for film comedy.
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Stagecoach, the End of the Beginning for John Wayne


John Wayne as The Ringo Kid

John Wayne as The Ringo Kid

 The brilliant movie ‘Stagecoach’, made in 1939, is often referred to as the “start” of John Wayne’s stellar movie career. It is certainly the movie that got h im noticed and propelled him to Hollywood stardom as the Ringo Kid, but the movie actually marked the end of a phase of his movie career – the period from the late 1920’s to 1939 – when Wayne,  the big ex-football player was learning his new trade.

During this time Wayne appeared in many ‘B’ Western movies such as ‘Range Feud ‘ in 1931,  ‘The Man from Utah ‘ in 1934 and ‘The Oregon Trail ‘ in 1936 and he made valuable friendships with people like John Ford and Ward Bond which would stand him in good stead throughout his career. If ‘Stagecoach’ had come along at the star, not the end of the 1930’s, then Wayne would not have been ready for the challenge.

The movie is generally regarded as the first great Western film and is full of top notch, Oscar-calibre performances from such quality actors as Thomas Mitchell,, Claire Trevor and John Carradine, and even so, the young Wayne alonst steals the show.

He went on to star in most of ford’s subsequent major Westerns, as well as war films and dramas and his career was made.

Read more about ‘Stagecoach ‘

Read more about John Wayne

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Bob Hope, Mr Talented

Bob Hope

Bob Hope died in 2003 but he still ranks amongst the very greatest performers of radio, film and television. As well as being the master of quick-fire comedy in all forms of media, this immensely talented man was also a producer, a writer, a dancer, a singer and one of the world’s greatest earners for good causes.
He hosted the Oscar ceremony (“or as its known at my house,
Passover”) 18 times and was famous for his hard working trips to entertain the troops during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. In 1997 he became the only person ever to be made by Congress an honorary US veteran. He was made an honorary knight by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998, and by the end of his life had received five special Academy Awards for his contribution to the entertainment business.

Hope died on July 27, 2003, at his home in Toluca Lake but he kept wisecracking to the last.  On his birthday on May 29, 2003, he said ‘I’m so old, they’ve canceled my blood type.’ When his wife asked him where he wanted to be buried he replied “Surprise me.”

Learn more about Bob Hope on Hollywood’s Golden

Read about ‘The Paleface’ starring Bob and Jane Russell.

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