“Well, here’s another nice Blog you’ve gotten me to do!”
Stanley Laurel & Oliver Hardywere in over 100 short & feature films together and were known for their low-brow, slapstick comedy. In A. Edward Sutherland’s 1939 Laurel & Hardy farce, The Flying Deuces, as usual, we find them playing themselves. They are fishmongers from DesMoines on a Cooks Tour in Paris. While there, Ollie falls madly in love with Georgette, played by Jean Parker, who he soon learns is already in a relationship. He meets Francois (Reginald Gardiner), an officer in the French Foreign Legion who suggests they enlist because the hard work in the Legion will make Ollie forget all about Georgette. So they join & get deployed to French Morocco.
While screening the film, I was immediately impressed with the production design. Production design is made up of art direction & set decoration, and basically a Production Designer is responsible for all the visual elements of a movie that do not involve acting. Until this year, the Art Direction Oscar honored the category. The cinematography, set design & use of shadows are spectacular. Boris Leven was the The Flying Deuces’ Art Director. It turns out that he was nominated for 9 Oscars in different Art Direction categories during his career, including: His first involvement in film, Alexander’s Ragtime Band; The Sound of Music; and The Color of Money. And he shared the Best Color Art Direction & Set Decoration Oscar (with Set Decorator Victor Gangelin) as the Production Designer for West Side Story in ’62 at the 34th Academy Awards. The year before, Stanley Laurel was given an Honorary Academy Award for “creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy”. Although they were essentially joined at the hip, amazingly, Oliver Hardy not only was not so honored at that ceremony, he never received an Honorary or any other Oscar.
There are several artistic references in The Flying Deuces worth noting: Marlene Dietrich’s, “I want to be alone”; the last line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “It is a far, far better thing I do than I do than I have ever done.”; the pair perform a Vaudeville version of Shine On Harvest Moon; and the lovely The World is Waiting for the Sunrise by Eugene Lockhart & Ernest Seitz is “played” on bed spring harp by Stanley. The actual performance is by Harpo Marx who coached Stanley on imitation harp finger work. The song’s been covered for guitar by many artists including Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Les Paul & Mary Ford, and Willie Nelson. One of the most interesting versions is by The Quarrymen from a May 1960 rehearsal tape that is available now on their CD At Home. The Quarrymen was made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Stuart Sutcliffe. Later that year, they changed their name to The Beatles.
A. Edward Sutherland’s The Flying Deuces is a fine representation of Laurel & Hardy at their most clumsy & goofy. It’s also one of their most famous motion pictures. I’ve embedded the full movie below and it’s well worth the 68 minute investment to see these legends in action even if, like me, you’re not a big fan of physical, slapstick comedy. 2 Stars!