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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolute gem
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't feel that the retelling of the plots of Stan and Ollie's movies was 'padding' at all; these were always interesting to read, especially those that covered films I hadn't seen for many years, or at all. When I finished the book I went straight back and re-read the first chapter on the history of clowns and music-hall, and enjoyed it...
Published on 13 Sep 2003 by Amazon Customer

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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Laurel & Hardy biography a mixed bag
Simon Louvish's epic-length biography Stan and Ollie plays like one of those Laurel & Hardy comedies that were padded to feature-length by the inclusion of romantic leads nobody cares about. Like those movies, one has to wade through a lot of guff to get to the really good stuff.
Louvish has done his research (as he all too eager to convince the reader), and it...
Published on 2 Jan 2002 by Steven Bailey


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolute gem, 13 Sep 2003
By 
Amazon Customer (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't feel that the retelling of the plots of Stan and Ollie's movies was 'padding' at all; these were always interesting to read, especially those that covered films I hadn't seen for many years, or at all. When I finished the book I went straight back and re-read the first chapter on the history of clowns and music-hall, and enjoyed it twice as much having learnt where it led. It's unfortunate that there wasn't more anecdotal stuff about Stan and Ollie as people to make us feel a little closer to them; most of the biographical details cover their endless divorces and remarriages - but I shouldn't complain- it must have been far more tiresome for THEM.
Of course Louvish speculates on parallels between the boys' films and their private lives but he is never tempted to over-intellectualise. His affection for his subject shines through and is contagious, and I left this book wanting to go back and re-view their films in a new light.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Laurel & Hardy biography a mixed bag, 2 Jan 2002
By 
Steven Bailey "Cinemaven" (Jacksonville Beach, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Simon Louvish's epic-length biography Stan and Ollie plays like one of those Laurel & Hardy comedies that were padded to feature-length by the inclusion of romantic leads nobody cares about. Like those movies, one has to wade through a lot of guff to get to the really good stuff.
Louvish has done his research (as he all too eager to convince the reader), and it pays off most admirably when debunking previous tales of the Laurel & Hardy history. The most compelling example is the chapter detailing Oliver Hardy's first marriage. Hardy and film historians have long maintained that he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to pursue a film career, and there was where he met and married first wife Madelyn. Louvish detailingly reveals that Madelyn was in fact Jewish, that Hardy met her in Georgia at the time of an infamous Jewish lynching, and that Hardy and his wife exited Georgia as a result, never to return.
Such dramatic payoffs are alone worth the price of the book. Louvish also often gleans much enlightened insight into Laurel & Hardy's film work (as well he should--Louvish in a part-time film teacher). To cite just one example, his analysis of the finale of L&H's penultimate Hal Roach film A Chump at Oxford is as insightful and moving as the finale itself.
Along the way, though, the reader must endure the obstacle courses that plagued Louvish's previous bios of W.C. Fields and The Marx Brothers (both of which tomes are shamelessly plugged throughout this book)... For one thing, Louvish lards his writing with precious verbosity... My final complaint with the book is that when it gets into Laurel & Hardy at their prime, it quotes other, far superior sources (most notably Randy Skretvedt's) to the point of plagiarism. And even then, accuracy is not Louvish's strong suit. Louvish quotes a Skretvedt interview with Hal Roach in which Roach, by way of contrasting L&H with other comedy teams, states that "Abbott and Costello worked at our studio, and they used to fight like hell. But with Laurel and Hardy, when I fired Hardy, Laurel cried." This quote has almost as many errors as it has words: A&C *never* worked for Roach, and Roach *never* fired Hardy (Roach had Stan and Babe on concurrent, separate contracts and often suspended Laurel or let his contract lapse during certain disputes).
For all of its faults, Louvish's genuine appreciation for Laurel and Hardy's comic artistry makes a considerable amount of Stan and Ollie worthwhile writing for the fervent L&H buff. Just make to sure to avoid Louvish's verbal land mines in order to reach the real meat of the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dancing to the Ku-Ku Song, 22 April 2007
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
By the time I was old enough to appreciate adult comedies shown on TV, i.e. in the late 50's, Oliver "Babe" Hardy was already dead (1957) and Stan Laurel was on the final downslope of his life. Yet, it was Laurel & Hardy, along with Abbott & Costello, that tickled my embryonic sense of humor before "graduating" to Red Skelton, Bob Hope, and Jackie Gleason.

Here, in STAN AND OLLIE: THE ROOTS OF COMEDY, author Simon Louvish draws from even more compulsively detailed books on the duo to yield a satisfyingly comprehensive overview of The Boys' professional lives, both solo and paired. I never thought of Stan and Ollie as being anything other than a team. Yet, the first eighteen chapters of this 40-chapter volume reveal that each had a successful career before being eternally cemented together in the 1927 silent movie, "Duck Soup". Each began life separated by the Atlantic, Stan being born in the north of England in 1890, and Oliver in Georgia of the American South in 1892. Before their fateful pairing by Hal Roach in Hollywood in 1927, Laurel worked his way up through the ranks of U.K. and U.S. vaudeville and U.S. film, while Hardy appeared in 200+ silents on his own beginning with "Outwitting Dad" (1914), a release coming from the then-booming Florida film industry. For both, it was a long and tortuous road to Tinseltown and destiny.

I need to stress that STAN AND OLLIE focuses on their professional lives. If you're looking for a detailed inside peek at their personal existences, look elsewhere. OK, sure, the reader learns, as narrative asides, that Ollie bet on the horses and Stan had a weakness for Yorkshire pudding, chocolate candies, and ocean sport fishing. Both enjoyed golf. And, moreover, both had rocky domestic lives with multiple, mostly failed marriages - Hardy totaling three wives in as many marriages, and Laurel amassing four wives in five marriages, plus one common-law relationship. But, I finished the narrative not really having a feel for the men behind their famous on-screen personae. This skewed exposition is exemplified by the choice of photos included in the text; there are virtually none of Stan and/or Ollie outside of stills from their screen roles. Weren't there pesky paparazzi in those days? There was one photo taken of Hardy towards the end of his life that I particularly wanted to see out of morbid curiosity. As Louvish describes it:

"In 1956 ... (Ollie) reduced his weight by 150 lbs ... The last photograph of Stan and Babe together, in 1956, shows a recognizable smiling Stan, but beside him stands a stranger, relatively trim, with flabby flesh replacing his double chins, thin silvery hair and a rictus of a smile."

My distinct impression was that, throughout the composition of STAN AND OLLIE, the author worked overtime to protect the image and memory of his heroes. That's fine, but it results in a somewhat one-dimensional piece, albeit otherwise excellent as far as it goes.

One rarely sees any of the old Laurel and Hardy movies on TV anymore. Maybe it's just because I don't stay up into the wee hours. STAN AND OLLIE compels me to re-visit their screen appearances on DVD rentals to remind myself of the laughter of childhood memory.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative but somewhat padded, 5 Mar 2003
By 
Mr. D. Hazel "davidhazel" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
Simon Louvish has obviously done his homework when researching this book, and there is a lot of background information about the famous duo that I, as a big fan of theirs, found very interesting. However, I felt that there was no real need for the author to spend so much time re-telling the plots of so many of their films. There isn't much point doing this, except for films that have been lost; the films themselves outdo any re-telling by about a million light-years. I also felt that the author had a tendency to do a lot of psycho-analysis of the duo based on the films. I was not wholly convinced that the conclusions he came to when doing this were justified. Sometimes it seemed as though he was trying to detract from the duo (Stan in particular) in the way he slanted the analysis. This is an interesting and informative book, but the endless re-telling of plots makes it seem over-padded and slows the pace considerably, and the psycho-analysis often seems to say more about the author than it does about Stan or Ollie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, 11 Dec 2006
This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
With depressing regularity, there continues to be biographies hitting the market that appear to be more interested in sensationally demolishing deceased heroes than actually give an insight into there lives. Happily, this is not one of them.

The author has clearly attempted to give an unbiased overview of both their lives. We are given an honest but respectful picture of two great comedians and two flawed but decent human beings. recommended to all fans.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best biography of the duo so far, 30 Nov 2001
Louvish can be an irritating and somewhat self-congratulatory writer at times,but there's no doubting his enthusiasm for his subject(s),and he's produced a thorough and vivid account of the most easy-to-admire double-act in movie history.Not without its faults,but still an engrossing read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A hollow account, 21 Mar 2007
By 
J. S. Dixon "Jeremy Dixon" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
This book gave me some idea about the peaks and troughs in Laurel and Hardy's careers, but it felt a little hollow. Louvish does document Laurel and Hardy's lives, but the accounts always seem a bit thin on detail. Crucially, there is virtually no information on how they got on or what they thought of each other. Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of the films. All of this is tied together by the author's theories about the nature of "clowns" (by which he means comedians). I found these theories unconvincing and didn't really understand what he was driving at.

I also found that Louvish's style grated on me. He has a tendency to stress that his subjects accounts are biased and often follows this with questions to the reader. This seems unescessary. People's accounts are always partial and biased. It is the author's job to judge the credibility of the sources and to provide his own account. He also has a habit partially describing events and promising to finish them later. I found this frustrating as the details of the promised stories were often not exciting enough to warrant this approach.

On the positive side, this book did interest me enough to look for other accounts. It also contains comprehensive bibliographies and filmographies.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars on the trail of the lonesome mimes, 29 Sep 2006
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This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
The achievement of this book is to appreciate the cultural significance of L&H. Louvish sees that they are archetypes, true clowns or `imps of the perverse' as he puts it. He identifies their antecedents in the gentle surrealism of British Music Hall, and their influence on the dual solipsism of `Waiting for Godot'.

In between, the text is often verbose and abounds in clumsy expressions (`the taxman breathed heavily on their trail'). Louvish also indulges too much in detailed descriptions of films, something as dull as other peoples' dreams. If you've seen the film you don't need a description and if you haven't it will convey little to you. On the whole, though, he strikes the difficult balance between critic's evaluation and fan's celebration.

It's not necessary to read books about Laurel & Hardy; the work speaks for itself. But if you want one, you could certainly do worse than this.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contains some interesting bits but wait for the paperback, 28 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Simon Louvish does gleen some interesting points about the duo, particularly their early years, but his writing style come across like a heavy lecture.
Similar to some lectures I have sat through He tends to quote at length from other sources somewhat to excess, and make suppositions from flimsy evidence. He has also done his research on some L&H contempories, but plugs his other books far too often. (Like the ones that strangely appear on the recommended reading lists lecturers give out)
As part of the analysis, some films are rather glossed over when they dont fit a point that is being made, about possible homosexual inference in the humour or about the troubled married life of the boys. These points seem to come out of the same school of analysis that plagues A'Level English...
When one reaches the end of the book one feels that it would have benefited from harsher editing and been 250 rather than 500 pages long
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray for StanandOllywood!, 23 Feb 2014
By 
Lorraine Montgomery (South Shields, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy (Paperback)
I read this book years ago, and was delighted to read it again. Excellent research, tons of facts about Stan & Ollie, their colleagues, silent movies, and the social and political pressures they endured. Loved this book.
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Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy
Stan and Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy by Simon Louvish (Paperback - 2 Sep 2002)
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