Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies Hardcover – 16 Jun 2016
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Randy Skretvedt's seminal LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES is generally acknowledged as the gold standard in writing about the work of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Since the book's original release in 1987, it has been updated several times through the early 1990s. But over the last 15 years, author Skretvedt has been compiling an Ultimate Edition of his master work, with nearly 50% more text and quadruple the number of photos of previous editions.And to mark its release, Bonaventure Press is producing a single limited print run of 2,000 copies of this special edition, as an oversized 8.5 by 11 hardcover, with heavy glossy paper and all the trimmings of a top-quality art book, to help show off its 1,000 rare photographs and greatly expanded text.In addition: Close to 800 of the images are new to this edition, and include many never-before-published, one-of-a-kind pictures from Babe Hardy s personal collection. Exclusive quotes and fascinating anecdotes from interviews with more than 60 of the team's co-workers, including producer Hal Roach, editors Richard Currier and Bert Jordan, musical director Marvin Hatley, actresses Anita Garvin and Dorothy Granger, and actor Henry Brandon. Detailed accounts of hilarious unused scenes, culled from the original scripts. Details about the locations where the team filmed many of their most famous scenes. Full cast and credit information for each film, providing the names of all the players and their roles as well as previously unknown members of the technical crews. And full information about the musical scores, including the titles of all cues and names of composers. Full information on the many films which are still missing, as well as a section about the new short subjects created for TV.
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The book itself is a weighty hardback of 630 glossy pages. Many of the photos are rare and often serve to show scenes deleted from the final product or link into the private lives of Stan and Ollie – both of whom had more than their fair share of marital problems. It is a beautiful presentation and a must for L&H enthusiasts and fans of cinema in general.
There are two gripes however. In order to fit all of the new information in the book is now a much larger hardback volume, similar in size to the original 1970s hardback version of Laurel and Hardy by John McCabe and Al Kilgore. The problem with this is the book is not as portable as the original paperback and thus restricts how and where it can be read. The other problem is the price which works out at around £60, a lot higher than the £12.95 I paid for the original back in 1988. This may be the single factor that puts some potential buyers off but is symptomatic of a lot of limited edition books theses days where the authors and publishers increase the price.
Another annoying fact is that if you live in America you can buy the book direct from the publisher (with minimal postage costs) but you will receive a copy signed by the author and you get a bonus CD of audio interviews included. However if you buy this version from the UK the postage will cost you a staggering £46 ($65)!. Thus the author and publisher have created a two-tier buying system, putting American L&H fans before those in the rest of the world. This is a great pity and spoils which is otherwise a truly splendid (if expensive) book.
This is the fourth L&H book that has been published in the last 3 years and every one of them is quite expensive but this is the worst offender and the added international postage (if you buy direct from the publisher) puts it out of the reach of a lot of potential buyers. I bought my copy here via Amazon UK where luckily the postage is minimal although we don't get the audio CD or a signed copy (boo!).
I note that the author reviewed his own book on this page when it was first published but removed the review recently after I commented on the above fact and asked him if he could find a way to make the CD available to UK buyers via Amazon. I received no reply so I guess the answer is no. NB: I still love the book but have knocked on star off my rating because of the above problems.
It's a humungous tome, thankfully recently reprinted in paperback and at a more affordable price. Still not cheap, but when you think of the research that has gone into the writing, plus the amassing and compilation of the photos, many of which are rare, then the price is more than justified.
The print quality is not the greatest, to be frank, but again I accept this as a sacrifice made to keep the selling cost as low as possible.
I have other Laurel and Hardy books, and some of them are very good indeed, but this will be the go-to book when I want to find out the details of a particular film. Thankfully there's a good index, as I do find it quite hard to find a particular film amongst the pages. Although presented chronologically, the sections on each film don't begin on a new page but start directly below the previous film. Obviously makes the book more compact saving space this way, but not as easy on the eye.
Still a must buy if you can spare the money, and love Laurel and Hardy as much as the author and I do.