The comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy made 107 films during their long careers dating from the silent era but in my Film of the Week, Stan and Ollie, it is the twilight of their years that is the focus of the film. It does change the order and time- line of the real- life events but in essence it remains true.
In 1953 the pair had past the peak of their popularity with new performers taking the top spots and to revive their fortunes they arrived in Britain for a stage tour. But a disinterested impresario Bernard Delfont books them into second run theatres with initially poor audiences. When they carry out public appearances the public wakes up and they become a smash hit. But tensions due to a past disagreement and Oliver Hardy’s health lead to this marking the end of their stage appearances.
Jon S. Baird’s film is a joy with two terrific performances by Steve Coogan as Stan and John C Reilly as Ollie, complete with a three- hour make-up and padding daily routine to make him an astonishing look-alike. The pair have their mannerisms and voices to perfection and if you compare their little dance routine from ‘Way Out West’ with the original shown during the end credits there is no difference. Their famous comedy routines are re-created brilliantly and the off- stage relationship of the two reveals both the joy and pathos of their enduring friendship.
This is a real tonic, and it is on BBC1 on Friday and on the I-Player thereafter.