Laurel & Hardy

2. 45 Minutes From Hollywood (1926)

45-hollywoodFilmed December 1925 through April 6, 1926. Released December 26, 1926.

Produced by Hal Roach.  Directed by Fred Guiol. Titles by H.M. Walker.

Main Cast: Glenn Tryon, Charlotte Mineau, Rube Clifford, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel

After ‘The Lucky Dog’ (1921), it was another five years before Stan and Babe appeared again in front of the cameras together. In the intervening years though, neither comedian was idle. 

Needing a source of income, Stan initially went back to vaudeville, until meeting up again with ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson and agreeing to film a series of eight comedies for Amalgamated Pictures, that Anderson could attempt to sell as a job lot. Stan left the vaudeville stages behind him for the last time and in early 1922 decided to settle down in Los Angeles and pursue a full time career in the movie business.

Anderson’s publicity drive promoting Stan and the series soon swung into action, as illustrated by this article from Motion Picture News’ May 6th, 1922

‘Anderson Has Comedian. Stan Laurel, Who Came to America With Chaplin, Is Latest Star’

A new English comedian is shortly to be introduced on the screen by Amalgamated Producing Company of Los Angeles, according to announcement made by G. M. Anderson, the head of this new organization producing on the west coast.  The comedian is Stan Laurel, known for his work in various vaudeville engagements.

“In Stan Laurel I believe I have found a comedian who will prove as popular as Chaplin,” Anderson said in speaking of his new comedies. “He is not an imitator of Chaplin, but is a graduate of the same school of experience as Chaplin. In fact, Laurel came to America with the same company of players as Chaplin and for a number of seasons played with the same ‘Fred Karno’s Night in an English Music Hall’ troupe. 

“This comedian, new in films, has an exceptional sense of humor and individuality and personality that registers on the screen, and will bring into film comedies mannerisms of Welshmen and Scotchmen so common in London. Laurel is a pantomimist of exceptional ability and in the three pictures in which he has worked he has adapted his technique to film possibilities in a manner that makes me believe his success is assured.”

For five months G.M. Anderson has been giving his personal attention to the production of comedies starring Laurel.  Three are now completely finished and titled “The Carpenter”, “The Bootlegger” and “The Gardener”. Other films in preparation are titled “Mixed Nuts”, “The Miner” and “Make It Snappy”. A releasing arrangement will shortly be announced by Anderson.’

The pictures Stan made with Anderson were successful enough to finally make his name and give him a reputation as a noteworthy star. Once the series was complete, he moved on for a first stint as a contracted player in one-reel comedies at the Hal Roach Studios, signing on the dotted line in early 1923, as reported in ‘Camera’, February 10, 1923

Stan Laurel has signed a contract with Hal Roach and will soon begin work on his initial picture, which will be a travesty on “Under Two Flags.” Mae Laurel, his wife, will play the leading feminine role. 

exhibitor's trade review June 2 1923
Full page advert from ‘Exhibitor’s Trade Review’, June 2, 1923

Author Rob Stone, in his groundbreaking book, Laurel or Hardy: The Solo Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy, informs us that Laurel’s contract was for a term of five years and that he was to receive 12.5% of the revenue of his films.  

Stan’s experience at the Roach lot appears to have been mostly positive, he was quickly promoted from one to two reel comedies, he met and began working alongside many of the team that would soon become his close friends and regular co-stars, and the twenty-five, or so, films he made there further enhanced his reputation within the industry as a leading comic, and yet he didn’t see out the contracted five years.     

The commonly accepted reason for Stan’s departure from Roach is presented by his official biographer, John McCabe. The story blames Stan’s vaudeville partner and common-law wife, Mae as being too troublesome, always demanding prominent roles in Stan’s pictures and berating Stan for performing with other actresses. Hal Roach, understandably, saw this as too much hassle and released him out of the contract after only 12 months or so.

Although the situation, for want of a better word, with the problematic Mae, appears to have been affecting Laurel’s reputation, he did manage to land a new five year contract with producer Joe Rock. Between February and September 1924, Stan made a dozen films under his new contract, and Rock even managed to convince Mae to leave Stan alone and return to her native Australia.

Joe Rock, it seems, was a pretty clever businessman. He had negotiated twelve months worth of funding, during which time he was to make and release twelve Stan Laurel comedies. The canny producer had his team complete the whole series in just seven months, scheduled the release dates across the year, thus enabling him to sit back whilst banking the remaining five months worth of funding. Stan had been paid for his work, but now had to face the next five months with no work and subsequently no more pay coming in. 

This situation was resolved when Warren Doane, a general manager at the Hal Roach Studios, called Stan and offered him the chance to come back to Roach to work as a writer and gag man. Joe Rock agreed to this under the condition that Laurel remained behind the camera, lest his funders find out the Rock/Laurel comedies were already in the can and pull the remainder of his funding.

Between ‘The Lucky Dog’ and ‘Forty-Five Minutes From Hollywood’, both Stan and Babe appeared in around fifty films and Stan, supported and encouraged by Doane and whilst under the wing of a Roach director named F. Richard Jones, began making a name for himself behind the camera, by writing and directing shorts for other comedians, with some considerable success. 

So, by 1925, both Stan and Babe were under individual contracts at the Hal Roach Studios. Babe’s first film at Roach, ‘Wild Papa’ was released in May 1925, and from then, as Ted Okuda and James L. Neibaur point out, he was used with increasing frequency on the lot, however, he wasn’t put under long term contract at the studio until the middle of the following year, as announced in Motion Picture News, June 19, 1926:

Roach Signs “Babe” Hardy For Pathe Comedies                                                              Oliver Norvelle Hardy, more generally known as “Babe” Hardy, has been signed by Hal Roach for a long term appearance in two-reel comedies for Pathe release. He will play various types of supporting roles in Charley Chase and Mabel Normand comedies, and featured parts in the series of all star two-reelers. His latest appearance was in the Glenn Tryon comedy “Along Came Aunty”.

Given the amount of films that were being churned out of the Roach Studios at that time, it could be strongly argued that it was inevitable the boys would cross paths eventually; and cross paths they surely did, although during the five years post  ‘The Lucky Dog’, the boys were only involved in three other film projects together, Ollie acting and Stan directing. 

The picture that holds a somewhat pivotal role in Laurel & Hardy history and certainly in Laurel & Hardy lore, is a two-reeler called Get ‘Em Young (1926). This was the film that finally fetched Stan out from behind the camera and thrust him back into the spotlight. Stan was one of the picture’s principal writers and was also due to direct, and Babe was cast to play the role of a butler. During the weekend prior to the start of shooting however, Babe sustained third degree burns to his arm in a cooking accident and was unable to take part in the film. Stan was instructed to take his place and so, Mr. Laurel became an actor once more. 

45-minutes-from-hollywood-1-copyright-lobster
Glenn Tryon – ‘The Star’ of the picture

In August of 1926, Stan and Babe were finally cast to appear in the same film together once again. This time, however, unlike ‘The Lucky Dog’, this new film, entitled ‘45 Minutes From Hollywood’, was not a ‘Stan Laurel Comedy’, but had an actor named Glenn Tryon in the lead role. Tryon was being championed by Hal Roach, in the hopes that he would one day take the place of his old star, Harold Lloyd, who’d left Roach in 1924 to produce his own pictures. Unfortunately for Roach, Tryon’s celebrity star didn’t quite hit the heights that they’d hoped, but at least his films did provide an opportunity to bring Roach’s two future megastars together, even if they were only used as supporting players. 

45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926)Stan had a very minor, blink-and-you’ll-miss-him type role in the picture, playing a hotel guest and looking fairly unrecognisable, with a nightcap and a huge, bushy moustache. Babe on the other hand, also sporting equally bushy facial hair, had a larger part to play as a hotel detective, who spent most of his scenes in a state of undress, with only a shower curtain wrapped around him to preserve his modesty.

45-minutes-from-hollywood-5-copyright-lobsterThere was actually a good and quite interesting reason for Stan to be hiding behind a huge moustache, for hiding he was. The reason for this was simply that he was still under contract with producer Joe Rock and for legal reasons he wasn’t allowed to appear in front of the camera until his contract was up – hence the disguise. As mentioned above, Rock had been happy for Stan to work for Roach behind the cameras, writing and directing, but for whatever reason, Stan found himself back in the frame. It was risky and Laurel and Rock ended up sueing each other, even though they had been and continued afterwards to be very good friends. 

Despite both Stan and Babe appearing in another film together, the boys weren’t cast as a team – far from it! In actual fact they don’t even share a scene, being kept apart by a bedroom door.

The film was a Hal Roach ‘All-Stars’ comedy and as such it features very small cameos by other stars from the studio, such as Theda Bara, Our Gang and I’m sure there’s even a quick glimpse of L&H regular Tiny Sandford as a railway guard towards the start.

The basic premise is that Glenn Tryon’s character travels to Hollywood to pay a bill. Whilst in town, Tryon spots what he thinks is a movie about a bank robbery being filmed, but it’s actually a cover for a real bank robbery. Tryon approaches a lady from the “film” who turns out to be a bank robber in drag and the pair get chased down the street by the police. They run into a hotel to hide out and there follows a number of scenes of cross-dressing mix-ups and plenty of running up and down frantically. 

Babe Hardy’s appearance is very welcome as the hotel detective and adds an undeniable quality sadly lacking from the film up until this point. 

On the whole it’s a pretty forgettable affair, as Randy Skretvedt accurately puts it

“45 Minutes From Hollywood is interesting for about 45 seconds”. 

45-minutes-from-hollywood-4-copyright-lobsterThere are a few funny moments from the boys, especially Ollie’s reaction to his jealous wife (some familiar territory for us here) and also the scene where a cat runs up his curtain/towel in the hotel lobby is good for a laugh or two.

It’s the kind of film you re-visit once in a blue moon, for posterity’s sake, but then you quickly realise why you haven’t had it on regular rotation. It’s nice to see it, now and again, but I have to admit, it’s not a film I’ll be watching again in a hurry.

To listen to the audio version of this blog, check out Episode Two of the Laurel & Hardy Blogcast here

7 thoughts on “2. 45 Minutes From Hollywood (1926)”

  1. Well that was bizarre. I haven’t seen many of these very early silent movies so perhaps that was jut how they all were back then – but I struggled to follow the plot! Was it all an in joke about making movies? I lost track of who was who with all the cross dressing. I found myself more interested in the backgrounds, the old trains and cars and street scenes. That’s 2 films in 1 day – well its either this or hoovering the lampshades…

    1. Yes, this is a strange little film, with not many redeeming features. Hardy is pretty good, as he always is, and the background with Stan’s strange appearance is interesting too, but that’s about the lot. Probably the worst of the pre-teaming shorts.

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