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Laurel and Hardy Looking Better Than Ever

Laurel and Hardy are coming back to theater screens beginning this weekend in Los Angeles, and that’s cause for celebration. If you’re already a fan, come and enjoy yourself; if you have kids or grandkids, be sure to bring them along. Every young person deserves to experience great comedy like this. Here is the schedule for the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero in Santa Monica, with details about screenings and special guests. And this just in: the opening night show on Friday at the Egyptian will also include the rediscovered silent short The Battle of the Century, featuring the comedy duo’s legendary pie fight.

I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy every day on local television. That’s when I fell in love with Stan and Ollie, as did millions of other baby boomers. Little did I dream back then that the prints were inferior, the newly-shot credits full of spelling errors and missing clever graphics and optical effects. Here is one example of what I saw as a kid and what has been done to restore the original opening: Come Clean.

Several years ago the UCLA Film and Television Archive launched a major effort to restore the Laurel and Hardy short subjects and feature films from the best surviving 35mm materials. These films have been neglected and mistreated over the years to an alarming degree, so the task has been formidable. Longtime L&H fan Jeff Joseph made it his mission to change all of that, which required both money and determination.

Now he has acquired the theatrical rights to the L&H library, hoping to introduce these beloved comedians to a new generation. What’s more, he has taken UCLA ‘s 35mm restorations and given them a digital clean-up, with startling results. It’s no exaggeration to say that the films haven’t looked this good since they were first released in the 1930s.

Here are two vivid examples: the first from Me and My Pal  and the second from Their First Mistake.

To learn more about the restoration effort, read what Susan King has reported in this interesting column: Laurel and Hardy Restored.

And to contribute to the Laurel and Hardy Preservation Fund at UCLA, click HERE.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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