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LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES by Randy Skretvedt — A Closer Look

[by Leonard Maltin]

Labeled “The Ultimate Edition,” this massive volume represents the third time L&H devotee Skretvedt has published the results of his decades-long research on Laurel and Hardy—and it is magnificent. I know a fair amount about this team, having watched and written about them for many years, but I got lost in the pages of this book the other night and couldn’t put it down. I also had trouble picking it up again: it’s incredibly heavy, and well worth its price, not only in content but in sheer heft. There is 50% more text than there was in its second incarnation.

Of the one thousand photos here (800 new to this printing), I would venture to say only dozens have been published before. Many came from Oliver Hardy’s personal collection. If you love Stan and Ollie as I do you will derive great pleasure staring at rare behind-the-scenes shots, scrapbook and home-movie frames, original newspaper ads and posters, elements of working scripts, and much, much more. Want to see Oliver Hardy, Edgar Kennedy, and Hal Roach taking an impromptu swim on location with members of their crew? Or original billboards touting the latest L&H releases? This is the book for you.

Randy seamlessly blends fandom with scholarship in his account of the team’s career and meticulous documentation of their movies. Over the past forty years he got to know key members of the Hal Roach team, from prop men to musicians; their quotes paint a vivid picture of how the Laurel & Hardy films were made. And if you wonder why some of producer Roach’s other comedy series could be so poor, or uneven, when they drew on the same talent pool the answer is crystal clear: they didn’t have Stan Laurel calling the shots.

Even if you own an earlier edition of Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies this oversized, 630-page coffee-table book eclipses them—or to put it another way, leaves them in the dust. “Ultimate” is the key word: here is a volume that lives up to its promise and belongs on every film bookshelf.  Bear in mind that this is a limited edition; according to the publisher, once this hardcover has sold out it will not be reprinted.

Note: Books purchased directly from Bonaventure Press will be numbered, signed by the author, and accompanied by a free audio CD of excerpts from the author’s interviews with L&H luminaries. Click HERE for details.

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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