[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.