The London Film Festival has selected Jon Baird and Jeff Pope‘s Stan & Ollie as a closing-night attraction…fine. But that photo of John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan posing in classic L & H garb is at least partly misleading. It suggests that the film is about the comedy duo in their early to late ’30s heyday (Pardon Us, Bonnie Scotland, Our Relations) when in fact the film is about a last hurrah tour of England and Ireland in 1953, when they were in their early 60s.
The Stan & Ollie premiere will happen on 10.21. Entertainment One (eOne) will present simultaneous preview screenings at cinemas across the UK. The film will open wide on 1.11.19. No U.S. bookings or film festivals? How about a Netflix or Amazon deal? A closing-night slot at any festival is always worrisome, but especially so at the London Film Festival.
Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) and Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) in 1930s Hollywood mode — a look that doesn’t reflect the 1953 setting
Reilly and Coogan as the comic duo during their 1953 farewell British Isles tour.
Boilerplate: “Developed by BBC Films, the film is set in the twilight of Laurel and Hardy’s careers, and will focus on their farewell tour of Britain’s variety halls in 1953.
“Their shtick — Stan the wide-eyed ingénue, Ollie the pompous fool, their meticulously rehearsed physical routines and their charming musical numbers — had made them superstars all over Europe, South America and beyond. However, a split from their controlling mentor (i.e., Hal Roach), the vagaries of studio politics and a run of poorly received films had resulted in their star falling. A series of acrimonious divorces, alimony battles and Oliver Hardy’s failing health didn’t help.
“The British tour was supposed to relieve some of the gloom and, despite numerous glitches, the public loved them. Audiences grew and grew as word spread that Laurel and Hardy were back and as funny as ever. As audiences swelled, so did morale. But as their careers and friendship blossomed, disaster struck as Ollie suffered a heart attack. He tried to carry on performing on the tour, but it became clear that he was too ill. Replacement performers were found to fill in but, without Stan and Ollie’s charm and warmth, the shows simply weren’t the same.
“Stan was offered the chance to perform alone, but refused. He realized that neither worked without the other, that they were so much more together than they were apart. Appreciating the sacrifice made by his friend, Ollie roused himself from his sickbed for a few last, triumphant performances, the very last of their extraordinary career.”