Thursday, February 28, 2019

Doll-A-Day 2019 #59: Oscar Week: Laurel and Hardy

  With the recent release of the movie "Stan and Ollie" there has been a renewed interest in Laurel and Hardy lately. They've always been favourites of mine.  Today's Oscar Week dolls are these two guys.

They are obviously Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy,otherwise known as Laurel and Hardy.

They were made by Premiere in 1997,and were Target stores exclusives.

The backs of their boxes contain an pretty accurate account of their pairing.

The back of the box has a flap that opens to show photos of the team.

The inside of the flap is a bit less accurate, although not surprisingly so. The actual quote Ollie frequently used on Stan is,"Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into.",in spite of the title of their 1930 short, "Another Fine Mess". For proof,you can watch a compilation of Oliver saying the famous line HERE. As for the rest of the phrases,none of them are quotes Laurel and Hardy are really known for. I would have gone more for, "You make me tired!", "Why don't you do something to help me?!","You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led.", and "Yes, I never did."

The likenesses are pretty good. Oliver has his spit curl bangs and his tiny mustache.

I'm not so sure it isn't a little too tiny though.

Stan has his stretched smile and tiny eyes.

For films Stan lined his inner eyelids to make his eyes appear smaller. It was all part of his efforts to "look stupider",as was in keeping with the character of 'Stan'.

Their look is instantly recognizable,even if the faces aren't exactly right.

This is one of the few REAL colour pictures of Laurel and Hardy taken in their heyday. Taken by New York Daily News photographer Harry Warneke in 1938,during the shooting of "Blockheads", it hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian.
 The dolls were a limited edition, numbered series and were called '70th Anniversary' editions on their packaging.

That's because 1997 was the 70th anniversary of their first official movie as a team,"Putting Pants on Phillip". They had both appeared in 1921's "Lucky Dog",but not as a team. "Lucky Dog" was a Stan Laurel vehicle, but Oliver Hardy appeared as a thief who robs him. (You can watch "Lucky Dog" HERE.) "Putting Pants on Phillip"  starred them both, but their usual characters weren't set yet. Oliver played a man whose nephew,Phillip, arrives from Scotland wearing a kilt,much to his uncle's embarrassment. Stan played Phillip. (You can watch "Putting Pants on Phillip" HERE.)

  The dolls come with accessories,including display stands

Both have umbrellas

Molded ones that don't open.
Stan comes with a suitcase.

 Oliver comes with a pie.


The fact that Laurel and Hardy dolls frequently come with pies kind of ticks me off. I realize Laurel and Hardy may be best known to some for their movie "The Battle of the Century",which contains a pie fight that the Guinness Book of World Records says as many as 10,000 pies were used in,(although 3000 is generally considered to be the real amount.).  But pie fights were more Mack Sennett comedies and the Three Stooges. Laurel and Hardy weren't known for their pie fights. Just saying. (If you want to read the full story of "The Battle of the Century", you can check out my post on my Stan Laurel figure HERE.) You can watch the reconstructed "Battle of the Century",which was thought to be lost for years, HERE.
  They share a hand sculpt.

"Hold my beer."

  I should note here that they are NOT the exact same hands as the Premiere Ingrid Bergman doll which I posted the other day. Hers are a different sculpt,and not nearly as big as these guys' hands. That puts to rest my theory that Premiere used the same hands for both it's male and female figures. The girls still have 'man hands' though.
  The dolls are 9" tall. Their clothes are removable,and have some nice detail.

Oliver's stand-up collar has disappeared down his jacket,and I'm not sure about that tie fabric either. Polka dots yes, plaid, no.

 Meanwhile, Stan's collar is swallowing his head.

 The little buttons and pockets are nice, but as with other Premiere dolls, the fabric used for the clothes is too heavy and bulky.

Definitely too much collar.

The hats are part of the head,and do not come off.

  Stan was known to have very pale blue eyes,and this doll definitely doesn't. In fact,Stan's eyes were so pale that one studio turned him down as an actor because they thought his eyes wouldn't photograph well. (Certain types of early film photographed the light blue eyes as white!) His early films show Stan with huge black circles around his eyes,in an attempt to make his eyes show up!

There was another set of Laurel and Hardy dolls made by Premiere. That set of dolls was dressed in white shirts and overalls,as the team appeared in several shorts,(short subject films,that is.),including "The Finishing Touch"(1928),"Towed in a Hole"(1932),"Busy Bodies"(1933),and their Oscar winning short,"The Music Box"(1932). See? There is an Oscar connection to these dolls.

"The Music Box" concerns Stan and Ollie delivering a piano to a house that sits atop a very tall hill. The short won the first Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy). For the whole story on "The Music Box" and biographies of Stan and Oliver,see my Oscar Week post on my Hamilton Laurel and Hardy dolls HERE. You can watch Laurel and Hardy's Oscar winning short HERE. The other Oscar connection to Laurel and Hardy is Stan's Lifetime Achievement Oscar, which was awarded to him in 1961. Unfortunately,Oliver had passed away in 1957.

  Tomorrow we'll see another Oscar doll.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Doll-A-Day #58: Oscar Week: The Three Stooges

    Today we continue Oscar Week with...The Three Stooges?

  The Three Stooges are probably not what you think of when you think of Oscar Winners. However, they were nominated for one Oscar. Well, one of their shorts was.

  'Shorts' or short subjects were very popular in the 1930's, when the Stooges made most of their best shorts. A short subject was either a 'one reeler',which lasted about 15 minutes,or a 'two reeler',which was about 30 minutes long. Shorts accompanied the feature length film. Either one or two shorts,and possibly a cartoon or news reel,(a short containing news events),would appear before the feature.
  In 1934 the Stooges released the short, "Men in Black", a parody of the popular medical drama of the day,"Men in White",starring Clark Gable and  Myrna Loy. The famous call of  "Doctor Howard! Doctor Fine! Doctor Howard!" was heard for the first time in "Men in Black". The short was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject;Comedy,the only one of the Stooges films to be so honoured. You can watch The Stooges Oscar nominated short HERE.
   The Three Stooges line up changed over the years. The team started in vaudeville,as the 'stooges' in an act with Ted Healy. At that time they included Moe Howard,(Moses Horwitz), his brother 'Shemp' Howard,(Samuel Horwitz), and Larry Fine, (Lawrence Feinberg). Shemp,(whose nickname came from his Lithuanian mother's pronunciation of his real name,Sam), left for a solo film career and was replaced by his and Moe's baby brother Jerome,who was called 'Babe' in private and and was known professionally as 'Curly'.

  Although Shemp returned later when Curly suffered a debilitating stroke,Curly is still the better known and most popular 'third Stooge'. He certainly was in our house. These guys represent the Curly line up,as do most Stooges doll sets.
  There are, however, some amazing Shemp dolls by Figures Toy Co..

One of the Shemp dolls by Figures Toy Co.

And the real Shemp,once called 'the ugliest man in Hollywood.'

Moe's right hand is molded in 'eye poke' position.
They were made by Presents in 1991.

But it works for slapping faces too.
  They are about 11" tall,with vinyl heads,hands, and feet, (or, rather, shoes),and stuffed cloth bodies. Their arms are wired for posablility. They have removable clothing,and their ties are even separate pieces of clothing. The ties are on elastic though,and these were all stretched out with age. I had to tie them into smaller loops so they would be in place.

Moe's face looks bruised, but it's a stain. When I got these guys out,after years in a cupboard,their vinyl parts had gone all sticky and greasy. I had to take cleaner and some elbow grease to them to get them looking presentable. Moe's 'bruise' remained however.
My sister and I grew up on The Stooges, and my oldest two kids loved them too. (Ivy takes after Ken:She hates them.) When Emma and Fuzzy were little they went through their Stooges phase,and they slept with these Stooge dolls. They both wanted Curly,so they had to take turns with the Curly doll. 

Curly seems to have been caught in mid "n'yuk".
When it wasn't their turn for Curly they would settle for Larry. 

Larry still has some grease on his face. Hey. Those crevices are tiny.
Nobody ever wanted poor Moe. He brought it on himself I guess! Nobody wanted him because he was mean.

The shirts have Velcro closures. The buttons are just for show.
  One year I made the kids a movie,starring their favourite dolls,(Emma and Fuzzy the Doll.). These   Stooges had small rolls as guys who worked at a gas station.
  In 1933 the Curly line up of the team appeared,along with Healy,in the MGM feature "Dancing Lady",starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. When Healy got a solo contract with MGM, the Stooges were on their own. It was thought at the time that Healy was the big star and the survival of the Stooges' career was in question. The Stooges were eventually signed to Columbia and began a long career in films. Ted Healy died in 1937,after an evening at the Trocadero,where he did or didn't suffer a beating,although the official cause of death was attributed to nephritis, stemming from alcoholism. The circumstances are mysterious,and there are several different stories of the possible beating,with the assailants possibly including actor Wallace Beery and James Bond producer Albert R. Cubby' Broccoli.

  The Three Stooges released 190 shorts between 1934 and 1959. The third Stooge changed a few times over the years. Shemp passed away,and was replaced by Joe Besser. (Joe was never a good fit. He even had it in his contract that he wasn't allowed to be hit! What kind of third Stooge is that?!) By 1959 going to the movies was greatly giving way to television, and the Stooges were past middle age. To the Stooges surprise,when the shorts were released to television in 1959 they gained a whole new following and became bigger stars than ever. After one feature film, 1959's "Have Rocket Will Travel", Joe Besser left The Stooges to care for his ailing wife, and was replaced by Joe DeRita, who took on the name 'Curly Joe'. The Stooges had a successful feature film career,filmed live action bits for a cartoon series based on them,and even appeared on live television. (It wasn't the same without the sound effects.) In the early 60's they were one of the highest paid live acts in the country.
  The Stooges continued on until Larry Fine suffered a stroke in 1970,and both he and Moe died in 1975.
  One of the oddest stories that I ever read about the Stooges,(other than the stories about what a goof Shemp was in real life. When Moe was trying to teach Shemp to drive, Shemp tried to avoid an accident by sounding his squeeze activated horn...with both hands,and thus driving through a plate glass window. And there are more stories like that!),was an article I read in an old TV Guide from the 60's. The article,from the March 6,1965 issue, was about a TV movie called "Tell Me Not in Mournful Numbers". The title is based on a line in the poem "A Psalm of life", by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,but the movie was based on a true story about an emotionally disturbed child. Here's part of the article:

 Pretty odd story,eh?

A sad note about the Stooges career: When Columbia closed down it's shorts department at the end of 1957, the Stooges were fired without notice, while the studio sat on a full 18 months worth of unreleased Stooges shorts they could make money on. When Moe tried to return to the studio several weeks later,at the beginning of 1958, for final goodbyes, he was denied entry to the lot because he didn't have the current year's pass. All during the Stooges shorts years with Columbia Studios,they were kept on fairly low salaries. Whenever Moe, the boss of the group in real life too,asked for them to be given a raise, he was told by studio heads that the Stooges shorts were barely making a profit and that there was a possibility they might be dropped altogether. Years later Moe found out that not only were their shorts extremely popular, but the studio had been using the shorts as a sort of blackmail, forcing theatres to take some of Columbia's low budget 'B movies' if they wanted the popular Stooges shorts.

Those are the dolls for today. Come back for more Oscar winning dolls tomorrow.