Stan & Ollie

7.21 h 38 min2018X-RayPG
Beloved comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy set out to perform live shows for their adoring fans. The tour becomes a hit, but long-buried tension and Hardy's failing health start to threaten their act and friendship.
Jon Baird
John C. ReillySteve CooganNina Arianda
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Shirley HendersonDanny HustonRufus Jones
Faye Ward
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

2316 global ratings

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Carl SchultzReviewed in the United States on February 4, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Nirvana For Fans Of Classic Films
“Stan & Ollie”   Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and Entertainment One, 97 Minutes, Rated PG, Released December 28, 2018:

“I mean, we were just two-reel comics,” Stan Laurel often said of the remarkable motion picture legacy he shared with longtime partner Oliver Hardy. “That wasn’t art.”

A genuine gold-plated treat for film buffs, “Stan & Ollie” depicts the twilight years of the legendary movie comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  In a sort of nirvana for those who enjoy classic films, the picture portrays Laurel and Hardy in both the prime of their Hollywood success in 1937, while filming the comedy classic “Way Out West” at the fabled Hal Roach Studios, and then sixteen years later, during the final days of their comedy partnership during the 1950s.  

The delightful surprise of this wonderfully moving picture is that it not only recreates with remarkable accuracy the history and background of the team and the genuine affection the two legendary comics held for each other, but also contains performances in the title roles that are nearly astonishing in the actors’ resemblance to their subjects and the pinpoint precision of their characterizations.

During the ninety or so minutes which portray the team’s final days together, the uncanny exactness of the actors’ performances makes it easy to imagine that “Stan & Ollie” is the one film the fabled comics never made:  An extended tit-for-tat war of attrition in which Laurel and Hardy’s opponents are not their usual foils from the silent days, Jimmy Finlayson or Edgar Kennedy, or Lupe Velez in the 1934 all-star extravaganza “Hollywood Party,” but the Grim Reaper himself---mortality, time, and the ravages of age.

Most biographical pictures fail at the box office for an array of reasons.  Such films traditionally attempt to fit too much information into the narrative, often trying to recreate the subject’s entire life, and in the process sacrificing accuracy.  An actor portraying the primary role in a film biography also generally needs to endure an extraordinary degree of scrutiny from audiences familiar with the subject.

Perhaps most importantly, biographical pictures are usually synonymous in the audience’s mind with documentaries, and many viewers resist parting with entertainment dollars for educational purposes.

“Stan & Ollie” succeeds where most film biographies fail.  The picture focuses on only two episodes of the experiences of the beloved comics instead of the entirely of their lives or their career together, and is surprisingly accurate to the facts of their remarkable motion picture legacy.  The picture telescopes certain events, mostly for dramatic purposes. But nothing in this genuinely entertaining and eminently moving little picture is either false or inaccurate. It all happened.

As a matter of historical context, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had been toiling separately in motion pictures since the 1910s.  While each was moderately popular with audiences, separately they never achieved anything like stardom. The Georgia-born Hardy in fact for a time was marginally more popular as a motion picture performer than Laurel, appearing as a supporting actor in some 250 pictures, including the 1925 silent film version of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” in which the actor played both the Tin Man and film’s romantic lead.

Stan Laurel was an English music hall comic who’d originally come to the United States in 1912 for a vaudeville tour as a colleague, understudy, and roommate of Charlie Chaplin.  The young comic followed Chaplin into the fledgling movie business, performing in his first film comedy in 1917.

At the time of his teaming with Oliver Hardy in 1927, Laurel was actually becoming more successful as a writer and director than as an actor or comic.  His transition toward a career behind the camera was partly because his pale blue eyes were difficult to photograph on the black-and-white film stock used at the time.

During the 1920s, both Hardy and Laurel were contracted--separately--to the Hal Roach film studio, a sort of comedy commune where such later stars as Will Rogers, Thelma Todd, Charley Chase, and “Our Gang” also had their cinematic beginnings.  In 1927 producer Roach had the idea of teaming Laurel and Hardy as actors in a short two-reel comedy, with the expectation that the slender Laurel would be an interesting contrast and amusing foil to the taller and more corpulent Hardy.

And as a team, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made entertainment history.  Among the very few silent comics who successfully transitioned into the era of talking films, Laurel and Hardy eventually appeared as a team in 79 two-reel comedies, 34 of them silent, and also in 27 feature-length sound pictures.  For most of their career together, Laurel and Hardy were employed under separate contracts with the Hal Roach studios, where their partnership began. After their teaming in 1927, Laurel never appeared in a picture without Hardy.

By 1937, when the movie “Stan & Ollie” begins, Stan Laurel was chafing under the control of producer Hal Roach, feeling underappreciated...and vastly underpaid.  While his former roommate and music hall colleague Charlie Chaplin had become enormously wealthy as a result of his ownership and control of his own comedy pictures, Stan was still a jobbing comic actor, drawing a comfortable salary but toiling primarily as an employee of the Hal Roach studio.

Producer Hal Roach for his part felt he was an exceedingly generous employer.  In addition to paying his actors enviable salaries, he gave the workaholic perfectionist Laurel free artistic reign over the team’s pictures.  During the team’s career with the Roach studios, Laurel often acted as the uncredited writer and director of the Laurel and Hardy comedies.

Roach also felt that in a motion picture industry so plagued by scandal that the major studios had recently agreed to a Production Code that regulated motion picture content and enforced censorship, Laurel was fortunate to be employed at all.   At that time, any breath of impropriety or public controversy could be deadly to an entertainer...and harmful to his employer.

Stan Laurel off the screen lived in a state of perpetual domestic chaos which belied his film image as an amiable simpleton.  Married five times--six if count as two the one woman he married twice, both before and after his third wife--Laurel in 1937 had not only just endured a noisy divorce, but also was sustaining a legal attack from a woman with whom he’d once lived in a casual common-law arrangement.  Attracted by his professional success since they’d separated, the woman was now publicly charging Stan with bigamy, and suing him for financial support. Roach was furious.

Written by Jeff Pope with a film scholar’s eye for historical detail and directed with obvious love and affection by Jon S. Baird, “Stan & Ollie” begins at that point in time.  Laurel and Hardy are at the pinnacle of their popularity, on the Roach Studios lot filming the iconic song and dance sequence for 1937’s “Way Out West.” Following a bitter argument with Roach on the picture’s set, the producer angrily releases Stan from his commitment to the studio...but simultaneously refuses to free Oliver Hardy from his.  

Expecting his partner to walk out on his legal agreement with Roach and the studio, Laurel is heartbroken to learn that the producer instead is compelling the genial, non-confrontational Hardy to team with faded silent film clown Harry Langdon in a feature-length comedy entitled “Zenobia.”  Hardy will star in the picture as a country veterinarian who treats a sickly circus elephant...and then finds the grateful pachyderm following him everywhere he goes.

Sixteen years later, in 1953, the two old comics are embarking on a live appearance tour of the British Isles. Long since reunited as a team and free of their commitments to Hal Roach, Stan and Ollie have been working through years as hired actors for other studios, supplanted in popularity by newer comedy teams such as Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis, enjoying precious little creative participation in their pictures besides their presence.  

The team’s most recent picture, the execrable French-Italian co-production “Atoll K,” effectively ended their movie careers.  With their stage appearances in Europe they hope to drum up enthusiasm for a Robin Hood script Stan’s been writing as a comeback for the team.  Their live performances are beginning to snowball in popularity, and the partners are selling out larger and more prestigious theaters. Still, even after all these years, the delicate topic of “the elephant picture” hangs unspoken between the two old friends, a subject to be avoided at all costs.

“Stan & Ollie” is driven by the astonishing performances of actors Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and the brilliant, nearly-unrecognizable John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy.  More popular in his native England than in the United States and also noted as both a writer and producer, the 53-year-old Steve Coogan bears a passing resemblance to the iconic Laurel, but otherwise achieves remarkable verisimilitude with his spot-on characterization in the role.  

As Oliver Hardy, John C. Reilly disappears so far into his characterization that there’s seemingly no trace of the actor remaining--Reilly becomes Hardy.  Initially reluctant to take on the role because “I don’t really do impressions,” Reilly was persuaded to appear in the film by director Baird, who assured the actor that the picture was going to tell the a very human story about the comics’ personal relationship and how they interacted, rather than attempt to simulate their routines.  

For a role which required extensive padding and prosthetics, Reilly needed to endure some four hours in the makeup chair each morning of filming.  The results are seamless, and almost uncanny. Like Christian Bale as former vice-president Dick Cheney in the recent “Vice,” Reilly as Oliver Hardy achieves something close to symbiosis.  If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you’re seeing the actual comic appearing onscreen again.

When the specter of “the elephant picture” finally and inevitably bubbles to the surface during a welcoming reception for the comics at an exclusive London hotel ballroom, the subject causes a furious but outrageously genteel finger-jabbing argument between the two old partners.  But the other guests witnessing the bitter quarrel believe it’s a rehearsed comedy routine being performed for their entertainment. It’s a testament to the skill of the filmmakers and performers that the scene is alternately funny, touching, eminently recognizable...and almost heartbreakingly human.

“Stan & Ollie” is by no means a perfect picture.  The narrative telescopes certain events and omits others for the sake of dramatic impact.  And the movie will necessarily be more enjoyable for fans of classic films, especially the legions of Laurel and Hardy fans who still treasure the team’s classic two-reel comedies, many of which remain easily available on YouTube.  

For others the picture will resemble in many ways a more fully-realized version of Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys” from 1975--a real story, instead of a fictionalized account of two old comedy partners reunited for a final performance.  Either way, this little picture’s a winner.

The best of the Laurel and Hardy comedies were about social injustice, and human dignity.  In their delightful short films from the 1920s and 1930s, Stan and Ollie endure the slights, the petty hostilities, and the casual unfairnesses of mankind, but always eventually come back with smiles on their faces and a renewed sense of trust in the essential decency of society.  They are the quintessential symbols of the human comedy, eternal optimists in times of bitter pessimism, then as now, and now as then.

While Laurel and Hardy might’ve relied occasionally on a corny gag or a stale setup, there was never a low blow or a cheap joke.  Genuine human affection drove their comedy. And when the team is performing together before an audience for the final time in “Stan & Ollie,” as Ollie smiles over to Stan and whispers, “I’ll miss us when we’re gone,” he speaks for all of us.

The highest praise--This is a film biography truly worthy of its subjects.  Watch for it.

“Stan & Ollie” is rated PG for some language concerns, and for scenes depicting the use of liquor and cigarettes.
279 people found this helpful
Allen M. DeraneyReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
You Will Laugh, You Will Cry, You Will Love This Film
Whether you love Laurel and Hardy or have never heard of them you will be touched by this lovely movie. This is not strictly a comedy, more of a biopic, but of course there are many laughs as "The Boys" find themselves at the twilight of their career. As a big fan of Laurel and Hardy I actually found myself forgetting that this is 2 (very fine) actors portraying them as they play the music halls in the UK for their last tour in 1953. Aside from the laughs there are poignant moments in the film as the boys realize how much they truly love each other, making this a love story of sorts which everybody in the theater loved. I suspect you will too!
120 people found this helpful
Scott MacGillivrayReviewed in the United States on February 1, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Masterful character performances capture the spirit of Laurel & Hardy.
As a lifelong Laurel & Hardy admirer, I was a little apprehensive before seeing this, thinking about older celebrity biographies that didn't work out (THE BUSTER KEATON STORY, THE EDDIE CANTOR STORY) and others that succeeded despite taking massive liberties with historical facts (THE JOLSON STORY, THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY). Well, I thought, I'll keep an open mind and look at STAN AND OLLIE as a fictional, exaggerated show. What I saw really surprised me.

We've all seen celebrity impersonations that are good, bad, or indifferent. These are exceptional. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both outstanding. The voices, the body language, the small gestures, the exaggerated "stage" personalities -- both actors are right on the money. This is no shallow, variety-show imitation. It's a surprisingly deep, heartfelt, and sincere portrayal of Laurel & Hardy, on stage and off.

STAN AND OLLIE is not the usual biography chronicling the performers' entire lives. It concentrates mostly on their very last year of activity (1953 into 1954). The producers have taken extreme pains to stage the scenes realistically, with the decor, the props, the wardrobe, and the general atmosphere ringing true. The re-enactments of actual events are substantially accurate. There are a few detours in the script, however, which occasionally threaten to run the project off the road. The screenwriter has juggled the chronology around for dramatic effect, and at least one character is absolutely wrong: Stan's quietly devoted wife Ida is portrayed like one of his former wives, the strident Countess Illeana. The biggest dramatic liberty has the comedy team arguing and battling. These scenes are well played and staged, but have no basis in fact. These scenes are more like the Martin & Lewis story, where the easygoing partner withstands the driven partner's moods. Fortunately, these literary false steps are overcome by the movie's overall charm and the entirely credible performances by the leads.

Technically the film is very well made. Critics have marveled at a stupendous opening sequence: a continuous, six-minute tracking shot starting in a dressing room, then out to a busy studio exterior, and into a busier soundstage in one long, perfect take. Only on a second viewing will the sharp-eyed observer notice that it's really three separate shots, joined so cleverly that the illusion of continuity is complete. It's this kind of subtle craftsmanship that students of film should see for themselves.

If you like Laurel & Hardy at all, you'll enjoy STAN AND OLLIE. Will you recognize certain events in the story? Probably. Will you grin at the re-creations of the team's sketches? Almost certainly. But will you laugh your head off? No. This is an intimate story with only a few principals, and you might find yourself choked up more than once. Critics have called the relationship between the "Stan" and "Ollie" screen characters as the greatest love story of the movies. This new movie demonstrates it. You don't have to be a Laurel & Hardy fan to enjoy this; it may inspire you to seek out Laurel & Hardy's old movies. Either way, you're in for a treat.
107 people found this helpful
GryphonisleReviewed in the United States on March 27, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Beautifully Done, Evocative Period Film and Buddy Movie
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From the reviews I thought this was going to be a sad movie about the last days of Laurel and Hardy and their failed attempt to restart their careers. Whomever wrote that was wrong. So is the reviewer here who thinks this effort smears the two men.

The film well captures a sense of its period and it is not at all difficult to look at Coogan and Reilly, especially Coogan, and mistake them for an older Laurel and Hardy. They have the moves, and more often than not, one is left laughing at them in a Laurel and Hardy routine, they are funny, the routine still works. Did the incident with the trunk at a train station, recalling a famous scene in one of their movies, actually happen? Who cares?

The movie explores the relationship between the two (with two of their later wives for a bit) and how it had broken, late in their very long careers, and then how later events {forcing a revisit of that break) almost broke them up for good, late in their lives. Along the way the viewer is treated to some fine vintage comedy, well designed period sets, and a softly glowing look into the past, featuring two supremely talented comic actors (played by two very talented comic actors).
40 people found this helpful
B. F. MooneyReviewed in the United States on March 31, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Masterful performances, and lovely film that strikes the heart while being quite funny
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I've been watching the true greats of comedy, the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy, for most of my 68 years, and have never stopped laughing. There are always scenes to be watched for and new tidbits to be appreciated.

This film took me by surprise, with an onscreen recreation of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy that is so close to faultless that it defies description. If you know "the boys" well, watch this film. It took me by surprise so quickly, that I never quite caught my breath again until it was over. I laughed, and wept, at the creative companionship and the genius, and the respect and love these men so obviously had for one another another, recreated here, and of course on display in all their films. A full five stars, for a fitting tribute to two unique human beings who gave us that very precious gift, laughter.
17 people found this helpful
PR GUYReviewed in the United States on March 26, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A MUST for Laurel & Hardy Fans! All 5 Stars!
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Steve Coogan (Stan) and John C. Reily (Ollie) as comedy geniuses Laurel and Hardy were amazing in this film. If you're a fan of this classic duo from the 30s and 40s, this film is a MUST! All 5 stars without apprehension. What a poignant behind-the-scenes look at these two theatrical clowns. Once you see this film, you'll understand why they performed so well on the stage and the screen. Director Jon S. Baird captures the spirit, humor and HUMAN side of two of entertainment's most hilarious international stars. Nominated for many awards, this film is one of the best I've seen in a long time. It dances between your funny bone and tugs at your heart strings. Nothing else needs to be said. See it. Don't miss the opportunity to get up close with Laurel & Hardy.
13 people found this helpful
G1977Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Superb Acting...John C. Reilly is an Oliver Hardy Doppelganger
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Through the magic of brilliant acting and amazing makeup, John C. Reilly is transformed into an Oliver Hardy doppelganger, totally immersing himself into Oliver "Babe" Hardy. Although not an eerie lookalike of Stan Laurel, Steve Coogan walks, talks and inhabit Stan Laurel, portraying him as the human outside the lovable clueless sidekick in the Hal Roach shorts. The two actors portray the boys at different stages superbly: during 1937 in their heyday when they performed their infamous dance in Way Out West, then 16 years later, when they're much older and suffering ill-health, especially Babe.

I like that this movie did not attempt to cover their entire career; rather, it tells the story of a little-known segment of their career when the boys attempted a come-back of sorts in 1953 by going on tour to England and Ireland, re-creating their old skits on stage. Their career is winding down, but the duo decides to go on the tour because they need the money. Gone is their youth and golden years with Hal Roach studios; the boys make a few forgettable films but never reached the nadir of popularity of their early years. The tour takes its toll on Oliver, who suffers a heart attack during an appearance at a beauty contest. Their much younger wives (Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel) are strong personalities, yet both care deeply for their aged husbands and are very likeable, occasionally providing some comic relief.

The film is beautifully done in sepia-toned colors and lighting to reflect of a time long ago; had the colors been vivid and bright, it would not have created the same mood and effect. There is a sadness to this story that is reflected in the colors and lighting; a beloved comedy duo is nearing the end of their fading career and health. The boys make one last ditch effort to revitalize their career; however this British tour was not to be their last appearance as Laurel & Hardy. In 1954 they appeared on "This Is Your Life", and in 1955 appeared one last time together in "This Is Music Hall", a BBC production. Two years later, Babe passed away, and Laurel refused to perform thereafter. This film is a loving tribute to this popular twosome. I've been a fan of Laurel & Hardy since I was in middle school and have all their films in my DVD collection. This gem of a movie is highly recommended. The actors do an outstanding job portraying Stan and Ollie and would be a great addition to any movie collection or for aficionados of Laurel & Hardy.
11 people found this helpful
Paul J. MularReviewed in the United States on April 15, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Captures their relationship, but gets the facts wrong.
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I really wanted to give this a 5-star rating but I could not ignor the errors.
If you are hoping for a docu-drama about a classic hollywood comedy tesm, this is not it. This movie covers the boys lives after they have become Hollywood has-beens struggling to keep the act going on live stages in England.
I feel the performances are spot-on, you will forget you are watching actors playing the boys. This is the period when Stan was older and looked worn out.

The trouble begins when ‘that elephant film’ is brought up. At this point the film becomes a FICTIONALZATION of the boys life. This film leads us to believe that Stan holds a grudge against Ollie for fulfilling his contractual obligation with Hal Roach and making “Zenobia” with Harry Langdon, leading to a break in their friendship. Pure fiction, Stan understood Ollie had to fulfill his contract. This film totally forgets that Stan returned to Hal Roach to make two more films with Ollie before they signedon with Fox to make 6 movies. This movie leads one to believe the boys split until this 1952 British tour.

Another error is when this movie suggests that Stan was trying to sign up the team with 20th Century Fox while Ollie was honoring his Hal Roach contract with ‘that elephant film’. The real event is that Stan formed his own production company, then got Hal Roach to contract Stan’s production company to make their last two films for the Roach Studio. Technically Hal Roach did not rehire Stan Laurel, he hired Stan Laurel Productions ofwich Stan was an employee of.
It wasn’t until Ollie fulfilled his contract with Hal Roach that Stan signed the team with 20th Century Fox.
7 people found this helpful
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