The Lost Films of
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
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We've updated this previously published review to include volumes 8 & 9 in The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy DVD series.
The sound-era comedy shorts of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have long been widely available on video. However, their silent era shorts have been difficult, if not altogether impossible, to find. These shorts have never appeared on television and most have never even been available on video. This is an unfortunate situation, for the silent comedies of Laurel and Hardy contain some of their most creative work. During the sound era, they would rework and polish many of the routines that they had first devised in their silent shorts. The basic premise of "We Faw Down" (1928: vol. 3), for example, was retooled into feature length in Sons of the Desert (1934). And they reworked "Angora Love" (1929: vol. 2) as the sound-era short "Laughing Gravy" (1931).

Now, Hal Roach Studios is in the process of releasing all the silent-era shorts of Laurel and Hardy on DVD. The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy: The Complete Collection is projected as a ten-volume series with all but the final volume now available. Each volume contains six shorts (for an average of two hours per disc).

Together, Laurel and Hardy made about 35 silent shorts. So that means, Laurel and Hardy appear as a team in three to four shorts on each disc in this series. The remainder of shorts primarily come from their pre-team solo outings. Stan Laurel, in particular, made several dozen silent comedies, and Oliver Hardy (while not nearly as prolific as Laurel) appeared in many shorts as well (frequently as a villain). So Hal Roach Studios has a large group of comedies to choose from when compiling this set. (Only one Laurel and Hardy silent comedy, "Hats Off" [1927], remains "lost.")

The sequencing of the shorts in this collection is haphazard. Chronology has been completely rejected, so it's difficult to trace the careers of Laurel and Hardy by using these DVDs. You'll need a guide, such as William Everson's The Complete Films of Laurel and Hardy, in order to understand how the careers of Laurel and Hardy developed and eventually merged. Before I began watching the discs, I put together a chronological list of the shorts contained in these three volumes and then did a lot of disc switching to restore the proper order. The extra work is worth it because it allows you to better understand how the screen personas of Laurel and Hardy evolved.

The following review is arranged according to periods in the careers of Laurel and Hardy. These periods do NOT correspond to the DVDs in Hal Roach Studios/Image Entertainment's series. Throughout the review, we've included volume numbers by the titles of each comedy short. In addition, Page 7 ("About the DVDs") lists all the DVDs and their contents.

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Page 1 Introduction

Page 2 Pre-Union Solo Efforts (1919-1926)

Page 3 Together … But Not Yet a Team (1926-1927)

Page 4 The Team Solidifies (1927)

Page 5 Classic Comedies (1928-1929)

Page 6 The Transition to Sound (1929)

Page 7 About the DVDs