Thursday, 20 July 2017

" he "

In the very early hours of last night I finished the new biography of Stan Laurel written by the hugely talented John Connolly . A man quite capable of keeping me up all night. For very different reasons than this one did. I have long believed that John Connolly is a man who understands the dark melancholy of every man's soul, he writes heroes with all their flaws and bad guys marinated in evil deeds. It should be no surprise it took an author of his stature and ability to be capable of puncturing the wall surrounding an invented familiar persona and to dig deep into the damaged psyche of what surely is a  classic case of Paliacci Syndrome; a world famous clown who cannot make himself laugh.
            It is a remarkable piece of work. One of the most ambitious and yet sadly grounded biographies I have read. It is a memory play, a guessed at account of the interior monologue of one of the most beloved media figures of the previous century, an honor he shared with the other half of this dynastic comedy duo. Stan and Olly, Laurel and Hardy, The Fat One and the Skinny One, all their names are remembered with a degree of affection rarely afforded to on screen figures. They worked for it though. Success did not come easily and the rewards themselves came to perilously close to destroying them. Stan Laurel had a difficult time off it. He married too many times to be considered anything but tragically foolish. He seemingly fell for the charms of some who possessed few and paid dearly, in every sense, for what little love he managed to find. It is a heart breaking story but one that is hard to break away from. There are so many familiar names and Hollywood events seen through the skewed prism of reality. Oh yes, the lies and unreality generated by the studio press offices are more easily and comfortably digested than the unsettling truth. There are insights aplenty and surprises abound as a rock is lifted and the squirming lifeforms below scramble for the safety of invisibility once more. For instance, seeing Hal Roaches name above the credits for a Laurel and Hardy short will never seem the same. It will not change a single thing about the work itself or the fact it is universally funny but there is a cadence there, the faintest trembling of a tuning fork, a vibration signalling a bum note.
             Read the book and you will know why I feel this way.
             You will, your self.
             Sorry, just went all Yoda then.
            I think I was left feeling that the relationship between Stan laurel and Oliver Hardy is complex and yet serenely simple; as adults they were lucky enough to share the loyal friend ship one generally only finds in childhood. There are two memorable descriptions within the text which to a degree sum up similar feelings; "..They are yoked together by forces beyond contracts, beyond friendship. Their lives have become reflections, each of the other, an infinity of echoes."
             And more simply but no less telling, Stan Laurel remembers his pal , Babe as he knew him, once said to him; " I am starting to believe, Babe says, that your existence and mine are like two balls of string that have become entangled."
              John Connolly has skillfully recreated the unseen side of a perceived golden age and yet it also a compassionate study of the tensions between commercial demands and popularity and the almost unattainable artistic integrity gifted people destroy themselves in pursuit off. for all that it is no less a love letter to one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history.