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The Great Credit Controversy


"Stan Laurel is given partial credit for being producer, which probably proves that he is best as a comic." -- From Variety's 1937 review of the movie

In most L&H biographies, Stan Laurel is described as the uncredited writer-director-editor of nearly all the Laurel & Hardy movies produced at Hal Roach Studios. (Laurel's on-screen producing credit in Our Relations and Way Out West were apparently Hal Roach's "sop" to Laurel's wanting to assert his value to the L&H movies.)

And this website does not at all mean to take away from his invaluable creative contributions to these movies. However, just as L&H revisionism has shown that The Boys' 1940s, Big Studio-produced movies aren't as completely worthless as they were once described, so perhaps Stan was not quite the auteur he thought himself to be. According to no less a source than the official Laurel & Hardy website, Stan's ability as a film producer can be determined by screening yet another movie that received the "Stan Laurel Production" credit: "[O]ne of the poverty row, states-rights westerns he made," Songs and Bullets (1938), starring "The Silvery-Voiced Buckaroo" Fred Scott (as "Melody Hardy"), with comedy sidekick Al St. John, and Laurelís off-and-on girlfriend over many years, Alice Ardell. Variety, which apparently savaged the film even worse than they did Stan's Hardy-paired outings, called the movie "an unstylish stout." In an attempt to re-cut and save the film, Laurel asked Hal Roach to attend a preview with him and render an opinion. Richard W. Bann has written at the L&H website, "When Roach told me this story, and how bad the picture was and why, it was apparent he was genuinely sorry for Laurel."

L&H biographer Randy Skretvedt asserts, "The strongest evidence to support the argument that Stan was truly the director of the films is the fact that Laurel and Hardy had two dozen directors during their tenure at the Roach studio, and the films have no discernable stylistic differences."

However, not all L&H buffs necessarily agree with this premise. For example, in his positive review of Way Out West at the website Laurel & Hardy Central, John Brennan writes: "Way Out West is one Laurel and Hardy film that hints that the director can make a difference. With the exception of Swiss Miss, all the remaining Roach features (plus The Flying Deuces) gave subplots the heave-ho and concentrated on Laurel and Hardy. They are all good to great films -- again, with the exception of Swiss Miss -- but none of them moves like Way Out West, directed by James Horne...It's an atypical Laurel and Hardy film loaded to the brim with typical Laurel and Hardy business, or possibly vice versa. Somebody must be responsible for this strange but wonderful mixture, and I'm suggesting that a good deal of the credit may belong to Horne."

One last tidbit to support this "wavering credit" theory of Laurel & Hardy movies is that Jack Jevne and Charles Rogers, two of the credited writers for Way Out West, received the same credit for Air Raid Wardens (1943), one of L&H's most reviled Big Studio movies. Same guys in both instances -- yet obviously, in one case they had much more control than they had in the other case.

Again, this is not meant to denigrate Laurel's huge contributions to the Laurel & Hardy movies, just to give L&H buffs something to think about.

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