#99 Laurel & Hardy

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Laurel & Hardy AmperArt

#99 Laurel & Hardy
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Joe RinaudoAmper­Art #99, Lau­rel & Hardy, was inspired by my best friend of fifty years, Joe Rin­au­do, whom I met in sev­enth grade. We were both into “old stuff” — I col­lect­ed & refur­bished old office machines (mimeo­graphs & type­writ­ers) & Joe col­lect­ed 16mm films of ear­ly cin­e­mat­ic com­e­dy — Char­lie Chap­lin, Buster Keaton, the Key­stone Cops, Fat­ty Arbuck­le , & of course Lau­rel & Hardy. I sure had fun going to his house & watch­ing those old films. As a teenag­er he already had a large col­lec­tion of 16mm films, both silent & sound. Lat­er, Joe began invest­ing in 35mm silent films & acquired a Power’s 1909 Cam­er­a­graph Mod­el 6 Motion Pic­ture Machine which he restored to pris­tine con­di­tion. He also became an expert at restor­ing the old films & acquired vast knowl­edge about the ear­ly cin­e­ma industry.

Vis­it SilentCin​e​maSo​ci​ety​.org, Joe’s new web­site for old entertainment.

Today, besides run­ning Rin­au­do’s Repro­duc­tions, his Vic­to­ri­an lamp busi­ness which repro­duces & cus­tom designs superb light­ing fix­tures of the Vic­to­ri­an, Crafts­man & Art Deco peri­ods (you’ll find many of his lamps through­out the Dis­ney parks — yes, those mas­sive chan­de­liers in the Empo­ri­um are his), Joe Rin­au­do con­tin­ues to col­lect, restore, & host itin­er­ant shows of the silent era, as that is his ulti­mate pas­sion. He fre­quent­ly lec­tures & hand-​cranks his beau­ti­ful antique pro­jec­tor at the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­ture Arts & Sci­ences — to pro­duc­ers, direc­tors & stars, many of whom have lit­tle knowl­edge of how their indus­try start­ed. They are always in awe when Joe presents his shows (in full turn-​of-​the-​century cos­tume, no less). He also hosts small­er itin­er­ant shows, sim­i­lar to when pro­jec­tion­ists would trav­el from town to town where there were no for­mal the­aters & project at a hall, church, or even inside a tent —hence the term “tent show.” Twice a year Joe teams up with able assis­tant Gary Gib­son & organ­ist extra­or­di­naire Dean Mora at the Mighty Wurl­itzer to present a spec­tac­u­lar show com­plete with col­or­ful glass lantern slides at inter­mis­sion (or when the film breaks). This event is held at the Nether­cutt in Syl­mar, Cal­i­for­nia, usu­al­ly in Octo­ber & February.

Most recent­ly Joe has formed an orga­ni­za­tion called Silent Cin­e­ma Soci­ety “for the preser­va­tion & pre­sen­tion of the art & tech­nol­o­gy of silent cin­e­ma.” (It was orig­i­nal­ly named SCAT — Silent Cin­e­ma Art & Tech­nol­o­gy — but we’re still try­ing to obtain that domain.) I had the plea­sure of cre­at­ing Joe’s web­site, SilentCin​e​maSo​ci​ety​.org, where you’ll find most inter­est­ing & enter­tain­ing infor­ma­tion about the art as well as the tech­nol­o­gy of the silent cin­e­ma era. Be sure & sub­scribe to his newslet­ter, “The News­reel,” to learn of upcom­ing silent film shows & news in gen­er­al. (It’s always excit­ing when a 100-​year-​old lost reel is found in a store­room or attic, usu­al­ly pris­tine but so frail that it must be han­dled gen­tly & with the great­est cau­tion, as old nitrate film is spon­ta­neous­ly combustible.)

See Laurel & Hardy in Burbank June 4, 2016

Joe’s upcom­ing Clas­sic Silent Come­dies itin­er­ant show will be held in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia, Sat­ur­day June 4, 2016, at 7pm. Joe will hand-​crank his 1909 Pow­er’s pro­jec­tor as Scott Lasky embell­ish­es each scene with live piano accom­pa­ni­ment. Gary Gib­son will project glass lantern slides of the era. The show is near­ly 2 hours with light refresh­ments for sale. Admis­sion is $10. Full details here.

Joe Rin­au­do is espe­cial­ly excit­ed about this show, fol­low­ing the sur­pris­ing turnout for the show in March. The audi­ence was a live­ly, young crowd inter­est­ed in this old tech­nol­o­gy & art form, the results of pro­mot­ing the event on Face­book. More on that sto­ry here& a bizarre scene of a danc­ing pig.

Adding sound to silent…


Joe Rinaudo playing his American Fotoplayer. Plug your ears!

Although ear­ly films were silent, as in no dia­log or record­ed music, there was plen­ty of sound in most the­aters. Large the­aters employed an orches­tra. Small­er the­aters & those with low­er bud­gets relied on a pho­to­play­er. The pho­to­play­er (“pho­to” from pho­to­play & “play­er” from play­er piano) was built specif­i­cal­ly to pro­vide music & sound effects for silent movies. These machines appeared around 1912 & were used in medi­um sized the­aters. Pho­to­play­ers were inex­pen­sive to oper­ate because you didn’t have to be a musi­cian to play them — they were also playable by way of play­er piano rolls. But the per­son at the bench did change rolls & add the sound effects, as you can see in this demonstration.

Joe Rin­au­do is play­ing his Amer­i­can Foto­play­er in the video above, which was fea­tured on Huell Howser’s Cal­i­for­nia Gold.

The pho­to­play­er used a fas­ci­nat­ing com­bi­na­tion of piano, organ pipes, drums, & var­i­ous sound effects designed to nar­rate the action of any silent film. Ped­als, levers, switch­es, but­tons, & pull cords were all used to turn on the xylo­phone, beat a drum, ring a bell, cre­ate the sound of thun­der, or chirp like a bird.

When sound films came into being in the late 1920’s, the pho­to­play­er became passé. Of the thou­sands of Amer­i­can Foto­play­ers made dur­ing their hey­day, sad­ly less than 50 sur­vive, & of those only 12 are known to be in play­ing con­di­tion. One of those 12 is in Joe’s liv­ing room. & his neigh­bors ask him to leave the door open when he’s play­ing the instru­ment, as they love the hap­py sound.

Joe dis­cuss­es the Amer­i­can Foto­play­er in depth, with video & pho­tographs, here.


Laurel & Hardy: greatest comedy duo of all time

Quot­ed from The 25 Best Com­e­dy Duos by Mar­tin Chilton at The Telegraph:

Writer Kurt Von­negut once said that his favourite come­di­ans were Lau­rel & Hardy. “I used to laugh my head off at Lau­rel & Hardy,” said the author of Slaughterhouse-​Five. “There is ter­ri­ble tragedy there some­how. These men are too sweet to sur­vive in this world & are in ter­ri­ble dan­ger all the time. They could so eas­i­ly be killed.” What sur­vives of the come­di­ans – Amer­i­can Hardy died in 1957 & English-​born Lau­rel died in 1965 – is 107 films released between 1921 & 1951. Their catch­phrase was: “Well, here’s anoth­er nice mess you’ve got­ten me into!” & their mix­ture of slap­stick, word­play & utter­ly charm­ing com­e­dy makes them the great­est com­e­dy duo of all time. The Music Box, which depicts the pair’s hap­less attempts to move a piano up a large flight of steps, won the first Acad­e­my Award for Live Action Short Film (Com­e­dy) in 1932. “Those two fel­lows we played,” Oliv­er Hardy told an inter­view­er, “they were nice, very nice peo­ple. They nev­er got any­where because they were so very dumb, only they did­n’t know they were dumb.”

Above all, Lau­rel & Hardy are won­der­ful­ly, uplift­ing­ly, silly:

Ollie: “Call me a cab.”
Stan: “You’re a cab.”

(Anoth­er Fine Mess, 1930)



Lau­rel & Hardy’s influ­ence is alive & well in The Simp­sons. Home­r’s repeat­ed use of the word “D’oh” was inspired by Jim­my Fin­layson, the mus­ta­chioed Scot­tish actor who appeared in 33 Lau­rel & Hardy films.


Another fine nice mess (d’oh)

The famous catch phrase of Lau­rel & Hardy, from Anoth­er Fine Mess, is often mis­quot­ed as “Well, here’s anoth­er fine mess you’ve got­ten us into.” The actu­al phrase in the film is “Well, here’s anoth­er nice mess you’ve got­ten me into.” 


Laurel & Hardy

This scene is from “The Stolen Jools,” a short made in 1931 “with more prominent stars than have ever before appeared in any one feature” as stated at the beginning of the film. The stars appeared as cameos to help raise funds for the National Variety Artists tuberculosis sanitarium. You can watch the entire film here on YouTube. It’s great to see all the old stars in one film & there are some funny lines & gags.

Who is your favorite comedy team with an ampersand?

Lau­rel & Hardy? Abbott & Costel­lo? Burns & Allen? Lucy & Desi? Mar­tin & Lewis? French & Saun­ders? Tom & Jer­ry? Wal­lace & Gromit? Any others?

Com­ment here (or below if you see a big blue box).


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at Des​i​moneDesign​.com, my com­mer­cial graph­ic design web­site. It’s most­ly about design, typog­ra­phy, print­ing, pub­lish­ing & mar­ket­ing, but on occa­sion I’ll divert to a side­ways top­ic that just can’t escape my rant­i­ng & raving.

  Please critique & comment in the big blue box below.  

Production notes for #99 Laurel & Hardy:
Original size: 20 x 30 inches

Program: Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop
Font: Nathan
Ampersand: Custom design by Chaz DeSimone
Hats: photos of actual bowler hats worn by Laurel & Hardy from publicity stills
Animated gif: giphy​.com
Information: Text about Laurel & Hardy (under the headings “Laurel & Hardy: greatest comedy duo of all time,” “D’oh,” “Another fine mess”) is quoted from Martin Chilton, Culture Editor at The Telegraph. His original article (& slide show) is delightful: “The 25 Best Comedy Duos”
Homer Simpson is property of Twentieth Century Fox
You may repost the image. Please credit Amper​Art​.com.
To download a full-​size high-​resolution 11x17-​inch poster, click on the image.

For pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design, please vis­it Des­i­mone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

Enjoy & share…

3 thoughts to “#99 Laurel & Hardy”

  1. This is a great acti­cle, Chaz I would say! I love old silent movies and remem­ber our trip on one of Joe’s movie. It was real­ly fun and hope he will con­tin­ue to make a won­de­ful shows. And, by the way, you — Chaz is a big part of it, because you did a great job on graphic.

  2. Excel­lent sum­ma­ry of Lau­rel and Hardy Days, and their impact.
    Thank you for slso out­lin­ing the June 6 event. What great work Joe is doing to bring this alive again! I expect you have con­tributed alot with your graph­ic tal­ents as well.

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