Stan and Ollie Forever
By Mary Daily
Published Jul 1, 2013 8:00 AM
Most people, including studio executives, used to think movies were disposable. They made no effort to preserve them for future audiences, and the negatives wore out. That's what happened to many of the beloved pictures of comedy duo Laurel & Hardy. The negatives were mistreated "for decades," says Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Today, the archive's state-of-the-art vaults hold a large collection of Laurel & Hardy films created by independent producer Hal Roach. Over the years, though, they have been reedited by sub-distributors, who may have removed presentation title sequences and added music, or otherwise altered them.
Now the archive is slowly restoring them to their original glory. How long it will take depends mostly on how quickly Horak and his associates can raise the necessary funding, since only 22 percent of the archive's budget comes from the state.
But this time they aren't turning to the public agencies and charitable foundations that usually fund the archive's restorations. Instead, they've created a website—www.cinema.ucla.edu/support/laurel-and-hardy—where anyone, anywhere, can make a donation.
A few large gifts have come in, including one from twin tech entrepreneurs Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. They funded the restoration of the cop film, The Midnight Patrol, in memory of their grandfather, a New York City policeman.
But donations of any size are welcome. Gifts have come from as far away as Switzerland, Denmark and Australia.
The archive launched the effort in 2011 with the screening of two rare 1930 Laurel & Hardy Spanish-language shorts it had restored. Three more titles, restored in 2011, were screened at the Turner Classic Movies festival in April 2012. But "we still have 40 to 50 shorts and at least five features to restore," Horak says.
Englishman Stan Laurel and American Oliver Hardy made more than 100 slapstick comedies together in the 1920s-1940s.
If enough people step forward, Horak says, "We can raise the money to restore these films to the condition in which they were originally screened."