Arlecchino Cinema > 11:00


James Parrott
Piano accompaniment by

Antonio Coppola (for Two Tars)


Thursday 22/07/2021


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

In this hymn to motorised anarchy, sailors-on-leave Stan and Ollie rent a car and pick up the sassy team of Ruby and Thelma. One of the duo’s best two-reelers and a precursor to Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend, it gives an epic scale to the ‘collective destruction ritual’ routine when in the climactic scene the agitated drivers caught in a traffic jam abandon civility and, in the absence of cakes, throw whatever is within reach, eventually leading to yanking off car parts. After the wreckage comes a parade of surrealistically shaped cars, which chase Laurel and Hardy’s vehicle, or what’s left of it, into a tunnel for one last climax. Closer in spirit to Keaton’s mechano-comic antics than the duo’s more domesticated comedies, its outstanding qualities are owed to the supervising director Leo McCarey and cinematographer George Stevens, who was responsible for shooting 35 Laurel and Hardy shorts. Stevens, previously not so keen on comedy, observed: “Laurel and Hardy were marvellous clowns, but also humanists. Although the story was not always immediately present in their films, their humanism gave them validity.” He was surprised to find out how much truth and “considerable art” could be found in their acts. It stayed with Stevens for ever and he even directed their segment in Hollywood Party (1934). From the duo, and working as a cameraman in comedy in general, Stevens learned how to adapt the formula of ‘delayed encounter, delayed reaction, explosion’ – in other words, the timing of comedy. He also realised that script, camera setup and direction should go hand-in-hand and remain flexible. Finally, he looked at Laurel and Hardy and learned how to direct husband-and-wife scenes.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Leo McCarey. Scen.: H.M. Walker. F.: George Stevens. M.: Richard C. Currier. Int.: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Thelma Hill (Thelma), Ruby Blaine (Ruby), Harry Bernard (camionista), Edgar Kennedy, Chet Brandenburg, Baldwin Cooke (automobilisti). Prod.: Hal Roach. DCP.


Film Notes

Perhaps there’s nothing more excruciating than pretending to be something one is not – and no humility greater than having it exposed. But humility in itself could be a noble feeling when, after the pretensions are stripped away, one arrives at a moment of painful enlightenment. This is the essence of Alice Adams, a tightknit blend of humour and pathos, and what is generally regarded as Stevens’s entry into the league of greats. This first sound adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s 1921 novel (after a 1922 version directed by Rowland V. Lee), is about snobbery in a small town and a young girl from a poor family trying to find her way in society; to be recognised and to be loved. Katharine Hepburn, whose previous two pictures had been poorly received, wanted William Wyler as director but instead got Stevens, whose poker face and wordless presence at first baffled and disconcerted her. Stevens reworked the script with Hepburn in mind – an actress who was herself out of place in Hollywood, pretending to be something she was not. Stevens lightened up his ‘crescendo of suffering’ with remarkably effective comic scenes. The idea for driving a jalopy comes from Two Tars and the awkward family dinner scene is a revamp of Pass the Gravy (Fred Guiol, 1928), both shot by Stevens. Also the theme of the upstart trying to improve his or her social status, leading to misery, wasn’t unknown to Stevens, who regularly showed an interest in this subject, from Annie Oakley to A Place in the Sun. The film’s original ending, in which Alice searches for a job, was replaced with something more upbeat. As a maca bre joke, Stevens even filmed an ending that suggested suicide to irritate the studio heads. The gossip columnist Hedda Hopper plays Mrs Palmer; Hattie McDaniel steals the picture as the ill-at-ease maid, and Fred Stone’s performance as the ailing and failing father is the most moving. By the end of the picture, Hepburn and Stevens were lovers. Hepburn biographer Barbara Leaming argues that through this collaboration Hepburn gained an Alice-Adams-like confidence to take herself seriously as an artist. The rest is history.


Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog: based on the novel of the same name (1921) by Booth Tarkington. Scen: Dorothy Yost, Mortimer Offner, Jane Murfin. F: Robert De Grasse. M: Jane Loring. Scgf: Van Nest Polglase. Int: Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams), Fred MacMurray (Arthur Russell), Fred Stone (Virgil Adams), Evelyn Venable (Mildred Palmer), Frank Albertson  (Walter Adams), Ann Shoemaker (signora Adams), Hattie McDaniel (Malena), Charley Grapewin (J.A. Lamb), Grady Sutton (Frank Dowling), Hedda Hopper (signora Palmer). Prod: Pandro S. Berman per RKO Radio Pictures. 35mm.