Stan & Ollie is a biographical film directed by Jon S. Baird from a screenplay by Jeff Pope (writer of Philomena).
It is based on the late life of the legendary Hollywoodian Golden Age comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, when they decided to tour music halls in the UK and Ireland in 1953, after their heydays in the movie industry had come to an end. Long-held resentments threaten to force the pair apart during said tour.
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly star as Arthur Stanley "Stan Laurel" Jefferson and Norvell "Oliver" (Ollie) Hardy, respectively. The cast also includes Shirley Henderson as Virginia Lucille Hardy (Ollie's third wife), Danny Huston as producer Hal Roach, Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Stan's fourth wife), Rufus Jones as Bernard Delfont and Susy Kane as Cynthia Clark.
Stan & Ollie provides examples of:
- All Part of the Show: Played for Drama. When Stan and Ollie have a public falling out at their show's reception, everyone but their wives think it's just an impromptu act and applaud them.
- Anachronism Stew:
- At one point, Ollie tells Stan "Je ne regrette rien, and you shouldn't regret rien either." It refers to Édith Piaf's smash hit song, "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing"), which is used in the trailer. The song was recorded for the first time in 1960, by which point Ollie had been dead for three years.
- The scenes at the Savoy Hotel leave the modern flags - including a post-1965 Canadian flag and 50-star American flag - in place rather than replacing them with more period-appropriate equivalents.
- Artistic License Geography:
- Entering London from the North via train does not take you past Tower Bridge - you won't even cross the Thames. Also, there is no railway line across the Thames which gives an uninterrupted view of Tower Bridge.
- The car their wives arrive in the Savoy in enters the correct way for most British hotels... except the Savoy, which is the one place in the UK where traffic uses the right lane rather than the left.
- Ida Laurel mentions Saint Petersburg as a lovely place to visit, but from 1924 to 1991 it was known as Leningrad - and from 1914 to 1924 as Petrograd. Ida would have been 14 or 15 when the name was changed for the first time.
- Although if she was an emigre, and depending on how strongly she felt about the Soviet regime, it may have been deliberately evoking better times before World War I and the Russian Revolution.
- Artistic License History:
- Laurel and Hardy had planned to make a Robin Hood movie but in 1947, not 1953 as portrayed in the film.
- Their earlier performances in Newcastle and Glasgow are to almost empty houses; for the real tour, all their performances were to packed houses even from the beginning.
- Biopic: The film chronicles the duo's late career when their Hollywoodian glory was over. They were still immensely popular in Europe, so they chose to tour there on stage for a while.
- Bittersweet Ending: After a slow start, the duos European tour is a thunderous success and Laurel and Hardy are finally able to clarify their old misunderstandings and strengthen their friendship. But they are clearly seen as two has-been by the movie industry and Hardy is so sick that they will never perform together again.
- Book-Ends: The film opens with Stan and Ollie shooting their dance for Way Out West and ends with them performing the dance again in Ireland.
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Stan and Ollie split up for some time, then reconcile.
- Career-Ending Injury:
- Averted, but barely — Ollie's knees are pretty weak and it's implied it happened when filming "Zenobia", the elephant picture he made for Hal Roach without Stan — he was hit with an oversized mallet way too hard as part of a gag, and it did lasting damage.
- Played dramatically straight when, the day after a falling-out with Stan, Oliver Hardy suffers an heart attack and a doctor is urgently summoned to his hotel room. Later, Ollie informs Stan that he intends to retire and we see in a flashback the doctor has told him that continuing to perform on stage can be fatal.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Occurs as a result of Ida Laurel's malaprop misunderstanding of Lucille Hardy:Lucille: Are you implying that Oliver and I aren't hard working?
Ida: You live in Hollywood.
Lucille: So do you and Stan.
Ida: No, no, no, no, no: I may live in Hollywood, but I am not Hollywood.
Lucille: Ida, you are the epitome of Hollywood.
Ida [icily]: Don't you ''pity'' me!
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Stan Laurel is unhappy how despite how popular his and Ollie's films are, they're being paid less than other comedians because Hal Roach is a tightwad and believes leaving for another studio would be better: in Real Life leaving Hal Roach is what diminished their careers since even if Roach was a tightwad he still gave the duo enough creative freedom for their films. He also has some lingering resentment that his former Vaudeville partner Charlie Chaplin has much more freedom and control over his own films.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: The first sign that the duo has arrived in London? A sight of Tower Bridge. The trope's name is even invoked by Stan.Stan: There it is. (looking at Tower Bridge) The Eiffel Tower.
- The Gambling Addict: Ollie has a weakness for horse racing. It doesn't outright ruin him, but coupled with his constant divorces it means he's not as wealthy as he could be.
- Glory Days: Both Stan and Ollie feel their best days are far behind them. Something that's emphasized when after Stan learns the producer couldn't get funding for the Robin Hood film, he sees a poster for an Abbott and Costello picture, and is chagrined at his younger rivals having a vibrant film career.
- Gratuitous French: "Je ne regrette rien, and you shouldn't regret rien either."
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Even if they have their ups and down, Stan and Ollie are this. Stan categorically refuses to perform with anybody but Ollie and Ollie decides to continue with the tour even if it's against his doctor's advice because it'll mean one last go with his friend.
- Hypocritical Humor: Due to his past problems with drinking, Stan's wife Ida insists upon him abstaining from any alcohol...and often enforces this by grabbing any drink that comes near him and downing it herself. Stan at one point jokes, "The more I drink, the drunker my wife gets."
- I Know You Know I Know: Stan finally reaches out to the producer of their Robin Hood film and learns that it's not going to be made. At the end of the film, while on a ferry to Ireland, he tells Ollie, who reveals that he already knew. But he didn't say anything because he thought Stan knew that he knew.Stan: Well why didn't you tell me you knew?
Ollie: I thought you already knew I knew.
Stan: How could I know that you knew I knew?
Ollie: (chuckles) What would my line be here?
Stan: Um..."Now I know you knew, but I thought you knew I knew, but you were pretending not to know I knew."
Ollie: (chuckles) Thank you.
- Imagine Spot: At one point, Stan imagines himself and Ollie in the Robin Hood movie they were planning to do, with Ollie falling in the water and saying "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"
- Insane Troll Logic: One of the gags Stan and Ollie come up with for the Robin Hood film involved Stan's character suggesting that, rather than steal from the rich and give to the poor, they should "steal from the poor and give to the poor, and cut out the middle-man. And the rich will be none the wiser."
- It Has Been an Honor: After his heart attack, Ollie is so ill that he is barely able to go through a last show. Before going out on stage to say goodbye to their public, he takes some time to let Stan know how much he enjoyed working with him:Ollie: It was fun while it lasted, wasnt it, Stan?[Stan nods and heads onstage. Ollie hooks him back as part of their act]Ollie: Ill miss us when were gone.Stan: So will you.
- Just Train Wrong: They're seen traveling behind an LMS Stanier Class 8F, which was used as a heavy goods engine back in the day. However, it does show how, in addition to improving hotel accommodations during their tour, they also upgraded their travel from Second Class to First Class.
- The Last Dance: Literally and figuratively. The movie ends with the duo performing their dance routine from Way Out West in front of an enthusiastic public, knowing all too well that this is their last performance.
- Man in a Kilt: As part of one of their shows in Britain, Stan and Ollie don kilts.
- Mythology Gag: Stan and Ollie's large travel trunk gets loose and hurtles down some stairs, much to their annoyance. Like a certain piano in one of their most famous shorts, The Music Box.Ollie: Do we really need that trunk?
- The Oner: The opening credits roll over Stan and Ollie going from their dressing room to the film set for Way Out West.
- Pastiche: The 'Double Door' routine on the train station set is an original sketch created for the film, based loosely on word of mouth recollections of the original stage shows.
- Reality Ensues: Even for a semi-fictional biopic there are still a few;
- Despite their fame coming from their work as a comedy duo, Stan and Oliver hadn't even known each other when they each independently started working for Hal Roach, and thus were not a team contractually. This leads to friction when Stan's contract ends before Oliver's, leaving him in a very poor bargaining position if he wanted to renew and souring his relationship with Roach; ultimately this results in their decision to strike out on their own. Also, with his contract still not up, Oliver has little choice but to perform in Roach's "Laurel and Hardy without Laurel" film.
- The early stages of the tour don't sell well, suggesting the two are faded stars who no longer pull in a crowd. Then the promoter suggests that they do some publicity in newspapers, on radio and in newsreels, rather than simply relying on their names (it's implied that the earlier shows didn't sell because some people assumed that two Hollywood stars wouldn't be performing live in British regional theatres, and that it was a tribute act). With the public aware of the tour, the shows start to sell out. Most of the faces are older people who would presumably still prefer Laurel and Hardy to more 'modern' comedy.
- Stan hasn't been getting calls back from a movie producer, so he goes unannounced to his office... where the young secretary doesn't recognise him, and the producer isn't in, anyway.
- In failing health, and against doctor's advice, Ollie really cannot manage more than just one more show.
- The Show Must Go On: What Ollie says word for word to Stan at one point upon reconciling with him. At the end of the film, while doing their last show and with Ollie visibly looking unwell, Stan suggests they just say their goodbyes, but Ollie insists on one last dance.
- Tag Line: "The untold story of the world's greatest comedy team".
- Tempting Fate: "I'm gonna make sure this tour gets off on the right foot." Cue the travel trunk hurtling stairs, and near collapse of the duo's friendship.
- Theme Tune: The end of the trailer features a snippet of the duo's famous cuckoo theme from the Hal Roach era films.
- Walk-In Chime-In: Before one of their shows in Scotland, an old woman is asking who will be playing Laurel and Hardy, with the box office attendant trying to explain that they're playing themselves. Cue Stan and Ollie walking in behind them and telling the old lady to say that she knows them so that she'll get charged extra. She immediately buys two tickets.