This Is Your Life:
Laurel & Hardy
01 December 1954
National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
tv episode
25 minutes

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When Laurel and Hardy appeared on the live popular television show This Is Your Life in 1954 it wasn't without controversy.  Stan Laurel had a personal policy that he would not make appearances for free and this could have led to the downfall of the episode.  It is rumoured that the cause of the delay between the boys being informed of their impending appearance and their arrival at the studio was due to Stan telling the producers he was not going to show.  This would certainly explain Ralph Edwards' prolonged ad-lib on air.  However, over the years it has been suggested that it was not Laurel, but rather Hardy who caused the delay.  Either way, Stan is clearly uncomfortable with the situation when the surprise is sprung on him by the film crew and speaks very little whilst being interviewed.  Through a series of questions from host Edwards, Stan looks shy, confused and embarrased, particularly when questioned about his real name and registry name calls during school, speaking in almost a whisper.  Then again, it could be regarded by the general audience that Edwards was poking fun at Stan in what are some uncomfortable moments.  Hardy, on the other hand looks relaxed but perplexed most of the time and is willing to join in the fun.
Stan is first introduced to his boyhood friend Roland Park, who recalls an incident from Stan's early stage days before the attention shifts over to Mr. Hardy.  The host announces Ollie's birthweight at 10lbs, which is quickly corrected by the subject at being 14lbs.
A photograph of a baby Hardy and two images of his parents are shown to the audience before the next guest, Althea Miller Horne comes out to greet Ollie.  She tells a story about Ollie missing his singing lessons when he was a kid and his vain attempts to save his own brother from drowning.
It's then the turn of Stan to be reunited with a producer from some of his earlier films, Frank Fouce who goes on to tell a story about an incident on the set of Mud And Sand.
Next up is a guest for Hardy, an old friend who remembers an incident with him on a film set in Jacksonville, Florida.  This is followed by probably the biggest guest, Leo McCarey, who tells a story of how a 'leg of lamb' led to the fate of the boys being teamed together after Hardy was scheduled to appear in a comedy called Get 'Em Young, at which point the boys are presented with replicas of their old derby hats (with Stan looking very uncomfortable).  McCarey then goes to to tell a story about another on-set incident between the boys from Liberty.
The audience is then treated to a clip showing the boys unloading the piano from the horse & cart in The Music Box, again with Stan looking on through embarrasment.
Next through the curtain comes former manager of the Hal Roach Studios, Warren Doane (director of Charley Chase's Snappy Sneezer).  He tells a story about a time when Laurel and Hardy were making a dangerous scene involving a lion.  The story is cut short when the next guest, Stan and Babe's manager/attorney Ben Shipman is introduced hurriedly.
He congratulates the Boys on their success and is moved along quickly.  A still from Pardon Us is shown on the screen as Ralph Edwards rambles on about how they continue to make good, wholesome comedies throughout the 1930s and 1940s until they took a tour of Europe in 1947 and discovered how popular they were.
Then comes Vivian Blaine, their former co-star from Jitterbugs, who tells the story of when Stan and Babe were greeted in Ireland by the sound of the Cuckoo Song being played from churchbells.  Lastly, the wives come out - first Babe's wife Lucille, followed by Stan's wife Ida.  One last surprise is the appearance of Stan's only daughter, Lois, who is introduced by her married name of Mrs. Randy Brooks.
The final guest is Hal Roach Jr. who proudly promises Stan that he is going to put up a plaque on Laurel And Hardy Lake to commemorate their success.  Host Edwards ends the show by thanking TWA airlines.
All things considered, it's a shambles of a show.  Poorly organised, a rude host, an embarrassed and uncomfortable guest (Stan Laurel, who barely speaks throughout), and given their wonderful careers, is that really the best the show could come up with in terms of a guest list?  It's hard to watch, and even harder to enjoy.

Favourite bit
Leo McCarey has the best spot on the show when he tells the story of Laurel and Hardy's coming together over an accident suffered by Oliver and the goes to to wow us all with a recollection of another accident (again suffered by Hardy) on the set of another film in which Hardy dared to demonstrate the safety of the set and failing miserably.  Ollie recalls it vividly when the story is told as he signals with his arms how he fell.  It's a great moment.

•When the episode was filmed, Stan was 64 years old and Oliver was 62.
•The boys were in room 205 of the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel in California when they were surprised.
Did you notice?
•When the cameras pick up Stan and Ollie in their hotel room they are both smoking a cigarette.
•Ralph Edwards was clearly ad-libbing his speech before the boys arrived. This is most likely due to the fact Stan Laurel was reluctant to appear.
•When the boys arrive in the studio it is Stan who takes the stage first.
•As the boys sit down on the couch it does appear that Hardy was setting Laurel up for a gag to intice him to sit on his lap, but this was ruined by the host's inability to see this.
•The order of the guests' appearances:
-Roland Park (Stan's childhood friend)
-Althea Miller Horne (Ollie's childhood sweetheart)
-Frank Fouce (Producer from Stan's early film career)
-Margaret O'Connor Arata (friend of Ollie)
-Leo McCarey (film director)
-Warren Doane (former associate)
-Ben Shipman (Laurel and Hardy's manager/attorney)
-Vivian Blaine (actress)
-Lucille Hardy (Babe's wife)
-Ida Laurel (Stan's wife)
-Lois Laurel (Stan's daughter)
-Hal Roach Jr. (former associate)

•When Leo McCarey tells his stories he does not mention the actual names of the films he was referring to.
•It seems that when Warren Doane is telling the story about Laurel & Hardy with the lion, he is cut-off in mid-speech by the host.  His rudeness spoiled the story and we don't get to know which film he was referring to.  This was most likely due to time restraints by the television producers.
•After Ralph Edwards has rudely interrupted one of the guests (Warren Doane) in order to hurry Ben Shipman onto the stage, he makes the most ridiculous statement to the effect that Laurel & Hardy had made over 300 films together.  The reality is they made under 100 together as a team.
•Ralph Edwards states that the Boys realised their popularity during a tour of England in 1947.  They had already discovered this in 1932 during a tour of England.
•Ralph Edwards's obvious 'rushing' even interrupts Vivien Blaine's voice-over before her appearance on the stage.
•Right at the end of the show, look at Leo McCarey trying to squeeze into the background shot just so that he can be seen.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Ralph Edwards
Roland Park
Guest (for Stan)
Althea Miller Horne
Guest (for Ollie)
Frank Fouce
Guest (for Stan)
Margaret O'Connor Arata
Guest (for Ollie)
Leo McCarey
Guest (for Stan and Ollie)
Warren Doane
Guest (for Stan and Ollie)
Ben Shipman
Guest (for Stan and Ollie)
Vivian Blaine
Guest (for Stan and Ollie)
Lucille Hardy
Guest (Ollie)
Ida Laurel
Guest (Stan)
Lois Laurel
Guest (Stan)
Hal Roach Jr.
Guest (for Stan and Ollie)

Tom Schober (help with best available print)

This page was last updated on: 18 March 2014