'Laurel und Hardy'

28th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

28 October 2004 , MUNICH - A Laurel and Hardy movie in which the Hollywood comic duo speak phrase-book-style German was shown in Germany this week nearly 70 years after the only surviving print vanished.Aways on the prowl for lost film classics or the cinematic unusual, Munich‘s Filmmuseum came up with the rarity: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy actually speaking German in the original soundtrack.The recovered version, "Spuk um Mitternacht" (Spook at Midnight), was aired at the start of the Filmmuseum‘s retro

28 October 2004

MUNICH - A Laurel and Hardy movie in which the Hollywood comic duo speak phrase-book-style German was shown in Germany this week nearly 70 years after the only surviving print vanished.

Aways on the prowl for lost film classics or the cinematic unusual, Munich‘s Filmmuseum came up with the rarity: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy actually speaking German in the original soundtrack.

The recovered version, "Spuk um Mitternacht" (Spook at Midnight), was aired at the start of the Filmmuseum‘s retrospective on the comic team‘s movies.

The Filmmuseum got wind that the 1931 Laurel and Hardy movie, long believed lost, had turned up in the film archives of the Russian Gosfilm Fund. Acquisition of "Spuk" for a planned retrospective of the famed comedians turned out to be easy.

A deputy director of the Filmmuseum, Claudia Engelhardt, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung: "All we had to do was ask the Moscow Film Archive, in connection with other ongoing research."

At the dawn of sound movies, before synchronization technology became available, European distributors hoped to maintain the popularity of their silent stars by releasing films via separate Hollywood soundtracks in the various languages.

According to the magazine "Film Dienst", Laurel and Hardy made parallel versions of their original English soundtracks in German, Italian, French, and Spanish.

Without knowing exactly what they were saying, they learned their texts phonetically using a language coach, while actors speaking their native tongues were recruited in supporting roles.

To make a full-length feature suitable for export, the producers combined two shorts in the German version, "Berth Marks" and "The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case".

Since no gross takings have been recorded, it is not known whether the resulting parody of horror and ghost movies, "Spuk um Mitternacht", was a box-office success. The movie had its German premier in 1931 at Berlin‘s Marmorhaus cinema.

The soundtrack included local references to amuse a German audience: when Hardy asks about Laurel‘s uncle, he says "He‘s at the medical faculty of Berlin University." "As professor?" asks Hardy.

"No," Laurel replies, "preserved in a bottle of spirit."

The film industry soon after learned to use native actors to dub foreign soundtracks.

The Filmmuseum‘s retrospective, screening Laurel and Hardy movies in the original soundtracks as well as in dubbed German versions, will run until 23 November.

After suffering a stoke, Hardy died in 1957. Laurel, who had resolved never to perform again, died in 1965. Their works have been kept alive by frequent late slot airings on television and retrospectives at many festivals and film clubs throughout the world.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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