Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nuts and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Yesterday I mentioned Laurel and Hardy, which reminded me to watch one of their best shorts, “County Hospital” (1932). I have played the video so many times, my younger sons act out the good parts -- Stanley sitting on a hypodermic needle; Oliver hanging from the ceiling with a broken leg while his doctor, played by Billy Gilbert, hangs by a cord out the window; Stanley’s gift to Oliver – nuts and hard-boiled eggs in a paper sack. The camera doesn’t move as Stanley, seated beside Oliver’s bed, cracks a hard-boiled egg, shells it, salts it with a shaker pulled from his pocket and meticulously eats it to the last crumb – a miracle of slow comedy.

I remembered a poem, “Stan Laurel,” I had read years ago by the English poet John Mole:

“Ollie gone, the heavyweight
Balletic chump, and now
His turn to bow out, courteous,
A perfect gentleman who
Tips his hat to the nurse.

“Or would, that is, if he were
Still in business. She
Adjusts his pillow, smooths
The sheets until their crisp-
And-even snow-white starchiness

“Becomes his cue. It’s time
For one last gag, the stand-up
Drip-feed: Sister,
Let me tell you this
I wish I was skiing

“And she, immaculately cornered
For the punch-line: Really
Mr. Laurel, do you ski?
chuckle –
No, but I’d rather I was doing
That than this,

“Than facing death, the one
Fine mess he’s gotten into
That he can’t get out of
Though a nurse’s helpless
Is the last he hears.”

Mole took Laurel’s last words from a biography I have not read – Stan, by Fred Lawrence Guiles. I hope the story is true. It helps us understand Samuel Beckett’s love of Laurel and Hardy and his reported wish that they play Didi and Gogo in an early production of Waiting for Godot. Who can read Mercier and Camier without thinking of Laurel and Hardy? When I am dying, and if I remain serviceably sentient, I hope someone plays “County Hospital” for me, and “Our Wife,” and “Big Business,” and perhaps reads a bit of Beckett.


CharlieMyBoy said...

"County Hospital" is also my favorite Laurel and Hardy short, although it's nearly impossible to choose a favorite. At least the first two-thirds is arguably the finest example of their chemistry and, especially, Ollie's gift for the "slow burn" and "takes," in general. By the way, the line is "hardboiled eggs and nuts," not the other way around.

mick62 said...

A marvellous introduction to the wonderful films of Stan and Ollie, for the VERY few people out there who don't know them. This whole gem of a short film, is hilarious from beginning to end! And I ADORE the ridiculously over the top rear projection ending!