Stan & Ollie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are a classic comedy duo in the Fat and Thin style. They work under a contract with the famous Hollywood producer Hal Roach (Danny Huston), but Stan’s contract is ending and he does not want to renew it on the same terms, in addition, Roach is going to focus exclusively on feature films, and Laurel and Hardy feel best in short films. However, Hardy is afraid of losing the contract with Roach: after another divorce, he is without money and is not ready to risk everything.

Laurel, who is in charge of the duo’s writing and business contacts, is trying to secure a contract with producer Mr. Miffin to make a new Robin Hood movie: Stan is currently writing the script for him and Oliver. But things with the contract are not going smoothly, and then Laurel agrees with the impresario Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) that he will organize a whole series of concerts for their comedy duet in various cities of England. Hardy Stan explains that they will use these concerts to raise funds for a new film.

The first concerts are received rather coolly by the public, and Delfont becomes discouraged, but the farther, the more successful the famous comedians are, and Bernard begins to rent huge halls for their performances.


Laurel and Hardy were perhaps the most celebrated on-screen comedy couple of the early to mid-twentieth century. It is difficult to say who was more famous than them: they were more popular than Charlie Chaplin.

Laurel’s real name is Arthur Stanley Jefferson: he is an Englishman, he played in the theater. Once, when once again his troupe came to America on tour, he stayed there. In the States, Arthur wrote scripts and played some episodic roles. He was eventually approached by producer Hal Roach to write scripts for his studio. The pseudonym Stan Laurel was invented by his girlfriend, the ballerina May Dahlberg: she said that this “Arthur Stanley Jefferson” simply would not fit on the poster.

Oliver Hardy was born in America, became an actor. Because of his complexion, he usually played in small episodes of some villains.

In 1917, Laurel and Hardy first played in the same film – it was called “Lucky Dog”. But then, before the appearance of their duet, there were still nine years left.

In 1926, they met again on the set and Laurel suggested that Hardy write a script for the two of them. They came up with two characters: Laurel portrayed a sort of sloppy whiner, because of which all sorts of troubles occurred, and Hardy was an irritable and self-confident fat man. Interestingly, in life they were completely different: Hardy was a very calm and reserved person, and Laurel in their tandem, of course, played the first violin.

They made a bunch of short films, many of which were wildly popular and classic comedy films.

And this is their famous dance from the movie Way Out West.

They also acted in full-length and sound films, they only jointly have 156 film credits. However, in short films, their couple looked best, so in 1940 they broke the contract with Hal Roach, who was not going to put any more short films. They went on to star in eight Fox and MGM films, but after that they decided to focus on live performances.

The concerts of Laurel and Hardy were also a great success, and outside of America: when they arrived with concerts in Ireland, their boat was met by an enthusiastic crowd of fans.

Hardy died in 1957 at the age of sixty-five. Laurel survived a friend for ten years, but after the death of Oliver, Stan ended his acting career and rejected any offers. Interestingly, Stanley Kramer suggested that Laurel play Captain Culpepper in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And after his refusal, the role went to Spencer Tracy.

The movie “Stan and Ollie” tells about the last concert period of two great comedians. Director John C. Baird and screenwriter Jeff Pope wanted to show these people in their everyday life: how they communicated with each other, how they spent time, how they prepared their sketches.

In fact, quite a lot was known about their relationship and the backstage of this duet: after the death of a friend, Laurel willingly met with the public and told numerous stories from their lives.

The picture is very simple and unpretentious. There were no special shocks and even more sinister secrets in the life of this duet. It’s just that once they were terribly popular, and even now they perform at concerts with great success, but Hardy is experiencing various health problems, the film that Laurel dreams of, they will never put on, and they no longer have a future. Hardy is already ready to accept it, Laurel is not ready yet, but nothing can be changed anyway.

The actors for the roles of Laurel and Hardy are amazing. I had no doubt that John C. Reilly would play Oliver brilliantly, and so it turned out. A calm and completely non-confrontational person, he completely trusted Laurel, but in their relationship, of course, there were certain problems and rough edges. Hardy understands that he must leave because, with his bad heart, he has a chance to die right on stage, but he also knows that Laurel cannot perform without him. His last dance – the famous dance from the movie Way Out West – well, just a lump in his throat. Moreover, his wife Lucille is looking at him from the hall, who perfectly understands what is happening.

I had some doubts about Steve Coogan in the role of Laurel – after all, he is a very, very specific actor. But I take my hat off – he did a great job. It is very clear how seriously he studied Laurel’s playing style and his characteristic techniques, it is recreated very nicely.

Shirley Henderson played Hardy’s wife – I honestly didn’t like her. But Laurel’s wife, dancer Ida Kitaeva (Nina Arianda) is just a bomb! Nina Arianda is an American of Ukrainian origin. I saw her in the series “Billions”, “Goliath” and “Horace and Pete” – she played great there, especially when she was allowed to turn around! Nina is amazing in this movie! The brightest character that attracts attention from the very first appearance, a chic United Statesn accent – the role is absolutely wonderful. I’m still waiting for Nina to be trusted to play the main role – she deserves it.

Good movie, I really liked it. It seems to be quite simple and unpretentious, but the mood creates an excellent one and is played somehow very, very sincerely. Judging by the complete absence of reviews and reviews, it went completely unnoticed, but very, very in vain, in my opinion. By the way, John C. Reilly was nominated for the Golden Globe 2019 for this role, he also has three nominations from the British Film Academy.



Stan & Ollie / Stan & Ollie movie meaning

Director: John C. Baird Cast: Rufus Jones, Danny Huston, John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Stephanie Hayam, Richard Kant, Susie Kane, John Henshaw


Tragicomedy, UK-USA-Canada, 2018, 98 min.

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