Tonight, it occurred to me that my generation is probably the last who will remember Laurel and Hardy. (It should not surprise anyone that I'm a L&H guy and not a Chaplin fan.) Of course, a lot of classics from back in their day will be soon forgotten, if they're not already. Chaplin will always be remembered because despite his love of style over content, he managed to make some decent art. People who valued content over style, like L&H, will be forgotten because no one really saw what they were doing as high art (although they most certainly did this in their greatest films).
When I first started collecting movies, the first VHS I owned as FLYING DEUCES. The boys have a very special place in my heart. I recognize that a lot of their work together, especially the earlier pieces, probably should be forgotten, but not the big titles. FD was an amazing work of what happens when a man tries to forget a love that never existed. And then there's UTOPIA. It will be a shame once they're lost to history.
But you know what? Even Chaplin will fall by the wayside eventually. You know who will really be immortal from that time period? The Three Stooges. Why? Because even now, nearly a hundred years after they first started putting out shorts, they appeal to kids TODAY. That's a huge thing. It's probably because of the mindless violence, of which I approve. I once saw a still frame of the Stooges covered in blood (it was black and white, so it was probably something more like chocolate) with Moe holding a sledgehammer and Larry looking on in terror. These are the things that make me smile. It also makes kids, who are at heart, ruthless and cruel, smile.
Still, I will never forget Laurel's conversation with Hardy about reincarnation from FLYING DEUCES. When I was a kid, my best friend died from choking on a broken pencil tip. My mother had to explain what happened to my friend to me, and I found out very early what death meant. She explained to me that little Joey was buried underground, and that the worms and maggots would take him apart to help him rejoin the cycle of life. At that young age--I think I was in kindergarten--I didn't get the comfort of that last part of her explanation. I kept focusing on the worms and maggots, and that terrified me a great deal.
The reincarnation talk in FLYING DEUCES helped me find comfort in death not too long afterward. I will never forget that. Because like Stan Laurel, I'd like to come back as myself . . .
[PS: Because I'm not the last of my generation--the last generation to remember L&H--I suspect some of you might take me to task for the title of this piece. I have sworn, throughout my life, that Hardy has always said "another fine mess." Yet a lot of people say he said "another nice mess." My copies of their movies are buried too deeply in my closet for me to get to them at this late hour, but I will probably go to my grave saying "fine." The internet says "nice." "Fine" is funnier than "nice," so I'm going to ignore the internet for now. Pleasant dreams, people who place their sexual organs into other people's sexual organs.]