Laurel and Hardy in the Music Box

The Music Box

Released by M-G-M, 16th of April 1932

We are often asked where the famous ‘Music Box' steps are located. Well, they still exist and are located in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles on Vendome ( 923-937 Vendome) at Del Monte. The house across the street from the steps is still there today. But, do not look for the house at the top of the steps as it was a studio set.

We have visited the steps on several occasions' thanks to the Los Angeles ‘Way out West Tent'. A plaque commemorating the fact that ‘Laurel & Hardy' filmed there has been placed on the steps. If you like finding out where L&H filmed their movies, then we do recommend you by a copy of, ‘Laurel in Hardywood' a special edition of Pratfall Magazine. It is packed full of L&H locations with ‘Then and Now' photographs. Contact the Way out West Tent to see if they have any copies for sale.

The Laurel and Hardy Music Box StepsAdditional Facts.

1.)These same steps were also used for the 1927 film ‘HATS OFF' where L&H carry a washing machine up the stairs. Hats Off is a missing L&H film. We have had several false trails over the years and hope that it will turn up one day.

2.)The Music Box was one of Stan's' personal favourites. It also won an Oscar for ‘Best Live-Action Short Subject'. Stan kept this Oscar in his apartment in Santa Monica, and he called it ‘Mr. Clean'.

3.)Lookout for a continuity error when the Piano slips all the way down the stairs. As it jumps over Ollie, it faces the other way round!

(Photo. The steps as the appear today)

4.)The Music Box has also been colorised. Music by Ronnie Hazlehurst has been added in the background. Also, slight background sound effects have been added, listen for the dog barking in the distance.

This version is still out and UK and is included in the Universal DVD Box set.  The Black and White version is also in the Universal (UK) set. The new restored version of THE MUSIC BOX is also available in the USA 'ESSENTIAL COLLECTION' DVD Box set.

 5.) Just in case you wanted to know....there are 131 steps that lead to a Cul-de-sac at the top.

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Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box

Revisiting the Boys

by Rip Rense

Every now and then I go out to look for Laurel and Hardy. I visit those cement Silverlake steps where they dragged the piano crate in the 1932 Academy Award-winning short, The Music Box. I drive through Culver City intersections where they spurred masses of people into hat-stomping (or pants-ripping, or pie-throwing) riots. I recently dined in an Indian restaurant inside a building they passed in an old Ford in their 1929 film, Bacon Grabbers.

"Damn," I muttered. "Missed 'em by 65 years."

Last June 16, Stan Laurel's birthday, I drove to Forest Lawn in Burbank to visit his grave. The spirit of Laurel and Hardy movies, at least, seemed to be with me. I got lost cruising around the cemetery in a car that squeaked like a shrieking peacock, and repeatedly drove right past an ongoing funeral, complete with live harp music. The solemn mourners eyed me with increasing fear at each pass. I resisted an impulse to scratch my head and smile helplessly.

When I finally found Laurel's resting place (after taking a wrong turn that led me to Buster Keaton's), I deposited some sort of mutated snapdragon that was all my budget allowed, and whistled the old Laurel and Hardy theme song, also known as 'The Cuckoo Song.' You know how it goes---ending with that repeating 'COO-koo, COO-koo.' Well---and this is the God's truth ---when I finished, the local mockingbirds picked up the 'COO-koos.' I couldn't decide whether it was poignant or eerie. Or funny.

And yes, on the way out, I got lost and squeaked past that funeral again.

I am not alone in my odd pursuit of Stan and Ollie. Lots of other people go out and look for them, too. There are two published guidebooks to sites of their movies: the painstakingly researched Pratfall (Vol. 2), published by the Valley-based Way Out West Tent of the Sons of the Desert, and Following the Comedy Trail, by Leon Smith, a former LAPD detective, who includes both Laurel and Hardy and 'Our Gang' film locations.

Why such interest? It occurred to me, with the anniversary of Oliver Hardy's birth approaching (Jan. 19), that, originality and comedy aside, the Boys symbolized bravery, friendship, dignity, perseverance, undying loyalty, and innocence in the face of merciless absurdity and chicanery. I have no argument with Kurt Vonnegut appraising them as 'angels' in his novel, Slapstick. But there's a little more to it. Tied up in my periodic searches for Laurel and Hardy, and in the guidebooks to their old movie sites, is a search for old L.A.---that more innocent series of communities connected by great, formidable Pacific Electric lines.

I love old L.A. I idealize it. I romanticize it. I revere it as only someone who never lived there can. And the closest I can get to it is by watching old Laurel and Hardy movies. When I see a Red Car go cruising down Hoover Avenue, I drink up the scene, trying hard to imagine what it must have been like to ride on that Red Car. When I see Stan and Ollie haul that piano crate up those pristine steps in that young Silverlake neighborhood, I am there, trying to breathe that less complicated 1932 air along with them.

I talked to Ray Bradbury about all this. He reveres old L.A. as only someone who grew up in it can. He also reveres Laurel and Hardy as only someone who saw them in person can. (While visiting Ireland in the late 40's, Bradbury bought the last ticket, front-row center, to a Laurel and Hardy appearance in Dublin. Afterward, he went backstage and watched them greet friends. "It was," he said, "one of the happiest days of my life.")

Bradbury turned up to read a lovely (and somewhat autobiographical) short story aloud recently at a fund-raiser at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. It was a fundraiser sponsored by the Silent Society founder Randy Haberkamp and the Society of Operating Cameramen to place a commemorative plaque at the base of the Laurel and Hardy Silverlake steps.

The story is called 'The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair,' and concerns a pair of lovers who spent most of their dates picnicking at the Laurel and Hardy steps in Silverlake. Careers broke them up, and by chance they passed one another decades later on the streets of Paris. The man merely twiddled his tie at his former love, Hardy-style; the woman, strolling with her family, yelled, "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" And they parted forever.

The fundraiser further inspired the author to resurrect another of his short stories that concerned Laurel and Hardy---this one unpublished and gathering dust for 30 years---and polish it up.

Laurel and Hardy in the Music Box "It's called 'Another Fine Mess,'" Bradbury told me, "About the Laurel and Hardy steps." In it, the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy run up and down the stairs late at night. This woman who lives nearby hears them shouting and yelling at three o'clock in the morning, goes out, can't see anything, and hears the music box tumbling down the steps. She calls her friend, who's an expert on motion picture history, and they both go out and listen. And they say to each other, "Why are they here? Why are they letting the music box chase them down the stairs, and then come up again?" And they theorize, "well, maybe they want to hear one last time, 'we love you.' Maybe we didn't give them enough love while they were alive. Could that possibly be?" And finally, one of the ladies leans forward, and calls down the steps into the darkness, "You know, we love you. You don't have to come here and haunt the steps anymore. You can be at peace because you know that my friend here and I love you." Then they hear the voices going down the stairs, and they have second thoughts. They say, "Well, don't go away forever. Once a year come back here so we can say it all over again, we love you." And then they stand there, both of them weeping, and the sounds disappear down into black and white Los Angeles.

After our chat, I drove out in search of black-and-white Los Angeles---specifically, to the steps. They're surrounded by homes instead of vacant lots now, and are overgrown with bouganvilla and jade plants. The placid and civilized little neighborhood of The Music Box has given way to gang graffiti and bars on windows and backyards full of dobermans. I walked up and down the 131 cracked cement stairs, slavering guard dogs snarling at me. I pictured Laurel and Hardy's delivery wagon in the street below, and Laurel yelling up the stairs at Hardy that a cop wants to talk to "the other monkey" (meaning Hardy).

I knocked on a door of the one home that did exist at the foot of the stairs in the old movie, and talked to a nice young guy named Jiro Yamaguchi, a musician who plays classical Indian percussion on Thursday nights at nearby Paru's. Yamaguchi said he found out about the steps' significance after moving in. "It's a nice little piece of trivia," he said. "I'm not an avid fan ---I like 'em, though."

Yamaguchi told me that people come by "every couple of weeks" to look at the steps, and that "they tend to be a little older." I didn't ask him if he heard any ghosts, but I did find evidence of some of the visitors he mentioned. A gentleman named Mauro Simonini had carefully printed two messages on them, in large black letters. The first read, in Italian: 'A S. Laurel e O. Hardy, con affetto, Mauro Simonini, Livorno, Italia, 16-10-93.' The second referred to them as 'Stanlio' and 'Ollio,' their characters' names in the 1931 Fra Diavolo. It said 'A Stanlio e Ollio, i grandissimi con infinito affetto---Mauro.'

Like I said, I'm not the only one who goes out to look for Laurel and Hardy. The Sons of the Desert look for them in their monthly meetings. Ray Bradbury looks for them in a typewriter. Simonini had come half-way around the world to look for them on a flight of stairs. And it occurred to me that being so fondly remembered is a hell of a gift.

So happy birthday, Ollie. Con infinito affetto.

"Rip Rense writes a weekly column at http://www.riprense.com"

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