Q&A with Richard Greene

laurel and hardy q&a richard greene

Rick Greene Q&A for BearManor Media


Q: Tell us about your new book Promotional Pandemonium! Selling Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy To Depression-Era America Book One: The Hal Roach Studios Features.

A: This is the third volume in a series of books exploring the many ways in which the classic movie comedy teams of the 20th century were promoted and advertised to America. The first book was called Marketing Mayhem and focused on Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, and came out in 2022. The second was Advertising Anarchy which covered the 36 films made by Bud Abbott & Lou Costello and this new one is the first of two books on Laurel & Hardy. In its 500 pages are more than 750 images of vintage pressbook ads, one sheet and three-sheet posters, lobby cards, promotional stills, sheet music, magazine and comic book covers, merchandise and other materials in which Stan & Ollie were ‘sold’ to movie fans of the era.

Q: Why TWO books on Laurel & Hardy?

A: The first two books in this series on Martin & Lewis and Abbott & Costello were each more than 720 pages with more than 1,000 images. Books this massive are difficult to produce, and the size eliminated half of the key presses used to print up books. I promised my publisher that going forward, I would limit my page count to 500 pages or less. This first Laurel & Hardy volume is just a bit under 500 pages, but that wasn’t enough to tell the whole story. So, a SECOND book covering their short subjects of the 1930’s, their features from the 1940’s and their continuing legacy into the 21st century is coming in 2025. Laurel & Hardy buffs will have 1,000 pages of stunning promotional imagery between the two books!

Q: Focusing on the way these comedy teams were promoted is an unusual angle for a book series. What led you to take this approach?

A: Yes, it is unique, but its also very important. When I was a young movie buff in the early 1970’s and there wasn’t out there in the way of film history books, I was drawn to two excellent books filled with vintage movie posters and old newspaper advertising: Coming Next Week and Those Great Movie Ads. I loved the imagery, how each film was promoted, the graphics they chose, the fun tag lines and hype. So, I took that approach to the extreme because this material needs to be preserved. Films from modern times, from the mid 1960’s onward, use just ONE primary image for the newspaper advertising and the poster art. Let’s use Jaws as an example. Every single advertisement, all of the one sheets, three sheets, billboards… ALL of them use that one iconic image of a big shark rising up toward a gal on the surface. But in the 1930’s and 1940’s, for a Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello film, there were eight, ten or twelve COMPLETELY different pressbook ads and as many FOUR DIFFERENT one-sheet poster and two alternately different three sheet posters, and so on. There are also eight card lobby card set, many with a title card using unique artwork… so, if you are a fan of Stan and Ollie, all of this promotional imagery is pure eye candy, a delight to study and enjoy and remember that specific film. These pressbooks, many on newsprint, are crumbling to dust with each passing year. My books preserve dozens of ads for each film, many of the posters and lobby cards, a representation of the publicity stills as well as sheet music that we released, with different artwork as well, merchandise from the time period and into the 21st century. These books are a treasure trove of mostly unseen material that fans will embrace and savor.

Q: The books are on the expensive side. Why?

A: They are very special releases, almost coffee table books. They are HUGE and bursting at the seams with big, bold images, about one-third of them in FULL COLOR. In order to print these up with all that needed ink, the paper quality had to be upgraded, which means more cost. But, most fans agree they are worth the money due to the beautiful full color images and the quality of the paper. These are NOT your average BearManor, or any publisher, books. They are uniquely special.

Q: Is there anything unique about the new Laurel & Hardy book that sets it apart from the Abbott & Costello or Martin & Lewis volumes?

A: Indeed there is! In both of the first two, there are handful of illustrations by the greatest caricaturist of the 20th century, Mr. Al Hirschfeld. However, in Promotional Pandemonium, because Hirschfeld was an independent art contractor for the MGM publicity department and he LOVED illustrating comedians, there are HUNDREDS of Al Hirschfeld pieces of art in the Laurel & Hardy publicity materials that haven’t been seen in 80 or 90 years. In fact, I’ve been sharing them with the Hirschfeld Archives, as they don’t have all of this material. Seeing all of this full color art and spot illustrations by this master is quite a bonus in Promotional Pandemonium!

Q: Do you go into the personal lives of these famous comedians?

A: No. If you want a biography, these books are not that. If you want to learn how the films were made, these books are also not that. I review each film, who was in them, when they were released, and when available – how much money they made. I quote period reviews and then analyze the marketing. I am not shy about sharing my opinion about the GREAT ones… and the not-so-great ones. I don’t fawn over them, I share what I think, hopefully in an entertaining way. If the film is Sons of the Desert or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, I’m raving about them. If the film is Great Guns or Dance With Me, Henry… not so much. There are also sections about radio and television appearances and how THOSE were promoted, on Magazines and Comic Books with as many covers as I can share, discussions of retail merchandise with photos of all of it. It’s the sage of how these comedy teams were sold to the public – even though they were all so beloved, they sold themselves. Fascinating stuff that makes for a very entertaining read… but the real story are the archived images.

Q: What’s next?

A: I just signed the contract with BearManor for Promotional Pandemonium Book Two, which will focus on the short subjects and the 1940’s features that Laurel & Hardy made, then bring them into the 1960’s and all the compilation films that were released and the glut of nostalgia merchandise that so many of us bought as teenagers. Finally, their enduring legacy and a bit on the Sons of the Desert organization. But, in between the two L&H books, I’m currently writing a volume on W. C. Fields called Bantering Ballyhoo. That one will cover the films that Fields made for Paramount and Universal in the 1930’s and 40’s and all of the merchandise that he inspired. The advertising for the Fields films was inspired, I cannot wait to share it! Then after these, I have a couple more projects planned, one with yet another comedy team and one in a completely different genre… a monstrously popular genre. Get it?

Q: Yes, we get it. Thank you for sharing this information on your work compiling the promotional material of the great comedy teams.

A: That’s all there is. There isn’t any more…

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment