The Intelligence Men Press Pack - Page 2Laughter is my life…
Hugh Stewart produced Spylarks. And it is not without significance that Spylarks takes the mickey out of the spy business.
For Hugh Stewart is a great believer in pricking the balloon. He dislikes people so afraid of appearing ridiculous that they become pompous.
“They succeed in becoming far more ridiculous than the people who risk appearing fools.” He said.
“After all it takes more courage to appear a fool and risk the good opinion of others.”
Which is why, probably, Hugh Stewart loves a good comedian. He, himself is never afraid of losing his dignity.
An actor once went up to him and asked: “I get some squashy fruit all over my face in this scene. How should I play it?”
Hugh picked up some of the squashy fruit. “Like this” he replied. And slapped the fruit all over his own face. The demonstration was much appreciated by the actor. The important thing was that the film unit were laughing with Hugh Stewart, not at him.
And that is what Hugh Stewart’s comedies do – they laugh with the people rather than at them. The mickey-taking is kindly. And the fun loses nothing by virtue of the fact.
Laughter is Hugh Stewart’s life. He has an almost fanatical belief in its value. He believes it can do more to encourage nations to live in peace than the big bomb.
“Comedy is the great leveller” he said.
“Laughter is the common language of the whole world. It is universal. You can share a laugh in any land – and be the better for it.”
“I believe in comedy. I believe in slapstick. I respect it and I think I understand it. Slapstick is the most logical thing in the world. The illogical thing is that people should think it is outmoded.”
Slapstick derives from the honourable tradition of the comedia dell’Arte. Film have developed it to a greater degree than any other tradition. Thrills, action, drama – all these are inherited from the theatre, from literature and from the circus. But slapstick has a unique place, which is proved by the fact that the great films names, that are remembered and known by people too young to have seen the performers, are all slapstick comedians. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, the Keystone Cops and others.
Years ago when Hugh Stewart was starting his film-making career, he was writing scripts for the custard-pie comedians. In recent years he has produced the Norman Wisdom comedies.
Now he has taken over Morecambe and Wise. His belief is that Morecambe and Wise can become international stars as Norman Wisdom has become an international star.
He adopted the same tactics with Morecambe and Wise as he did with Wisdom. He took their special quality as laughter-makers as the basis of everything and built the story and the comedy situations around it.
“It would be fatal to try and do otherwise” he said. “What matters is that particular quality – that jewel a comedian has. That is what must be exploited throughout the film.”
It can be assumed from this that Spylarks is good fun, is visual, has an international appeal, and has the polish and finish that we have come to expect these days from a comedy produced by Hugh Stewart and directed by Robert Asher.
© Rank Organisation 2008