The Music Box - Preservation

In 1993 a new safety fine grain positive and also a dupe negative were struck from the best surviving preprint elements. With respect to the picture portion of reels one and two, this meant the camera negative -- the very nitrate film stock passing through the camera itself out there on the streets of Silver Lake when Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were huffing and puffing up and down those stairs. The picture could never, and will never, look any better than that.


The source for reel three, however, was a dupe negative made from the work print. Ten years previously, in 1983, Hal Roach Studios in Los Angeles still had the camera negative for all three reels, because the same lab we use printed them. In the interim, somehow, the third reel was lost, misfiled, misidentified, damaged, destroyed, or pilfered. It vanished. It has not surfaced since, and in view of what has happened at Kirch Media, no one can say if the footage will ever be upgraded to match the quality on the opening pair of reels.

Not all Laurel & Hardy stories carry happy endings.

For the soundtrack, the original track negative was noisy and not good. So a track print was struck, and then a 35mm magnetic track was made. At this stage the many clicks and pops could be "scraped off" to generate the now greatly improved optical track negative, which will be stored and cared for ... somewhere safe, by worthy and diligent custodians, we do trust and hope. It is, indeed, our most fond hope.

-- by Richard W. Bann --