Shot length distributions in the films of Laurel and Hardy

UPDATE: 28 June 2012 – this article has now been published as Shot length distributions in the short films of Laurel and Hardy, 1927 to 1933, Cine Forum 14 2012: 37-71.

This week I put up the first draft of my analysis of the impact of sound technology on the distribution of shot lengths in the short films of Laurel and Hardy from 1927 to 1933. The pdf file can be accessed here: Nick Redfern – Shot length distributions in the short films of Laurel and Hardy.


Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were one of the few comedy acts to successfully make the transition from the silent era to sound cinema in the late-1920s. The impact of sound technology on Laurel and Hardy films is analysed by comparing the median shot lengths and the dispersion of shot lengths of silent shorts (n = 12) produced from 1927 to 1929 inclusive, and sound shorts (n = 20) produced from 1929 to 1933, inclusive. The results show that there is a significant difference (U = 56.0, p = 0.0128, PS = 0.2333) between the median shot lengths of the silent films (median = 3.5s [95% CI: 3.2, 3.7]) and those of the sound films (median = 3.9s [95% CI: 3.5, 4.3]); and this represents an increase in shot lengths in the sound films by HLΔ = 0.5s (95% CI: 0.1, 1.1). The comparison of Qn for the silent films (median = 2.4s [95% CI: 2.1, 2.7]) with the sound films (median = 3.0s [95% CI: 2.6, 3.4]) reveals a statistically significant increase is the dispersion of shot lengths (U = 54.5, p = 0.0109, PS = 0.2271) estimated to be HLΔ = 0.6s (95% CI: 0.1, 1.1). Although statistically significant, these differences are smaller than those reported in other quantitative analyses of film style and sound technology, and this may be attributed to Hal Roach’s commitment to pantomime, the working methods of Laurel, Hardy, and their writing/producing team, and the continuity of personnel in Roach’s unit mode of production which did not change substantially with the introduction of sound.

UPDATE: 25 November 2010. WordPress have now very helpfully made it possible to upload Excel spreadsheets to blogs, and so I have replaced the Word file with an Excel file that is much easier to use. This data also now includes information of which shots are titles (as idicated by a T in an adjacent column). I accept no libaility for any problems you may have when downloading and using Excel spreadsheets on you computer. The data used in this study can be accessed in the form of an Excel .xls file here: Nick Redfern Laurel and Hardy shot lengh data. The methodology behind the sources and collection of this data is described in the above paper.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on October 21, 2010, in Cinemetrics, Film Analysis, Film History, Film Studies, Film Style, Film Technology, Hal Roach, Hollywood, Laurel and Hardy, Silent cinema, Stan Laurel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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