Monday, November 03, 2014

Another Nice Mess From Laurel and Hardy

Ollie: Hey Stan ... oh, Stan ... over here ...

Stanley: [sees a horse in a pasture with Oliver's hat and mustache] Ollie ... is it really you?

Ollie: [as horse] Of course it's me. Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into.

Stanley: Gee I'm glad to see you!

When I was a boy, I remember watching Laurel and Hardy on Saturday afternoons with my father.

I'm sure I must have seen most, if not all, of their movies before I was 10 years old.

Dad would giggle like a little kid. I remember thinking it was cool to share that with him. Well, it was something like that.

We haven't watched Laurel and Hardy together in years. I wonder if he would still giggle. Maybe he would. I know I do.

Over a 30–year period, from 1921 to 1951, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appeared in more than 100 movies together. Nearly three dozen were silent shorts, nearly four dozen were sound shorts and more than two dozen were full–length feature movies.

They were absolutely prolific when they were under contract to Hal Roach Studios. That's where they made most of their movies and enjoyed the peak of their popularity, but they left Roach, and "The Flying Deuces," which premiered 75 years ago today, was the first non–Roach movie they had made together in nearly 20 years.

It wasn't bad. It's just that the material was so familiar. It should have been. The plot was a loose remake of a movie the two made for Roach about eight years earlier called "Beau Hunks." Frankly, "Beau Hunks" was better.

I still giggle at it, though. It's beyond my control. The last time I watched "The Flying Deuces," I admit I giggled at some moments. I was alone when I watched it so I can't chalk it up to any kind of psychological peer pressure. I even mentally scolded myself for giggling.

But I giggled, anyway.

In RKO Pictures' "The Flying Deuces," Laurel and Hardy played a couple of friends who joined the French Foreign Legion so Ollie could forget a girl.

Ollie and Stan were two fish market workers from Des Moines who were on vacation in France. While staying at an inn, Ollie was smitten with the innkeeper's daughter (Jean Parker) — and was crushed to learn she was already married. In fact, Ollie was suicidal until Stanley talked him out of it.

So Ollie and Stan joined the French Foreign Legion to forget.

Ollie: Just how much do we get paid for all this?

Commandant: One hundred centimes a day.

Stanley: That's not bad ...

Ollie: How much is that in American money?

Commandant: American money? About three cents a day.

Ollie: If you think you're going to get that kind of work outta me for three cents a day, brother, you're crazy.

Commandant: Is that right?

Stanley: That's right because we don't work for less than 25 cents a day! Do we, Ollie?

But it wasn't what they were told it would be so they just quit. That was used primarily to set up one–liners or song–and–dance numbers.

Ollie got to sing "Shine On, Harvest Moon" while Stanley did a soft–shoe dance.

And Stanley pulled a Harpo Marx, using his bed springs as a harp to play "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise" — while he and Ollie were scheduled to be executed at sunrise.

That scene was one of the most memorable moments in the movie. After being told that he was to be executed for desertion the next morning, Ollie said, "Shot at sunrise!"

"I hope it's cloudy tomorrow!"
Stanley said.

The two managed an implausible escape — followed by an even more implausible plane ride with the two of them at the controls.

The ride ended with the plane crashing. Stanley climbed out of the wreckage, disheveled but apparently unhurt. Ollie wasn't so lucky, and the audience could see his semi–transparent spirit flying away.

Not long after, Stanley encountered a horse with Ollie's mustache and derby. Ollie had earlier said he would like to be reincarnated as a horse; apparently, he was.

Why do I laugh? I guess it's because, like the audiences of that time, I know what to expect when I see a Laurel and Hardy movie — and I want to see it. I want to hear Laurel making his involuntary sounds of alarm when something goes wrong. I want to hear Hardy say, "Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten me into!" And I laugh when they do.

OK, Hardy said, "Here's another nice mess," but why quibble?