20th Century Fox, 1941. Directed by
Monty Banks. Camera: Glen MacWilliams. With
Oliver Hardy, Sheila Ryan, Dick Nelson, Edmund MacDonald, Charles
Trowbridge, Ludwig Stossel, Kane Richmond,
Marsh, Ethel Griffies.
Laurel & Hardy are retainers to a pampered son of a millionaire.
The playboy is delighted when he is drafted, glad at last to be able to
prove himself a man entirely on his own. But afraid that he is
sickly and in need of protection, the boys get themselves drafted too,
so they can be with him. However, he soon shows that he can stand
on his own feet, while Laurel & Hardy are stuck with the inevitable
Some eighteen months after the release of Saps at Sea, Fox
proudly announced the "return" of
Laurel & Hardy in a big new series.
To their credit, they spent money advertising the film, and got good
bookings for it. (In England, where a wartime audience provided a
ready market for comedy, it did exceptionally well). However, it's
a pity that more of that enthusiasm and budget wasn't allocated to the
film itself. Although it received surprisingly good reviews, it
was a slow and ponderous effort, with far too much of the boy-girl plot,
and too few good comedy sequences.
In fact, the gags that stand out as highlights were the kind of gags
that in earlier years would have been merely throwaways: a bridge
constructing sequence resurrects that reliable gag of Laurel marching on
screen holding a huge plank which is carried across the screen at some
length to reveal Laurel on the other end as well; a
shaving routine with a faulty lamp bulb; and some very mechanical stuff
with a pet crow concealed in Hardy's trousers during inspection.
The staleness of much of the material was emphasized by the fact that
Abbott & Costello's first starring vehicle,
Buck Privates, also an Army comedy with a tough
sergeant and a playboy making good, had gone into release some six
The Films of Laurel and Hardy
by William K. Everson
The Citadel Press, 1967
Additional photos courtesy of Gary