witnessing Hardy's humiliating encounters with his wife and the rent
collector, boarder Laurel talks him into putting his foot down and
showing that he's the boss of the household. Hardy—his wife
fortunately out of earshot—agrees and, to prove his new-found manhood he
draws their entire savings out of the bank in order to take over
financial leadership in such mundane matters as rent, furniture
payments, and so on. Passing an auction sale, they are enticed
in—and chivalrously agree to help an old lady who is bidding on a
grandfather clock, but who has insufficient capital to buy it.
They'll keep the bidding open until she returns. Alas, the bidding
closes before her return, and Hardy finds himself the unwilling
possessor of an expensive clock which consumes all of the
withdrawn savings. However, he is not its possessor for long.
Crossing a busy street, they have to put their heavy burden down for a
moment and it is immediately crushed to kindling by a passing truck.
Crestfallen, they get home moments before Mrs. Hardy, who by now has
heard what happened at the bank. Hardy's attempts to appease her
are in vain, and Laurel winces as he listens to the off-screen sounds of
battle. When the dust settles, Hardy has to be rushed to the
hospital for repairs. An immediate blood transfusion is necessary,
and although Laurel tries to escape, he is trapped into being a
"volunteer." But the doctor is nervous, and the equipment not in
proper working order. Too much blood is taken from first one, then
the other, pumped back and forth in an effort to restore the balance.
After the operation, the two personalities have become inextricably
confused. Laurel, wearing Hardy's clothes and moustache,
pantomimes his pal 's gestures and indignantly intones, "Here's
another fine mess you've gotten me into!," while Hardy, minus
moustache and dressed in Laurel's clothes, breaks down into helpless
Thicker Than Water was
Laurel & Hardy's last two-reeler, before
moving exclusively to features, and it is a pity that it couldn't have
been a more inspired farewell to the shorts field. While some
scenes, and particularly a breakfast-table sequence between Mr. & Mrs.
Hardy and boarder Laurel, were typical and up to their best standards,
the film as a whole had a tired look to it, with some overlong and
footage-consuming dialogue routines. It often happens, of course,
that the last film in any series—when there are no hopes or plans for a
renewed contract—is done quickly and cheaply, to finish off a commitment
so that the decks can be cleared for something else. It is
understandable in a way, since extra time and effort expended is not
likely to bring in any extra revenue.
Thicker Than Water, however, is not cheap or slipshod in its
production; indeed, it employs some fancy and costly optical wipes
between scenes which are quite creative in the way they move the story
to its next location with both speed and humor. It is in its plot,
its casual throwing together of tried and true situations, and in the
sometimes unfunny dialogue stretches, that the lethargy shows.
However, if it isn't the spectacular wrap-up to Laurel & Hardy's shorts
that one would have liked, it is also far from being one of their really
The last shorts made by Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd were also far from
being their best, quite possibly deliberately, in the knowledge that the
feature to come would inevitably be compared, and perhaps to its
detriment, with the shorts that it was replacing.