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Laurel & Hardy  



Hal Roach MGM, 1931.  Directed by James Horne.  Camera:  Art Lloyd, Jack Stevens.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Horne, Charles Middleton,  Broderick O'Farrell, Henry Schultz, Billy Bletcher, Baldwin Cooke, Gordon Douglas, Dick Gilbert, Charlie Hall, Jean Harlow, Marvin Hatley, Jack Hill, Ham Kinsey, Bob Kortman, Sam Lufkin, Tiny Sandford, Buster Wiles, Leo Willis.

Laurel & Hardy join the Foreign Legion to enable Hardy to forget a tragic love affair.  But the girl who jilted him seems to have been the sweetheart of all the other Legionnaires—including the Commandant!  Reasoning that she is not worth their sacrifice, they announce their intention of resigning, and earn the enmity of their commanding officer.  However, they redeem themselves when Riffs attack the fort, and they save the day by sprinkling tacks in the path of the marauding Arabs.

Four reels was a clumsy length for Laurel & Hardy, and they never repeated it.  It was not long enough to allow for a story line or to justify worthwhile production values, and at the same time it was far too long for loosely-connected slapstick.  In re-issue, it was often cut to three and even two reels without any marked effect on continuity.

The plot seems to have been inspired by two contemporary films:  Josef von Sternberg's Dietrich-Cooper vehicle Morocco, and the Laurence Olivier - Erich von Stroheim Friends and Lovers.  However, there is no serious attempt to parody any of the eminently spoofable plot elements in those films, and the film is merely a matter of flat, predictable, and very slow-paced slapstick.  The opening sequences, when Hardy receives word of his rejection—and wrecks a piano in the process—are the only ones where their material is in any way up to standard.

The Films of Laurel and Hardy
by William K. Everson
The Citadel Press, 1967

Poster artwork courtesy of Dieter.  Additional photos courtesy of Gary.