Hal Roach MGM, 1931. Directed by
James Horne. Camera: Art Lloyd, Jack Stevens. With
Charles Middleton, Broderick O'Farrell, Henry Schultz, Billy
Bletcher, Baldwin Cooke, Gordon Douglas, Dick Gilbert, Charlie Hall,
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
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.