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Laurel & Hardy




20th Century Fox, 1941.  Directed by Monty Banks.  Camera:  Glen MacWilliams.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sheila Ryan, Dick Nelson, Edmund MacDonald, Charles Trowbridge, Ludwig Stossel, Kane Richmond, Mae 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 tough sergeant.

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 months earlier.

Also see the American Film Institute's summary.

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


Additional photos courtesy of Gary