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Laurel & Hardy




20th Century Fox, 1943.  Directed by Malcolm St. Clair.  Camera:  Lucien Andriot.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Vivian Blaine, Bob Bailey, Douglas Fowley, Noel Madison, Lee Patrick, Robert Emmett Keane, Charles Halton.

Laurel & Hardy cross swords with a gang of confidence men, and champion the cause of a nightclub singer whose career the villains are trying to wreck.

Although almost plot-less, by a happy combination of circumstances, Jitterbugs emerged like an oasis in the desert of their current mediocrity, and was easily the best of their final nine films.  Wurtzel gave them a top director in Mal St. Clair, and he rose to the occasion on this film, although he too was tired, ill, and near the end of his career.  (He remained the director on their three other Fox productions, though with less success.)

And undoubtedly a major reason for the film's added merit was that Fox used it as an introductory showcase for their new singing star and potential Betty Grable replacement, Vivian Blaine.  This involved allocating more money to production values, sets, and camerawork.  A top cameraman was assigned (Lucien Andriot), and a first-class art director (James Basevi).

The results were handsome and showman-like, while Vivian Blaine, a discovery of real note, added good songs and genuine personality to the proceedings.  The better-than-usual comedy sequences allowed Laurel to masquerade as a fussy spinster, and Hardy as both a sheriff and a Southern colonel of the old school, whose gallant and chivalrous dialogue encounters with Lee Patrick were welcome throwbacks to such parallel sequences in Way Out West and earlier films.  A good runaway showboat sequence provided a rousing slapstick finale.

Also see the American Film Institute's summary.

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