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Laurel & Hardy




Hal Roach - MGM, 1934.  Directed by Lloyd French.  Camera:  Art Lloyd.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Mae Busch, Jack Barty.

Laurel and Hardy are struggling barbers, and Hardy sees a chance to improve their fortunes when he reads an advertisement by a rich widow who is seeking a husband.  They present themselves at the lady's mansion and Hardy is accepted as the new husband.  The prospects of immediate riches are soon replaced by concern however, for the butler is clearly mad—serving invisible meals to invisible guests—and it rapidly develops that the lady herself is mad, with a penchant for marrying men named Oliver and then murdering them.  After a terrifying night, Oliver finally finds himself at her mercy, a knife at his throat—and awakens to find Laurel shaving him, the whole affair nothing more than a nightmare.

Their last three-reeler, with a title suggesting some kind of satire of the previous year's big success, The Private Life of Henry the Eighth, this film offered neither satire nor very much else that was genuinely funny.  It is one of their slowest and emptiest films, the pantomime with the mad butler offering a few amusing moments, but most of the film falling back on stock "terror" jokes, including the old one in which Hardy shoots at a hand appearing over the bottom of the bed, the hand of course turning out to be his own foot.  The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth was a surprisingly dull and banal film for a year in which their output was otherwise so consistently good.  As in The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case, the dream ending was a distinct let-down.

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