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Laurel & Hardy




Hal Roach-MGM, 1933.  Directed by George Marshall.  Camera:  Art Lloyd.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert.

Plying their trade as fish-peddlers, Hardy musically singing out "Fresh fish!" while Laurel blows on a horn, their old jalopy rumbling through the unresponsive Hollywood streets, the pair realize that their commercial future is bleak.  Then Laurel has an idea:  they'll buy their own boat, catch their own fish, eliminate the middle man, and keep all the profits.  The next step, which also proves to be the last of this particular enterprise, is to buy an old boat and "fix it UP."

One of their most diverting milking of a single gag, Towed in a Hole concerns itself almost exclusively with the hammer and nails, saw and paintbrush brand of visual humor.  The best gags are those of anticipation: Hardy perched precariously atop the boat's mast to paint it, and hearing Laurel sawing belowhis face registering alarm, reassurance, and last-minute horror before the mast, skillfully sawn in two by Laurel, comes plunging down to land Hardy in a tub of whitewash.

It is virtually a two-man show, Billy Gilbert's "role" as the seller of the boat being nothing more than an expository bit, and it is also a notably subtle film in its use of suggestion and sound to elevate all the gags from the level of mere slapstick. There is comparatively little dialogue, and indeed at one point, outraged by Laurel's stupidity, Hardy majestically states "I have nothing to say!" and maintains an even more marked silence. At the conclusion (the boat is being repaired on dry land, miles from the ocean) the boys put the boat on wheels and hoist a sail to facilitate its journey to the sea, whereupon a breeze immediately springs up and the now spick-and-span boat sails away, to destroy itself within seconds.

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