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Laurel & Hardy  



Hal Roach MGM, 1928.  Directed by Edgar Kennedy.  Camera:  Floyd Jackman.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Wilson Benge, Chet Brandenburg, Christian J. Frank, Dick Gilbert, Charlie Hall, William Irving, Ham Kinsey, Otto Lederer, Sam Lufkin, George Rowe, Frank Saputo, Rolfe Sedan, Agnes Steele.

Employed by a municipal orchestra, playing on the bandstand in the park, Laurel & Hardy soon lose their jobs when they run afoul of the conductor, mix up all the sheet music, and generally ruin his performance.  Threatened with eviction by their landlady, they seek their fortune as street musicians.

Their spectacular lack of success has them tiffing and, in a burst of rage, Laurel throws Hardy's trombone into the street, where it is rolled flat by a truck.  They eye-poking, coat-ripping argument soon develops into a shin-kicking foray which like a raging fever spreads to and embraces all the passers-by.  The struggling mass of bruised and cursing humanity soon finds an additional outlet for its hostility in a sudden frenzy of pants-ripping.  Strangers are sucked into the great whirlpool of thrashing arms, legs and bodies, disappearing from view, their pants sailing away in mid-air.  Even the cop who tries to stop it all, holding tightly to his trousers as he does so, finds them ripped away by the fierce-visaged Laurel, suddenly sobered when he discovers that he has de-pantsed the long legs of the law.  He and Hardy, long since down to their own underwear, make a hasty but graceful retreat, both encased in one oversized pair of pants, tipping their hats politely in farewell as they disappear round a corner.

A variable comedy that gets off to a bad start by relying too much on gags that need sound for punctuation (the precise timing of tapping feet and reactions to single notes of music in the bandstand sequence suggest that originally it may have been planned for music and effects), You're Darn Tootin' regains its stride fairly quickly.  The boarding house breakfast is a charming sequence with Hardy's fruitless efforts to charm and cajole the landlady; by-play with salt and pepper shakers that Laurel loosens slightly, so that the entire contents are dumped into Hardy's soup, was reworked in one of their talkies, Hoosegow.  The shin-kicking, pants-ripping finale is one of their best and most meticulously constructed sequences of controlled savagery, similar to and in many ways better than the great pie fight.

In passing, it is worth mentioning another Hal Roach comedy of 1928, A Pair of Tights, which was presumably intended for Laurel & Hardy, and diverted away from them either because their already full schedule of ten two-reelers for the year could not accommodate it, or because it also contained a shin-kicking episode too close to that of You're Darn Tootin'.  Edgar Kennedy and Stuart Erwin starred in what were unquestionably roles tailored to Laurel & Hardy, and Charles Hall had some of his best fall-guy footage.  It's a pity that Laurel & Hardy didn't make it, for it was both fast and sophisticated, and might well have been on of their major works.  Even as it is, it can be considered a minor comedy classic.

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