Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Laurel or Hardy Shorts

This is one of those “public domain” DVDs that gives you fairly poor prints of movies that have gone out of copyright. I don’t mind much, because anyone who had a financial interest in these films is long dead. In this case it is two feature-length movies, and eleven two-reelers of varying quality. Only one of them has the two together, and it has nothing to do with the beloved characters they created later. But it’s interesting stuff, seeing them working solo in their early careers. The feature-length movies are Utopia, their last film, and Flying Deuces, reviewed elsewhere.

The Lucky Dog (1921) First appearance together. It would be another five years before they were in the same film together. Though they were in the same film thirteen times between their second appearance together in 45 Minutes From Hollywood in 1926 and Do Detectives Think! in 1927, it wasn’t until Putting Pants on Philip in 1927 that they were billed as a comedy team, and they still hadn’t invented their comic personas.

Mud and Sand (1922) Just Stan. He is a bullfighter, and really out of character, because although he takes some pratfalls, he is otherwise a really fine matador, a hero in Spain. Terrible miscasting.

The Sawmill (1922) Ollie is a bullying foreman at the mill. This is really a Larry Semon film. Semon was a much bigger star than Hardy at this time. He is largely forgotten today, and his films are watched only if Laurel or Hardy are in them. But he made 129 films between 1915 and his early death from tuberculosis in 1928. His comedies often involve people getting drenched with paint, tar, flour, and other things like that. And some of the stunts he and others performed were highly dangerous and required a great deal of strength and agility.

Oranges and Lemons (1923) Stan only. Hijinx in a citrus grove and a packing plant, with a lot of stunts involving moving belts and the throwing of spherical objects. But none of the objects look much like oranges or lemons. I’d say they were apples, but why would they do that in southern California? Once more, a lot of the stunts are pretty dangerous, and probably left the actors (there were no stunt men in 1923) with a lot of bruises.

Kid Speed (1924) Another Larry Semon film, with Ollie as the bad guy, Dangerous Dan McGraw. It’s fairly standard slapstick stuff, but the race at the end is worth seeing, with some pretty hair-raising stunts.

West of Hot Dog (1924) Stan has his name above the title this time, and it is subtitled “A Stan Laurel Film,” which is a move up for him. Hot Dog is the name of a town out west, and Stan is a tenderfoot who has inherited a saloon, if he can stay alive to keep it from some ne’er-do-well relatives. There are some glimmerings of the character he will soon develop with Oliver Hardy.

The Paperhanger’s Helper (Stick Around) (1925) Just Ollie. This one is pretty funny. There are infinite ways to make a mess when you are putting up wallpaper. The cast finds most of them.

Yes, Yes, Nannette (1925) Starring Ollie, directed by Stan. It would still be a year before they worked together again, and a while longer before they developed their film personas. He is the old lover of a woman who is getting married to James Finlayson. It’s just a knockabout farce with not much to distinguish it.

Hop To It Bellhop (1925) Just Ollie. Here is one of the best shorts Ollie made without Stan. The antics in this hotel are very funny, and very well done. It always amazes me to see how agile that loveable old fat man could be. He was thirty-three years old, in the prime of life. And soon he would become half of a legendary comedy team.

Enough to Do (Wandering Papas) (1926) This appears to be a fragment, included on the DVD to flesh it out, I guess. Stan is the director. It concerns a cook for a construction crew and his mishaps while hunting various animals for the stewpot. Or at least that’s what the part that is here is about.

A Tree in a Test Tube (1943) A real waste of time, but it’s quite short. It is a commercial for wood. That’s right, wood. An unseen narrator approaches the boys and asks them what they have on them that is made of wood. Turns out, it’s just about everything. Big whoop!