Released 26th January 1929, “Liberty” is Laurel and Hardy’s answer to Harold Lloyd’s spectacular clock-dangling sequence in “Safety Last!” (1921). The scenes that include Stan and Ollie attempting to change their trousers were originally filmed for their previous movie “We Faw Down”. To reduce the length of the film, these scenes were cut from “We Faw Down” and used in “Liberty.”
As escaped convicts, Stan and Ollie are running away from the police. They change their clothes in the back of a getaway car, but soon realise that they have on the wrong trousers. Attempting to change their trousers in public proves difficult as nowhere seems to be private. Hiding behind a fishmonger’s shop, Stan unintentionally knocks a crab in Ollie’s trousers.
A policeman chases them to a building site where Stan and Ollie once again attempt to change their trousers in an elevator. The elevator takes them to the top of a half-built skyscraper. Nervously, they try and reach a ladder which is on the other side of the building. On the way, the crab keeps nipping Ollie’s bum, causing them to dangle many times from the construction girders. Towards the end of the film, the elevator conveniently comes back up to collect the boys and they quickly descend the elevator squashing the policeman at the bottom.
One day while shooting the film, Stan began to panic. To help calm him down, Ollie demonstrated how safe the platform was underneath. He jumped 20 feet on to the ‘safe’ platform, which was made of sugar pine, causing it to break. Fortunately Thomas Benton Roberts, a member of the construction crew had set up a safety net below the platform.
This is a difficult film to watch for those who have a particular fear of heights. However their characters match those from the talkies, and as always, the comedy is second to none.
“Wrong Again” ***
Released 23rd February 1929, the story for “Wrong Again” was written by director Leo McCarey when he was visiting the dentist. He noticed a reproduction of Thomas Gainsborough’s most famous portrait Blue Boy on the dentist’s wall.
While working at a stable, Stan and Ollie overhear the news that Blue Boy has been stolen, and $5,000 will be rewarded for its return. By pure co-incidence, there is a horse in the stable named Blue Boy, and so naturally Laurel and Hardy assume that they will gain the reward.
The thieves are captured and the rightful owner is informed by telephone that the painting will be returned as soon as possible.
Stan and Ollie arrive at the mansion, just as the owner is about to take a bath. Assuming that they are detectives, the owner throws down his front door key and asks them to take Blue Boy inside the house. The boys are confused by this, but start to believe Ollie’s theory that millionaires are peculiar. “They think just the opposite to other people.”
Before long the owner asks Stan to put Blue Boy on top of the piano. Not ones to judge, Stan and Ollie have a great struggle trying to force the horse on to the piano, but when the horse takes a fancy to the plant that Stan’s holding, he starts chasing him around the mansion.
When the owner of Blue Boy has finished taking his bath, his mother arrives home with the detectives and the painting Blue Boy. Naturally he is astonished and very angry when he finds that a horse has been wandering around his house.
This simple misunderstanding is the essence of Laurel and Hardy. The film is filled with many hilarious gags based on one idea. Using the same characters as those from the talkies, both casual and die-hard Laurel and Hardy fans would love this film.
“That’s My Wife” ***
Released 23rd March 1929, “That’s My Wife” is another one of many Laurel and Hardy films that doesn’t present married-life in a favourable light. Since Stan has become their permanent lodger, the Hardy household is no longer a happy one. Mrs Hardy decides she’s had enough and leaves.
Oliver’s Uncle Bernal has previously promised a large inheritance, providing that he is happily married. Desperately wanting the money, Ollie forces Stan to dress in drag and pretend to be his wife. Stan protests but eventually goes along with it.
“She’s not much to look at but what a clown!” Ollie explains to his Uncle. When Ollie introduces him to his new wife, Uncle Bernal is astonished by her manly appearance, but nevertheless remains polite. He invites them for a meal at The Pink Pup, much to Stan’s embarrassment.
While at the restaurant, a lady’s necklace is robbed. When the manager announces that he will have everybody in the place searched, the robber slips the necklace down Stan’s dress. Laurel and Hardy spend the rest of the film attempting to retrieve the necklace from the dress. Trying to be subtle about it, they move over to the dance floor to shake the necklace out, but as always, Stan and Ollie are far from subtle.
Laurel and Hardy had long established their on-screen characters, and this is another excellent example of a silent film equivalent to their talkies.
“Big Business” ***
Released 29th April 1929, “Big Business” is highly regarded as one of Laurel and Hardy’s best silent films. Stan and Ollie are door-to-door salesmen trying to sell Christmas trees in sunny California. Luck is not on their side. Their first customer slams the door on them and their second customer hits Ollie on the head with a hammer.
Unfortunately it isn’t third time lucky. When James Finlayson refuses to buy a tree, he accidentally shuts the door on one of the branches and Stan is unable to pull the tree away from the door. They knock on his door again, and the same mistake is made again, firstly to the tree, and then to Stan’s overcoat.
Stan knocks on Fin’s door one more time to ask if they could take his order for next year. Already annoyed at them, Fin chops up the tree with some garden shears. This was the beginning of another tit-for-tat battle that is comparable to that from “Two Tars” (1928.) Stan and Ollie start attacking Fin’s house, while Fin’s war is on their car and trees.
A policeman soon arrives to find out what’s going on. Fin blames the boys, and they burst into tears while explaining their version of the story. Likewise Fin bursts into tears when explaining his version of the story. All this crying soon sets the Policeman off in tears, and the public surrounding join in too.
“Big Business” is a must for any Laurel and Hardy fan. The tit-for-tat fights that are so common in their films are always a joy to watch. Each battle is unique and features hilarious gags that no-one should miss.
“Double Whoopee” ***
Released 28th May 1929, this film features Jean Harlow, who had worked with Laurel and Hardy in “Liberty”, and would make a third appearance in “Bacon Grabbers.” She would become a leading lady in many hit films such as “Red Dust”, “Dinner At Eight”, and “Reckless”, before sadly dying in 1937 at the tender age of 26.
A broadway hotel is expecting a foreign prince to arrive but just as the royal car parks up, Stan and Ollie appear at the hotel. They are mistaken for the prince and his prime minister, and are treated like royalty, until Ollie presents them with a letter explaining otherwise: “Introducing your new doorman and footman. These boys are the best we could do on such short notice. There is some reason to believe that they may be competent.” When the real prince does arrive, he manages to fall down a mud-filled elevator shaft; an accident partly caused by Laurel and Hardy.
Ollie’s competence as a doorman is demonstrated when he opens one door, the customer uses the other. Stan can’t resist blowing Ollie’s whistle, which calls for a cab driver to park outside, ready to pick up a hotel guest. When the taxi driver, played by Charlie Hall, realises that he’s had a wasted journey, he takes it out on Ollie by ripping his uniform to shreds.
When Ollie notices a pretty girl (Jean Harlow) arriving at the hotel, he immediately offers his assistance. Stan accidentally closes the door on her dress, and when she walks into the hotel, the back of her dress is pulled away. Neither Ollie or Jean realise this until they are in the hotel. Despite Stan protesting, Ollie uses Stan’s overcoat to cover up Jean, leaving Stan wearing nothing but his underwear and top hat.
Stan and Ollie begin to argue, which escalates into another battle, joined in by the manager, the receptionist, and some of the hotel guests. The battle commences when the prince gets hit by a cream cake. On the way back to his suite to change his clothes, the prince falls down the elevator shaft again.
This film will be enjoyed by true Laurel and Hardy fans as well as those with a casual interest.
“Bacon Grabbers” ***
Released 19th October 1929, the title “Bacon Grabbers” is slang for ‘repo-men’. In this film Stan and Ollie are repossession men who serve a summons for Mr Kennedy, who hasn’t paid instalment on his radio since 1921.
In order to collect the radio, they have to hand some paperwork over to Kennedy. While attempting to do so, Kennedy slams the door shut on them. Ollie asks a dog walker passing by if his canine is vicious. “I’ll say he is. I feed him on raw beef!” Satisfied with this remark, Ollie borrows the dog to scare Kennedy. His idea doesn’t go according to plan though, when Kennedy uses a toy dog to scare away the real dog. As the canine runs away, it pulls Ollie along with him.
After more failed attempts, they finally manage to hand Kennedy the paper. He then points out that they have still yet to collect the radio, and slams the door shut.
Stan realises that a second floor window is open, and suggests that they climb through to collect the radio. They borrow some ladders from the local building site, much to the annoyance of the builder, who falls in some whitewash. The ladders aren’t quite big enough to reach the window, and so Ollie lifts the ladders up while Stan attempts to climb through.
To make the situation even more difficult, the braces from Ollie’s trousers come lose, and a nearby dog keeps tugging on them. In the meantime, Stan is dangling from Kennedy’s curtains to keep himself from falling off the ladders. Kennedy finds their failing attempts amusing, and comes to the window to hit Stan in the face with a feather duster. He then pulls out a gun, but when he shoots, the bullet hits a fire hydrant, soaking a passing policeman.
Commanding more authority, the policeman allows them to go into the house and collect the radio. The boys leave the radio in the middle of the road, and it gets demolished by a steamroller, much to Kennedy’s amusement. His wife then returns home and tells him that she has paid the instalment, and that the radio is now legally their property.
Stan and Ollie’s characters match those from the talkies, making this film a must for both casual and die-hard Laurel and Hardy fans.
“Angora Love” ***
Released 14th December 1929, “Angora Love” was Laurel and Hardy’s last silent film, before making the seamless transition into the sound era. A pet store owner informs the police that his goat, Penelope has gone missing, and the policeman agrees to search for her.
Stan and Ollie wander the streets, while eating some doughnuts. The goat from the pet store follows them, and Stan offers her some of his doughnut. After this kind gesture, the boys can’t get rid of Penelope and she follows them wherever they go.
Two nights later, they try and hide the goat in a rented room. This proves rather difficult, as the landlord is sleeping in the room below. In attempt to get rid of the smell, Stan and Ollie try bathing the goat in a tin bath, but they end up getting more soaked than the goat does.
When the water seeps through the floor and soaks the landlord (Edgar Kennedy), he walks in on them bathing the goat. A water fight soon begins and everybody gets drenched, including a policeman, who arrests Kennedy in possession of the stolen goat.
There are similarities between “Angora Love” and some of their later sound films, including “Laughing Gravy”, “The Chimp”, “Be Big” and “Beau Hunks.” However each film is completely unique and will be enjoyed by all Laurel and Hardy fans.