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Silent Film Reviews – 1928

“Leave ‘Em Laughing” ***

Released 28th January 1928, Laurel and Hardy proved how laughter can be infectious, even during the silent era. Stan is keeping Ollie awake at 3am with toothache and so Ollie provides him with a hot water bottle. It’s not long before the bed is soaking wet, and so while they’re awake, Stan and Ollie attempt to pull the tooth in the traditional manner – by tying some string to a door and slamming it shut. The teeth are extremely strong, and the door handle comes off.

The next day Ollie takes Stan to see a dentist. Stan is clearly very nervous, especially after witnessing the previous patient be dragged out unconscious. To console him, Ollie sits in the chair to prove how easy it is. The dentist makes the mistake of thinking that Ollie is the patient, and starts taking his tooth out instead. This isn’t helped by the fact that Stan passes him the equipment.

When Ollie wakes up and realises that his tooth has been pulled, he angrily tries to force Stan into the chair. While doing so they breathe in too much laughing gas. They spend the rest of the film laughing hysterically, while trying to drive home. They manage to cause a traffic jam, while police officer Edgar Kennedy is trying to direct the traffic. He can’t understand their amusement.

The scene at the dentist is replicated again in their first feature film “Pardon Us” in 1931. Nevertheless both films are entirely different and each one is worth viewing as separate films.

Although the picture quality isn’t always perfect, this film will definitely be enjoyed by all Laurel and Hardy fans. It will certainly leave you laughing!

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“Flying Elephants” *

Released 12th February 1928, “Flying Elephants” is perhaps the most unusual film the boys ever made, but it is no less comical for this. In fact the bizarreness adds to the hilarity of the film. Set in the stone age, all men are given orders to find themselves a wife. Ollie doesn’t care whose wife, but his determination is second to none.

Meanwhile, Little Twinkle Star (Stan) falls in love with James Finlayson’s daughter. He tells Fin that he will provide for her by shooting fish with his bow and arrow. When Fin asks him to shoot a whale, he protests: “Sardines is my speciality.”

A love triangle is created when Ollie also falls for Fin’s daughter, thus causing some competition. Stan decides that the only alternative is to try and push Ollie off a cliff.

“Flying Elephants” was actually filmed in May 1927. Originally distributing his films through Pathé, Hal Roach decided to switch to MGM. Pathé decided to delay the release of the film until their more conventional movies were broadcasted in the cinemas. This would undoubtedly give them a chance to become more popular, and the film would gain more exposure.

For those searching for the usual Laurel and Hardy films, this is certainly one to avoid. However, those that are simply looking for a good laugh, this will be a wonderful film.

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“The Finishing Touch” ***

Released 25th February 1928, “The Finishing Touch” is a silent comedy masterpiece. The owner of a half built house asks Stan and Ollie to finish building it by noon next Monday for $500. Ollie promises to have it built by noon today.

The house happens to be located near a hospital, and when Stan and Ollie set to work, a nurse played by Dorothy Coburn comes marching out to see what the noise is all about. She asks the local policeman Edgar Kennedy to have a word with them, and so he tells them straight: “If you must make a noise, make it quietly.”

Kennedy stays a while to make sure they keep the noise down, but before long he ends up covered in glue and wooden planks. The nurse has further confrontations with them, in which Stan and Ollie get the better of her.

The film is filled with gags that demonstrate Laurel and Hardy’s lack of common sense. Without having any pockets in his overalls, Ollie decides to carry the nails in his mouth instead. When Stan decides he needs to use a plank of wood, he starts soaring one in half, without realising that Ollie is stood on the end.

When the house is finished, the owner returns and happily gives them their $500. Shortly afterwards, a bird lands on the chimney causing it to collapse. The owner is no longer happy and demands his money back. They spend the rest of the film fighting over the money, until Stan and Ollie’s truck backs up into the house, causing the whole building to collapse.

“The Finishing Touch” is inspired by two films that Laurel and Hardy made during their solo careers: “Smithy” by Stan Laurel in 1924, and “Stick Around” by Oliver Hardy in 1925. Genuine Laurel and Hardy fans would enjoy watching all three films, but “The Finishing Touch” is a comedy work of art that should be enjoyed by everyone.

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“From Soup To Nuts” ***

Released 24th March 1928, this was the first of two films directed by Edgar Kennedy. The second is another Laurel and Hardy silent: “You’re Darn Tootin’.” In “From Soup To Nuts” Laurel and Hardy are hired as waiters at a sophisticated restaurant. They provide the hostess with a note of explanation: “These two boys are the best we could furnish on such short notice.” The letter is signed: “With apologies.”

After Ollie fusses so much about Stan wearing a hat inside, Stan assumes that the same rule must apply for the chef too. A tit for tat fight soon begins with plates being thrown all over the place.

Throughout the film, whenever Ollie carries a huge cake around, a banana skin is always there to trip him up. When he attempts to deliver the soup to the customers, the chairs are far too high and prevent him from reaching the table. His solution is to stand on another chair, but when he bends down the seam of his trousers rip.

Anita Garvin spends most of the film chasing a cherry around a dish with a spoon. She then asks Ollie to serve the salad without dressing. When Ollie asks Stan to “bring in the salad, undressed”, that is precisely what he does.

The idea of serving the salad undressed was later repeated for the European edition of “A Chump At Oxford” in 1940. The American release of the film was originally 42 minutes, but an extra 20 minutes was added for European distribution. Both films are entirely different and are standard Laurel and Hardy films that will be enjoyed even by the most casual fans.

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“You’re Darn Tootin’” ***

Released 21st April 1928, this was the second of two films directed by Edgar Kennedy. The first is another Laurel and Hardy silent: “From Soup To Nuts.” In “You’re Darn Tootin’” Stan and Ollie are members of an orchestra band. Stan plays the clarinet, while Ollie plays the French horn. When Stan’s sheet of music is blown away by the trombone player behind him, he steals Ollie’s music sheet when he’s not looking. Believing that Stan’s sheet of music is his own, he tries to collect it from underneath the conductor’s feet.

After Stan and Ollie were fired from the band, they return to the boarding house, to face the landlady whose demanding 14 weeks worth of rent. When the landlady’s son Sturgeon reveals that they’ve been fired from the orchestra, they are also thrown out of the house.

Out on the street with their instruments, they decide to try and make some money out of busking. “I wouldn’t mind training a seal, or an elephant – but you’re hopeless!” Ollie says to Stan. After he destroys his clarinet, another tit for tat battle starts. It begins with the kicking of shins and thumping in the stomach, but eventually progresses to ripping off each others’ trousers. By this point, many passersby are dragged into the battle until the street is full of trouser-less, shin-kicking pedestrians.

In 2006, Paul Merton broadcasted “You’re Darn Tootin’” on BBC Four as part of his programme “Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns”, with a new musical score composed by Neil Brand. The key purpose of the programme was to promote silent films to current generations and “You’re Darn Tootin’” is an excellent example to choose.

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“Their Purple Moment” ***

Released 19th May 1928, “Their Purple Moment” was directed by James Parrott, the younger brother of Charley Chase. Stan and Ollie have secretly been saving some of their wages to go for a night out without their wives. Little does Stan know that his wife finds his stash of money and replaces it with cigar coupons.

The boys meet up with two women who have been ditched by their previous boyfriends. They offer to buy them a steak meal, as well as pay for their waiting taxi driver. Stan’s generosity rises even more when he offers to treat the restaurants’ act of marching children dressed as soldiers, by buying them cakes. It is only then that he realises that his wallet has no real money in it.

Stan and Ollie try and escape but end up running into the restaurants’ kitchen. The film ends with another tit-for-tat food fight. Attempting to fool their wives is a theme that is used in a number of Laurel and Hardy films, including “We Faw Down” (1928), “Be Big” (1931) and most famously “Sons of The Desert” (1933). Each variation is always highly entertaining and “Their Purple Moment” equally hilarious.

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“Should Married Men Go Home?” ***

Released 8th September 1928, this silent film classic was possibly influenced by Oliver Hardy’s favourite pastime. He had become quite an expert at golf, winning the majority of The Roach Studio’s annual golf tournament. It was this hobby that was the subject of this particular film. Mr and Mrs Hardy had planned to have a quiet evening at home, until Stan comes to visit.

Ollie’s wife soon becomes sick of them both and orders them to go and play golf. When Ollie takes off his dressing gown, he is already dressed in his golfing clothes, suggesting that this was the plan all along.

Stan and Ollie meet up with two girls on the golf course and take them for some sodas before starting the game. When Stan and Ollie realise that they don’t have enough to pay for the drinks, Ollie tries to force Stan into refusing his offer, but Stan doesn’t quite understand. Ollie eventually drinks the soda, and leaves Stan to pay for the drinks.

The final part of the film has them attempting to golf. Ollie is hit in the shin with Stan’s golf club, and Stan is later hit in the face. When Edgar Kennedy’s ball lands in the mud, Stan reminds him of the rules: “Ball must be played from where it lies. No exceptions.” This inadvertently causes a mud fight and many people are drawn in.

The scene where Stan and Ollie are buying sodas for the girls was repeated in their 1929 sound short “Men O’ War”. There are minor differences between the two versions, but the effort of repeating is justified with the use of dialogue, which arguably works better. Both films are entirely different however, and both are excellent examples of true Laurel and Hardy movies.

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“Early To Bed” ***

Released 6th October 1928, “Early To Bed” only has one co-star playing alongside Laurel and Hardy – Buster, the dog. Although often referred to as male, Buster was in fact a female dog and her later appearances included “Laughing Gravy” and “The Bohemian Girl.”

Ollie is elated when he reads the news that he has inherited a fortune from his late Uncle. He decides to buy a mansion and hire Stan as his butler. After a night out, Ollie returns home drunk and plays many practical jokes on Stan. Stan grows increasingly tired of Ollie’s behaviour and tells Ollie that he wants to quit his job as a butler. When Ollie refuses to let him quit, Stan starts wrecking the house.

Casual fans may question the unfamiliar relationship between the boys in this film. With Ollie playing a drunk, Stan becomes the dominant one. However the characters are still the same as those from the talkies, but the film demonstrates the range of their characters’ personalities.

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“Two Tars” ***

Released 3rd November 1928, this is another must for any Laurel and Hardy fan. In this movie Stan and Ollie are sailors on leave from Battleship Oregon. Ollie is demonstrating the importance of road safety, before crashing their car into a lamppost.

They later meet up with two girls who have lost a penny in a chewing gum machine that no longer works. Always the gentleman, Ollie attempts to fix the ‘doodad’ but ends up losing all the gum balls on the street.

Taking the girls on a cruise in their car which is somehow still intact, they drive themselves into the middle of a traffic jam. When the road workers order them to back up, they crash into a car behind them. This causes another tit for tat fight which escalates into a battle. Cars are crashed and torn apart, and food fights also take place. It is one of the greatest and well constructed battles in silent film history.

As their characters are familiar to those from the talkies, this film is both for casual and true Laurel and Hardy fans.

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“Habeas Corpus” ***

Released 1st December 1928, “Habeas Corpus” is a silent film with inter-titles and no dialogue, however it was the first Laurel and Hardy film to be released with synchronised music and sound effects. This was for cinemas that were already geared for sound films.

Stan and Ollie are begging for food, and they knock at the door of a mad scientist. The scientist offers them $500 to dig up a dead body from a graveyard for his latest experiment. Although nervous at first, they soon accept the offer due to needing the money.

The butler of the scientist phones the police and they tell him to follow Stan and Ollie to the graveyard. To make sure they don’t see him, he hides in one of the graves, but Stan and Ollie dig him up thinking he is a dead body.

“Habeas Corpus” is one of Laurel and Hardy’s greatest silent films, and it’s filled with hilarious gags. It is a definite must for all Laurel and Hardy fans.

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“We Faw Down” ***

Released 29th December 1928, “this story is based upon the assumption that, somewhere in the world, there are husbands who do not tell their wives everything.” Ollie receives a phone call inviting him and Stan to a poker game. Knowing his wife wouldn’t approve, he comes up with the excuse that they’ve been invited to the Orpheum Theatre by their boss.

On their way to the poker game, they voluntarily offer to collect a lady’s hat that has blown underneath a parked car. While doing so they get soaked by a passing truck that is cleaning the street. The two women invite them back to their apartment to dry their clothes.

While the boys are at the apartment, their wives read the horrifying news that the Orpheum Theatre has burned down. In a panic, they set off to see whether their husbands are still alive.

At the apartment, Stan and Ollie are a little drunk and start playfully fighting with the women. Before long the woman’s husband comes home to find her in Ollie’s arms. When the jealous husband pulls out a knife, the boys quickly grab their clothes, and jump out of the window, half-dressed, just as their wives are walking past.

As the boys hadn’t noticed that they’d been caught, they return home pretending that they’d seen the show at the theatre. All smiles, Ollie describes the show to their wives, while Stan reads from the newspaper’s advert what acts took part. He provides Ollie with mimed hints, but Ollie misinterprets them entirely. Eventually Stan reads the main headline that the theatre had in fact burned down.

Although the story has a strong resemblance to their 1933 feature “The Sons of the Desert”, both films are entirely different and each worth appreciating as separate films. “We Faw Down” is a film that no fan should miss.

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One Response to Silent Film Reviews – 1928

  1. Pingback: An introduction to our silent movie reviews. | Laurel & Hardy Museum

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