Laurel & Hardy in WHY GIRLS LOVE SAILORS (1927) – Stan in drag is a bit of a drag

whygirlslovesailors

Why Girls Love Sailors was a lost Laurel and Hardy film in the U.S. for many years, until a California fan obtained a copy in 1986. While any reclaimed L&H film is good news, it’s a pity it had to be this one instead of, say, Hats Off.

This is another of those early Pathe numbers that, even when it gets Laurel and Hardy together in a scene, it hardly knows what to do with them. Here, Hardy is the brusque first mate of a typically maladorous sea captain, who shanghaies Laurel’s girlfriend(!!) (Viola Richard), causing Laurel to go to very mechanical lengths to rescue her.

Laurel has the lion’s share of footage here, most of it not very good. The funniest scene occurs early on, when he is courting Richard unbeknownst to the captain. He steals a kiss from her and is so overcome with triumph, he falls over furniture and rolls around on the bed like a little kid. Laurel’s reaction here seems about halfway between Harry Langdon and the later Stanley, and it offers a promise of great comedy, a promise that is pretty much reneged upon for the rest of the movie.

When L&H finally appear together in the movie, it’s because Laurel has dressed up as a woman in a far-too-elaborate scheme to vamp the ship’s crew and cause Hardy to mistakenly throw each of them overboard. There sure is a lot of turnover in these seaboats’ crews, isn’t there?

This movie also marks Anita Garvin’s first appearance in an L&H movie, though she doesn’t show up until close to movie’s end and hardly has a chance to show what an excellent foil she could be.

Strange that, according to film history, Laurel was into directing and reluctant to return to the front of a movie camera. Why Girls Love Sailors seems to prove he’d do everything he could to hog the footage. Thankfully for film history, things would balance out just a few short films later.

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