Now we’re getting some place! Do Detectives Think? is the first L&H comedy since Duck Soup where Laurel & Hardy seem like Laurel & Hardy. This is the first movie where they both wear their trademark derbies — and, as if in honor of that occasion, it’s also the first movie where they do their hat-switching routine. Except for a little extra growth on Ollie’s mustache, all of the familiar elements are in place and remain there for an entire movie. There will be a few more missteps from here on in, but movie history is starting to take place.
The only out-of-place element is funny names. Here, Stan is Ferninand Finkleberry, “the second worst detective in the whole world,” and Ollie is Sherlock Pinkham, “the worst” — showing that even in this early entry, The Boys fit the real-life Hardy’s later description of their characters as “the dumb, dumb guy” and “the smart, smart guy who’s dumber than the dumb guy only he doesn’t know it.” They are detectives hired to protect a judge (James Finlayson) whose life is in danger when a convict (Noah Young) whom he sentenced to death has escaped. The Boys are such brilliant detectives, they don’t realize that the judge’s new butler is the vengeful convict in disguise.
Some of the business that The Boys execute is somewhat mechanical — e.g., a William Tell routine; trying to fetch their derbies after they’ve been blown into a spooky graveyard — but in hindsight, one is so grateful to see an honest-to-gosh Laurel & Hardy Pathe comedy, even the contrived stuff is carried by their characterizations.
(As a minor footnote, it’s worth noting that in her rather fetching nightgown, Viola Richard as the judge’s wife comes off as the Adrienne Barbeau of her time — definitely the most sexy image offered by an L&H film until Jean Harlow loses her dress in Double Whoopee.)