Laurel & Hardy in DIRTY WORK (1933) – A sweeping comedy


Have you ever noticed that when Laurel & Hardy are self-employed in one of their movies, the job at hand always seems to be their first assignment? Perhaps their movies show them in so many different professions because, after they’ve wreaked havoc on someone’s home in a given job, word-of-mouth gets around and they have to try something else.

Here, Stan and Ollie are chimney sweeps, with none of the grace or elan of Laurel protegee Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. When they get into a chimney, by God, they get out every bit of soot — either on themselves or on the unsuspecting victim’s belongings. It really is hysterical to watch.

Dialogue is often short-changed in critiques of L&H movies, but here it’s as funny as the sight gags. The house in question belongs to an eccentric professor whose butler Jessup is not smitten with Stan and Ollie and who makes ominous remarks to them such as, “Somewhere, an electric chair is waiting!” Later, when the professor is looking for his butler, Hardy gets in one of his great Southern in-jokes when the prof asks, “Where is Jessup?” and Ollie helpfully replies, “About thirty-five miles east of Augusta, Georgia!”

Best of all is, surprisingly, one of Laurel’s patented freak-endings, here made just about plausible. You want to know more than that about the gag? Sorry, I have nothing to say.

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