Laurel & Hardy in NIGHT OWLS (1930) – How not to break into a house


Laurel & Hardy were “high concept” 50 years before the concept. The funniest L&H situations are the simplest, and “Stan and Ollie burglarize a house” is the highest of high concepts.

A cop named Kennedy (played by, conveniently, Edgar Kennedy) has to get in good with the chief of police, so he coerces vagrants Stan and Ollie into breaking into the chief’s house so that he can ostensibly catch them and be the hero. Woe to any cop who has Stan and Ollie on his beat.

This is one of L&H’s early talkies, but unlike the staginess of Unaccustomed as We Are or They Go Boom!, Night Owls makes the most of both sound and visuals. The sight gags are endless, as it takes Stan and Ollie most of the film to even get into the house. As for sound, Ollie is forever “ssh-ing” Stan, practically guaranteeing that the duo will make the most noise possible. And who else but Stan could get a running gag out of going “Meow”?

Best of all is the movie’s ending (SPOILER ALERT!) — not quite one of Laurel’s coveted “freak endings,” because the situation at hand is almost plausible. But you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Stan skitter away like a cockroach, with Ollie in his underwear throwing garbage at him.


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