Laurel & Hardy in SWISS MISS (1938) – A Big Lavish Musical Superfeature!

swissmiss

Swiss Miss is no Way Out West; in fact, it’s two minutes longer than that feature and has far more peripheral material. If anything, it’s like those late-period Marx Brothers movies where the nutty comics intrude upon the supposedly interesting starring lovers, though it’s a notch or two better than that.

(One actor that both comic teams’ movies have in common is Walter Woolf King, who played a stuffy opera singer in the Marxes’ A Night in the Opera and here plays a stuffy opera composer. Indeed, if a classic-comedy connoisseur didn’t know better, he/she could imagine that Woolf’s opening scene in Swiss Miss depicts the Night opera star being exiled to Switzerland after getting his just desserts from the Marx Brothers.)

Producer Hal Roach advertised this movie as his “Big Lavish Musical Superfeature,” and he sure did his darndest to make the movie live up to its billing. We have to endure a ten-minute musical tribute to Swiss yodeling before we’re allowed even a glimpse of Stan and Ollie. The plot we’re supposed to care about concerns the composer, who has escaped to Switzerland to write his latest masterpiece away from the shadow of his diva singer-wife (Della Lind). Naturally, the plot we end up caring about is Stan and Ollie failing as mousetrap salesmen in the world’s biggest cheese-producing country, and being forced to work for a tyrannical hotel chef.

Unlike the charming musical numbers in Way Out West, the numbers here are mainly to be endured. (Even in the 1930’s, were there a lot of moviegoers who came out of the theater humming “The Cricket Song”?)

Luckily, the L&H sequences — such as Stan trying to snatch a keg of brandy from an assertive rescue-dog (shown below), and the famed scene of Stan and Ollie trying to move a piano across a rickety bridge (shades of The Music Box) — are worth waiting for. There’s even a mild attempt to integrate L&H into the silly romantic story, as the diva works her wiles on Ollie to make her husband jealous. (Naturally, the situation gets resolved — not so much to satisfy the grand love affair as to give the movie a quick wrap-up.)

You could almost make a drinking game out of watching Swiss Miss by enjoying the comedy scenes and then taking a swig when King and/or the Swiss residents start singing. I’ll bring the brandy.

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