Review of Simon Louvish’s book STAN AND OLLIE: THE ROOTS OF COMEDY, and an interview with the author


The following is yet another entry in this blog’s self-proclaimed Laurel & Hardy Month. Wondering what that’s all about? Click on the above image to learn more!


Simon Louvish’s epic-length biography Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy (St. Martin’s Press, 2001) plays like one of those Laurel & Hardy comedies that were padded to feature-length by the inclusion of romantic leads nobody cares about. Like those movies, one has to wade through a lot of guff to get to the really good stuff.

Louvish has done his research (as he is all too eager to convince the reader), and it pays off most admirably when debunking previous tales of the Laurel & Hardy history. The most compelling example is the chapter detailing Oliver Hardy’s first marriage. Hardy and film historians have long maintained that he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to pursue a film career, and there was where he met and married first wife Madelyn. Louvish detailingly reveals that Madelyn was in fact Jewish, that Hardy met her in Georgia at the time of an infamous Jewish lynching, and that Hardy and his wife exited Georgia as a result, never to return.

Such dramatic payoffs are alone worth the price of the book. Louvish also often gleans much enlightened insight into Laurel & Hardy’s film work (as well he should–Louvish in a part-time film teacher). To cite just one example, his analysis of the finale of L&H’s penultimate Hal Roach film A Chump at Oxford is as insightful and moving as the finale itself.

Along the way, though, the reader must endure the obstacle courses that plagued Louvish’s previous bios of W.C. Fields and The Marx Brothers (both of which tomes are shamelessly plugged throughout this book). For one thing, Louvish lards his writing with enough precious verbosity to make biographer John McCabe look like an illiterate slacker by comparison. (Prime example: “Babe’s inner life has always been a…mystery wrapped in an enigma, hidden behind those folds of flesh.”)

Also, at one point Louvish decries critics who have read too much subtext into L&H’s simplistic plots. Yet he goes hog-wild (pardon the L&H pun) on phallic imagery, suggesting that Mae Busch’s constant widow of L&H’s short Oliver the Eighth wants to chop off an organ considerably below Ollie’s neck, and even shamelessly stating later (in his take on Their First Mistake), “What remains erect for Oliver Hardy is not his penis, but his dignity.” Eeew!!

My final complaint with the book is that when it gets into Laurel & Hardy at their prime, it quotes other, far superior sources (most notably Randy Skretvedt’s) to the point of plagiarism. And even then, accuracy is not Louvish’s strong suit. Louvish quotes a Skretvedt interview with Hal Roach in which Roach, by way of contrasting L&H with other comedy teams, states that “Abbott and Costello worked at our studio, and they used to fight like hell. But with Laurel and Hardy, when I fired Hardy, Laurel cried.” Sounds touching, except that Roach never fired Hardy (Roach had Stan and Babe on concurrent, separate contracts and often suspended Laurel or let his contract lapse during certain disputes).

For all of its faults, Louvish’s genuine appreciation for Laurel and Hardy’s comic artistry makes a considerable amount of Stan and Ollie worthwhile writing for the fervent L&H buff. Just make to sure to avoid Louvish’s verbal landmines in order to reach the real meat of the book.



Stan and Ollie author Simon Louvish (shown above) was kind enough to answer some of my questions in a 2001 e-mail “interview.”

Movie Movie Blog Blog: Do you consider yourself an L&H “buff”? Is there anything in particular you like about their style?

Simon Louvish: I’m a fan of most of the early movie comedians, from Max Linder and Ben Turpin through Fields, Mae West and the Marxes. I tail off by the 40’s, with the Three Stooges, Abbott and the other guy and all that late jazz. Somebody also told me the Ritz Brothers are funny, but I’m not convinced. So I’m not a “collect it all” fan of any of them, though Stan and Ollie were definitely the first comedians I can remember seeing on screen. What remains most affecting in their style, and substance, I think, is exemplified by the quote from Spike Milligan: “As soon as they walked out on the screen I knew they were my friends.” In an inversion of the Christian idea of a person who dies for your sins – they fail for your laughs: We know that their failures stand in for ours, and there they are, picking themselves up and ready to fail once again. Now that’s a class act.

MMBB: Do you have a favorite L&H movie?

SL: Favourite Stan and Ollie movie remains The Music Box, which can’t be bettered – though I missed out on one thing, it’s actually a remake, not just of [L&H’s silent comedy] Hats Off, but of a Keystone Charlie Chaplin movie, His Musical Career (1914), where Charlie and Mack Swain move a piano. Reason for favourite rating: perfection. Favourite feature: Sons of the Desert – the perfect expression of marriage.

MMBB: You have indicated that your biography subjects owe a lot to their stage experience. What do you think stage and vaudeville work brought to their comedy that modern-day comics don’t have?

SL: The issue of the stage background is paramount: Of the 1930’s Talkie comics, only Oliver Hardy bypassed the stage as a formative experience. (I know he sang a bit, but not that much.) The result is that the comics honed their acts with a live audience, knew what worked and what didn’t, and they had a heritage they were working in, something people tend to forget. They knew their craft inside out. Modern comics can be victims of the instant fashions of TV stand-up – you make jokes about what was on last week’s TV. There was also an issue of hardship – it wasn’t easy to be an overnight success in 1899 or 1906. You had to learn by failing. Stan Laurel certainly did.

MMBB: Which modern-day comedians do you think show the influence of L&H?

SL: The point of the great comedians is that no one matches them. They might have imitators but not proper pupils. They are what they are. I know Dick Van Dyke thought himself very Stan-like. Well, it’s a comforting thought. Where are the contemporary comedians?

MMBB: Did you come across any surprises in your research?

SL: The main surprise in the search is Oliver Hardy. Not just the meaning of his first marriage to Madelyn, but the deep melancholy that I believe lies at the root of his character. The sense in which I’m convinced that the character he eventually created as “Ollie” was basically his father, whom he never knew, except from stories his mother told him. There is a depth to the characterization that shines through. But his feeling of being trapped in his “fatness” never quite went away.

MMBB: You are generous in attribution, but just the same, you elaborate on a lot of source material from Randy Skretvedt. Were you given special access to Skretvedt’s material?

SL: In all three books on the comedians, W.C. Fields, the Marx Bros., and Stan and Ollie, I’ve followed the principle of acknowledging the work that’s gone before. There’s nothing more annoying than a biographer who picks up other people’s work and uses it without access or attribution to original sources. In the case of Stan and Ollie, three scholars – John McCabe, Randy Skretvedt and Dick Bann – have looked at the lives and movies. McCabe presented his own rounded narratives, Dick Bann has put out copious facts and figures about the individual films, and Randy’s book stands for itself. I made two visits to Randy Skretvedt in L.A., and spent time with parts of his archive. He also sent me copies of the complete versions of interviews with Hal Roach, Joe Rock, and tape recordings with Lucille Hardy, of which I used excerpts, all attributed, and fully acknowledged, in Notes on Sources. It is a fact that, unless you’re going to drown in trivia, there is not that much new information to convey on the Laurel and Hardy films – as individual products – once they got into their stride, and I find Skretvedt’s work on them highly reliable. The new information is at the “front end” of their lives, and their solo careers – those solo films, too, have been copiously researched, by Rob Stone and David Wyatt, but not assimilated before into their story. Stan and Ollie is the first full narrative biography of both Laurel and Hardy “from soup to nuts,” certainly since McCabe’s pioneering (but pretty short) Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy just about 40 years ago. (There is also new archival information from MGM files on some of the 1940’s films.)

MMBB: Re the Hal Roach quote in your book where Roach compares Laurel & Hardy to Abbott & Costello: Roach never fired Hardy (the records show him having more trouble with Laurel). Do you think this quote was worthy of dispute?

SL: In the case of Hal Roach interviews, I noted clearly that he remembers things as he wants, with scant regard for accuracy, as befitting a grandee who lived so long that he survived everyone else. I don’t need to say after every single quote “as Roach inaccurately says.” It’s significant that Roach wants to emphasize his control over Stan and Ollie’s output, and take more credit than he deserves. But he deserves enough credit anyway. Without him they would both have starved.

MMBB: Your analysis of L&H’s movies often tends toward the phallic side, while paradoxically you chastise some of the more pretentious attempts to analyze their work. Do you think that “reading too much” into L&H’s work might be a bit of a trap?

SL: Phallic analysis? Gedoutahere! I have to tackle the endless attempts to re-interpret Stan and Ollie in a “modern” light, and deal with the old “gay theme” issue. As I point out, cross-dressing and “gender-bending” are an old vaudeville staple. Stan was particularly fond of dressing up, which is an old British music-hall fad, but even Ollie cross-dressed in some of his solo films. Of course, Their First Mistake makes the game quite clear – Stan knew very well where his jokes were coming from. More than the “gay” theme, it’s a consistent obsession Stan has with split identities, as in Brats or Our Relations. You should always read as much as you want into movies, they are after all fantasies!

MMBB: What would you say to a jaded L&H buff to convince him to read your book when he’s read all the others?

SL: There’s always more to find. I’m not the last word. There is always another angle. What interested me in particular on Stan and Ollie was the fact that they had come from such different backgrounds, and countries, and yet only found their place as a team – as two parts of a coherent whole, that cannot be thereafter parted. This is pretty unique – after all, the Marx Brothers were brothers. I know that fans who’ve learned every movie by heart might complain at descriptions of plots, but, at a minimum, a writer has to write for a general audience also. Another one of my pet hates is biographies of artists that only deal with gossip, and leave out their art. But the only reason to biography artists is their art, and so the relationship between the life and the art is my subject. Another annoying habit I have, which seems to infuriate some American fans, is that when I don’t know something, I say I don’t know, rather than make up something to fill the gap. Past lives are like a jigsaw puzzle in which you can never find all the pieces. Like an endless Me and My Pal [where Stan and Ollie labor over a jigsaw puzzle] – you can never quite fit it together. But try, try, try again: Tall Oaks from Little Acorns Grow.














Review of Scott MacGillivray’s book LAUREL & HARDY: FROM THE FORTIES FORWARD, and an interview with the author


The following is another entry in this blog’s self-proclaimed Laurel & Hardy Month. Didn’t know there was one? Click on the above to read the origins of our newly minted tradition!


Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward (2009, second edition, iUniverse) is an extremely well-written and –researched book which turns on its head the consensus, well-spread among L&H buffs, that the duo’s post-Hal Roach films were not worth the viewing. MacGillivray saw his first L&H movie, a 20th Century-Fox film, when he was eight years old, and went on to become “Grand Sheik” of a Tent (local chapter of the L&H “appreciation society” Sons of the Desert) in Boston. He provides ample evidence that, though the L&H “big studio” films of the 1940’s aren’t their finest work, their level of comedic quality is worthy of a buff’s attention.

MacGillivray also does an excellent job of documenting L&H’s post-Hollywood career, which consisted primarily of sketches written by Stan and performed live in European theaters. And MacGillivray unearths information about some proposed (and quite unusual) L&H projects that never came to fruition, including a Fox musical titled By Jupiter that would have pitted L&H against Martha Raye, and a never-done radio series titled Laurel & Hardy Go to the Moon. Finally, MacGillivray documents the Film Classics prints of L&H films that were shown on TV (and are best remembered for L&H’s “shield” credit at the start of each film), and the heretofore unsung work of L&H documentarian Robert Youngson, whose film compilations introduced Stan and Ollie to a new generation of moviegoers.

There is much to savor here, written in an easygoing style that belies the obviously thorough research that went into it. Unless or until some hard-digging film historian uncovers more L&H gems, Randy Skretvedt’s L&H biography and this fine book appear to be the final word on Laurel & Hardy’s prolific comedy careers.



Forties Forward author Scott MacGillivray (shown above) graciously submitted to this E-mail interview in March, 2000 (shortly after the book’s first version was printed).

Movie Movie Blog Blog: How long have you been a Laurel & Hardy “buff”?

Scott MacGillivray: Since I was eight years old. I was having a boring Saturday afternoon, and my mother suggested that I watch a Laurel & Hardy movie on television. I was skeptical, because I knew vaguely of “Laurel & Hardy” as a bygone show-business name from way before my time, but I watched the movie and was immediately hooked.

MMBB: How would you summarize Laurel & Hardy’s appeal?

SM: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were two of the most lovable screen personalities in movie history. The “Stan and Ollie” characters are innocent children in a grown-up world and, unlike The Three Stooges or Abbott & Costello for example, Laurel & Hardy have more depth. They behave like human beings instead of cartoon characters. Audiences sense and appreciate the close friendship of “Stan and Ollie.” Most people who see them become fans, and they start collecting books and movies so they can enjoy visits with Stan and Ollie again and again.

MMBB: What motivated you to write this book?

SM: I love old movies, and I enjoy reading about new discoveries — an old film being restored, or some new information about an old favorite. But whenever a new book would appear about Laurel & Hardy, I always found that the author didn’t have anything new to say about the team’s later films, produced after 1940. Everything was always borrowed from some other book. I thought there had to be more to the story.

I tried to put the later Laurel & Hardy pictures into their proper context, after so many authors just dismissed them without further ado. The “forties films” are not in the same league as the team’s earlier films, but they aren’t the total disasters they’re supposed to be. The book has stirred up some interest in the forgotten Laurel & Hardy movies, and brought back some pleasant memories for people who’ve seen them and enjoyed them.

MMBB: How long did it take you to research and write the book? Did you talk to any of L&H’s contemporaries while preparing the book? How much of the material in your book was previously uncovered in other L&H biographies?

SM: There isn’t a lot of material in print about Laurel & Hardy’s later work. For example, one book devoted almost 400 pages to Laurel & Hardy’s earlier works, but only seven pages to the 1940s material. And there has never been anything about theatrical reissues, home movies, or Robert Youngson’s compilation films. So Forties Forward came from original research over a period of about six years. I conducted several interviews with Stan Laurel’s daughter, Lois Laurel Hawes, and her husband Tony Hawes, who knew Laurel & Hardy professionally. Lois and Tony allowed me to publish dozens of photographs from Stan Laurel’s personal collection, and no author has been given that privilege before.

Also, I interviewed some of the actors who worked with Laurel & Hardy, I visited the 20th Century-Fox archives in Hollywood, I went through old trade papers and exhibitors’ journals. For the Robert Youngson chapter, I interviewed Mrs. Youngson, who gave me her insights about her husband’s work, and I spoke with the late William K. Everson, who was probably the number-one silent-film expert in the world. And old movies have always been a hobby with me, so I’ve picked up a lot of miscellaneous information and memorabilia over the years.

MMBB: Why do you think L&H’s post-Roach films have been so ignored?

SM: The rights to the vintage Laurel & Hardy movies keep changing, so there have been long periods when the older films are not available to the public. In many areas, the “forties films” were all one could find on television, so many fans like myself share early, fond memories of films like The Dancing Masters and The Big Noise.

But so many authors have slammed the 1940s Laurel & Hardy movies that it became unfashionable to look at them, let alone express any fondness for them. Fans weren’t supposed to like them, even if they hadn’t seen them. Forties Forward has sent many readers back to the films themselves, so they can form their own opinions — and enjoy their “guilty pleasures” out in the open!

MMBB: You printed a letter that Fox producer Sol Wurtzel wrote to Stan regarding their first Fox film, Great Guns. Wurtzel told Stan that his (Stan’s) concerns about the film were unwarranted, that the movie was “a credit to the company.” Any comments on the irony of that statement?

SM: That isn’t strictly true; the letter from Wurtzel was a thank-you note that did not reflect any concerns Stan may have expressed. Wurtzel was a no-nonsense businessman, not given to displays of warmth or cordiality, and the letter to Laurel & Hardy demonstrates how genuinely pleased he was to be associated with them.

Wurtzel correctly pointed out that the movie was a credit to the company. It was going to make a lot of money and a lot of friends among audiences and exhibitors. Laurel & Hardy were still very popular in the 1940s, and could be depended upon to generate revenues for the studio. Wurtzel’s film became a huge hit, and Laurel & Hardy were signed for ten more movies. The series stopped only when the studio’s “B” department actually shut down permanently.

MMBB: Why do you think the Fox writers’ material for L&H was so foreign to their established style of comedy?

SM: Laurel & Hardy were accustomed to experimenting with a funny idea, and seeing how much mileage could be gotten out of a comic situation. A formal script was of secondary importance. In the 1920s and 1930s, they worked for a small studio that worked in a casual, impromptu manner. But in the 1940s they worked for big movie companies, where the atmosphere was more corporate: You made this movie with this script, on this budget in this many days. The sudden “culture shock” is what Stan Laurel ruefully recalled in later years, but it didn’t apply to the team’s entire wartime output. As Forties Forward points out, Laurel & Hardy did manage to improve their working conditions to an extent, and the studios became more accommodating.

MMBB: If you had to choose a favorite of the post-Roach films, what would it be, and why?

SM: That’s a tough one. The Bullfighters, in which I documented Stan Laurel’s creative participation, is fun to watch, and I get a kick out of The Dancing Masters and The Big Noise. But my favorite is probably Jitterbugs, because Laurel & Hardy are obviously having a good time onscreen, and they have a chance to demonstrate their acting abilities by masquerading as other characters.

MMBB: You list several L&H movie projects that never made it to film. What’s your biggest regret about the unrealized projects?

SM: I would like to have seen how much farther Laurel & Hardy might have gone with 20th Century-Fox after The Bullfighters. They finally had more artistic input, more control over their work, and more indulgent bosses. The conventional wisdom is that the films steadily went from bad to worse, but the truth is that the downward slide was only temporary, and the team was gradually on the upswing and gaining ground. It’s too bad that the momentum had to be halted.


MMBB: As poor as the Film Classics prints are, does their famous “shield” (shown above) inspire any nostalgia for you? If you’re like me, you started watching L&H via these prints.

SM: Yes, indeed! I actually prefer the Film Classics plaque to the original titles for that very reason. The plaque is even pictured in the book!

MMBB: Yours was the first L&H book to detail the contributions of compiler Robert Youngson. How instrumental do you think his movies were in reviving interest in L&H?

SM: Robert Youngson was a real showman. His first comedy compilation was a monster success, and it exposed a whole new generation to silent-screen comedy. The Laurel & Hardy clips came as a pleasant surprise, because people who knew Stan and Ollie from TV probably weren’t aware that they had made silent pictures. The silents were also widely circulated in home-movie form (the DVD of the ’50s and ’60s). So Youngson really gave the silent films a showcase, and made them relevant and palatable to modern audiences.

MMBB: Do you think the onset of video and DVD have helped people get or maintain interest in L&H? Do you see any disadvantages to these formats?

SM: The disadvantage is not the technical format, but the absence of the films from store shelves. This can’t really be helped because the rights have constantly shifted for years. The demand for Laurel & Hardy is there, and video dealers are trying to meet that demand, but there isn’t much material in circulation right now. In Europe, however, the rights question doesn’t prevail, so most of Laurel & Hardy’s 106 films are readily available for home viewing. And I’m happy to report that the European market offers not one, but two boxed collector’s sets of Laurel & Hardy’s wartime films.

MMBB: Do you think L&H will continue to win new fans, and why?

SM: It only takes one movie to make someone a fan, and the films will definitely continue to entertain people. An “average” Laurel & Hardy comedy is better than the best efforts of many other comedians. A lot of parents are showing Laurel & Hardy to their kids, so there is a certain amount of exposure that doesn’t depend on the video marketplace. But the absence of Laurel & Hardy’s vintage films on American television is very unfortunate, because people aren’t seeing the team’s best work. Once again, the “forties films” are filling the void and keeping Laurel & Hardy before the public. (And so are the Sons of the Desert, but that’s another story!)

Happy birthday, Oliver Hardy (1892-1957)


The following is our latest entry in this blog’s self-proclaimed Laurel & Hardy Month. Don’t know what we mean? Click on the above image so that you can grasp the situation!


Today is the 127th natal anniversary of Oliver Hardy. Only instead of us singing “Happy Birthday” to him, we’ll better honor this day by letting him sing to us! Here is a compilation of Hardy’s wonderful singing scenes from Laurel & Hardy movies.

From Brats. (I forgot this one initially — thanks to the blog Dr. Grob’s Animation Review for the heads-up.)

From Pardon Us. (The singing is wonderful — the blackface, not so much.)

From Beau Hunks. (I couldn’t find the song by itself, so here’s the complete movie. Ollie’s singing begins at the 0:30 mark.)

From Way Out West.

From Swiss Miss.

From The Flying Deuces.

And last but not least, from Them Thar Hills.







The Marx Brothers in ROOM SERVICE (1938) – Mid-level Marxes, but still fairly funny


The following is my entry in the Made in 1938 Blogathon, being hosted by, respectively, Crystal and Robin at their blogs In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Pop Culture Reverie from Jan. 16-19, 2019. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ takes on movies that were released in the year 1938!


After ten minutes of watching Room Service, it’s perfectly obvious that the movie (a) has been adapted from a stage play and (b) was not originally written for the Marx Brothers. But if you can get past those barriers, it turns out to be one of their funnier late-’30s movies.

Its story is that Gordon Miller (Groucho), producer of a premiering play titled “Hail and Farewell,” is holing himself and his cast up in a hotel that is none too pleased about his non-payments. Gordon’s plan is to stall hotel boss Wagner (Donald McBride) until 10:30 of the night of the play’s debut, at which time it will be a solid hit and he can pay his debts.

Let’s get the movie’s contrivances out of the way first. For a movie that the Marxes did “on loan” (at RKO), its script looks like it came right out of the M-G-M Formula Book. The billing and cooing between the play’s author, Leo Davis (Frank Albertson), and an ingenue (Ann Miller) plays just like the sappy romantic subplots that stopped the Marxes’ M-G-M movies dead in their tracks. And the role of one-note villain Wagner wouldn’t have been at all out of line for Douglas Dumbrille or Sig Rumann to play. (History has noted that screenwriter Morrie Ryskind had to tone down the original play’s adult language for the screen. Still, you have to wonder about the managerial skills of a manager who constantly jumps up and down and yells, “Jumping butterballs!”)

But Jackie Gleason once said that there are three stages in a comic’s career. Stage One is when the act is fresh and surprising; Stage Two is when the act is familiar but the audience looks forward to the familiar gestures; Stage Three is when the act is stale and the audience couldn’t care less. Happily, Room Service finds the Marxes in Stage Two. (We’ll get to Stage Three when we discuss the later M-G-M movies.)

Groucho remains the fast-talking con man, Chico still has a one-track mind of non-sequitors (for no good reason, he wants to hang on to a prized, stuffed moose head), and Harpo remains startlingly resourceful. (When Groucho and Chico temporarily put on every piece of clothing they can in order to desert the hotel, Harpo makes his first entrance shirtless.)

And there are plenty of big laughs. Harpo’s insistence on chasing a live turkey to catch him for dinner, even after they’ve already eaten, is typical of his id-powered brain. And the eating scene itself is one of the Marxes’ funniest bits. (One great shot shows Harpo from a food’s-eye view, as though the camera is just one more thing waiting to be stuffed into Harpo’s mouth.)

This is a movie where the Marxes’ personalities have to carry the load, and unlike their later M-G-M efforts, they mostly succeed here. Lucille Ball, in one of her pre-“I Love Lucy” roles, also serves as an excellent foil to Groucho.

Room Service shows the Marx Brothers at a satisfactory mid-level — they’ll never hit the heights of their first M-G-M movies again, but it’s far better than their later M-G-M movies.

Laurel & Hardy’s WAY OUT WEST – By the numbers and way-out trivia


Today we bring you another entry in our blog’s self-designated Laurel & Hardy Month. What did Stan and Ollie do to earn a month of their own? Click on the above image and find out!


After yesterday’s mini-epic, I’ll bet you thought that I was done with Laurel & Hardy lists. But you hadn’t reckoned with my lifelong affection for their comic Western, Way Out West (1937). Here are some fun facts and figures related to my favorite L&H feature film!


By the Numbers

Final production cost: $361,541

First-release box-office – domestic gross: $362,828

Length of time taken to write the script: approximately 3 months

Length of time to film the movie: approximately 2 and one-half months

Number of working titles for the film before settling on Way Out West: 3

Number of previous movies using Way Out West as a title: 2


Approximate time it took Laurel & Hardy to choreograph, on the set, the film’s famous soft-shoe number: 30 minutes

“Now you’re taking me illiterally” (We counted these so that you don’t have to)

Number of gags from Way Out West reprised in The Bullfighters (1945): 2 (Ollie repeating something for Stan’s benefit, Stan sitting on Ollie’s lap instead of in his own chair)

Number of “rubber” gags: 2 (Stan’s obtrusive toe getting snapped by Ollie, Ollie’s neck getting elongated)

Number of thumb-lighting instances: Stan, 3; Ollie, 1


Number of bites taken out of Ollie’s hat: Stan, 3; Ollie, 1

Number of Ollie’s direct looks to the camera: 14

Number of cutaways to Ollie’s camera looks: 6

Number of cutaways to James Finlayson’s reaction shots: 12

Number of cutaways to reaction shots of Vivien Oakland’s discomfort: 4

Number of edits/cuts in the number “At the Ball, That’s All”: 5

Number of times the lyrics of “At the Ball, That’s All” are sung: 6

Number of dogs who try to eat Stan’s shoe-leather steak: 5

Pieces of clothing disrobed by Ollie in the “locket” scene: 5 (hat, coat, fake collar, shirt, underpants)

Number of times the deed changes hands in the “deed retrieval” scene: 14


Number of times the deed is blown across the room: 4

Length of laughter sustained by Stan in the “tickling” scene: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Number of times Stan spits on his hands to moisten the rope: 3

Number of falls sustained by Ollie after being hoisted by the block-and-tackle: 2

Number of times each person is pulled down by the other via the rope: Ollie, 3; Stan, 1


Number of “ssh’s” uttered: Stan, 12; Ollie, 10; Dinah the Mule, 1

Length of Stan’s pantomime, where he re-tells (to Mary) the movie’s story up to that point: 10 seconds

Number of times Finn says “What are you gonna do?” in the penultimate scene: 5

Number of times that a “trademark” gag is used: 1 each for Ollie’s tie-twiddle and James Finlayson’s “D’oh!”

Number of times Ollie is dunked in the stream: 3


Way-Out Trivia

The movie’s idea was originally suggested by Stan’s then-wife Lois.

In the original script, Oliver Hardy’s part is identified by his familiar off-screen nickname, “Babe.”

The running gag of Ollie falling into a creek’s huge pothole was shot in Sherwood Forest, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. The area that Stan wanted to use to film this gag had no lake, so the Hal Roach Studios rented a steam shovel, dug out a river bed, and poured 25,000 gallons of water from a nearby lake into the man-made one.


This movie features the first use of Stanley’s “white magic” — doing an impossible act that obsesses Ollie to no end. Here, Stan flicks his finger on his thumb and “flames” it as though it was a cigarette lighter. According to editor Bert Jordan, the gag was conceived after Stan saw a gag man having trouble lighting up his cigarette.

The role of Mary Roberts was originally intended for Julie Bishop (a/k/a Jacqueline Wells, who had played L&H’s ward Arline in the L&H feature The Bohemian Girl [1936]).


Look closely at Sharon Lynne (during her “tickling” scene with Stan) and Rosina Lawrence (when Stan briefly pantomimes the movie’s events to her behind a glass door). Both co-stars seem to be trying very hard not to crack up on-camera.

Hal Roach had to come up with four different titles for the film before finding a title that wasn’t already owned by another studio. The three discarded titles were “You’d Be Surprised,” “Tonight’s the Night,” and “In the Money.”

Way Out West was previously used as a film title in 1930 and 1935.

This movie marked the final film appearance of Sharon Lynne. This would have been Tiny Sandford’s final film appearance with L&H, had he not been replaced with Stanley Fields, so that honor goes to Our Relations.

When Stan throws away the meat he uses to cover the hole in his shoe, the dog chasing after the meat is played by Laughing Gravy, who appeared in The Boys’ same-named 1931 short subject.

The gag where Stan and Ollie hurriedly exit town followed by clouds of dust was previously staged for an Our Gang comedy, Election Day (1929). According to the official L&H website, the shot was made by moving a powerful wind machine toward the camera. There were blowers and trays of loose dirt mounted on a dolly, all of which were hidden by the cyclone of dust created in the machine’s own path while advancing toward the camera. Then the film was reversed, making it look as though a cyclone of dust had been kicked up by Stan and Ollie.

Stan told producer Sam Sherman that, in the scene where Ollie forces Stan to eat his hat, the hat was actually made of licorice. (Stan’s old vaudeville friend Charlie Chaplin did the same trick with an unsavory shoe in The Gold Rush.)

When Ollie ties Finn to the chandelier, Finn is heard uttering something awfully close to, “You son-of-a-bitch!” (although some claim that he’s really saying, “You’ll suffer for this!”). Listen for yourself and draw your own conclusion. (It wouldn’t be the first instance of cursing in an L&H movie. Generations of movie and TV censors have overlooked Edgar Kennedy quickly but clearly uttering the word “Shit!” in the L&H short Perfect Day [1929].)

James Finlayson is heard to keep repeating “What are you gonna do?” because film editor Bert Jordan needed some background sound for the cutaway shots, so he repeated the dialogue. The same thing was done in the L&H feature Block-Heads when Hardy is arguing with Minna Gombell.

In his Marx Brothers biography, Joe Adamson notes that the plotline for Way Out West — wayward Easterners deliver a valuable deed to the wrong party and then try to retrieve it — served as basically the same storyline for the Marxes’ comedy Western Go West (1940), a movie obviously inspired by the success of the L&H film.

The movie was later re-worked by Columbia Pictures into a comedy short subject for briefly-teamed boxers Max Baer Sr. and Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom (you can’t make this stuff up), titled Rootin’ Tootin’ Tenderfeet (1952).

The opening shoot-out in the opening titles of the TV series “Gunsmoke” was shot on the same street that is seen in Way Out West.

Footage from the movie was used in a 1970 TV commercial for Hamm’s Beer. The soundtrack was replaced with player piano music, and title cards were added, to give the appearance of a silent movie.

Steve Martin has said this was the first comedy film he saw as a child.

In an interview on Turner Classic Movies, “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening said that Homer’s famous “Doh!” came about because Dan Castellaneta (Homer’s voice) knew that James Finlayson sometimes said that in Laurel & Hardy movies. In Way Out West, we hear the utterance when Finlayson’s character, Mickey Finn, accidentally fires his rifle in bed.

In 1985, this became the first Laurel & Hardy film to be computer-colorized (if that’s your idea of a good time).

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Way Out West the 26th greatest comedy film of all time.


A bit where Lola (Sharon Lynne) uses a small mirror to reflect a spotlight onto her frenzied male fans was similarly performed in The Show (1922), a Larry Semon short comedy which had Oliver Hardy in support.

In the block-and-tackle scene, where Stan causes Ollie to continually fall to the ground, Ollie tells Stan to put out his hand, causing Stan to wince in anticipation of punishment. Then, instead of hitting Stan’s hand with a huge rope, Ollie whacks Stan on the head with it. This gag actually occurred two years previously, in the Fleischer Bros. cartoon An Elephant Never Forgets (1935).

The movie’s most famous homage is to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934). In need of a coach for himself and Ollie, Stan flags one down by exposing one of his legs, as the more shapely Colbert so famously did in the former movie.

On June 26, 2010, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) organized and led a “flash mob” dance to promote The 8 1/2 Foundation, a charity group devoted to exposing world cinema to children. At 11:00 a.m. near Edinburgh Castle, several hundred volunteering participants, led by Swinton, recreated the dance choreography for “At the Ball, That’s All,” as performed by Laurel and Hardy in Way Out West. (Click here to watch the video of the dance on YouTube.)







Laurel & Hardy A-Z


The following list is today’s contribution to this blog’s self-designated Laurel & Hardy Month. What on Earth does that mean? Click on the above image to find out!


While I don’t expect the following list to have any significance beyond this blog, one can’t help noticing countless recurring themes and ideas in Laurel & Hardy movies. So I’ve made a list of such themes as they’ve turned up in more than one movie — everything from hostile wives to gorillas. Enjoy!



Academy Award:

– Meanest Hal Roach Studios veteran to be nominated for an: L&H budget-cutter Henry Ginsberg, for co-producing the movie Giant (see below)

– Nicest Hal Roach Studios veteran to be nominated for an: composer Marvin Hatley, nominated for his scores for Way Out West and Block-Heads

– Nicest Hal Roach Studios veteran to win an: George Stevens (early L&H cinematographer, who won the Best Director Oscar for Giant)

– L&H films nominated for an: The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Best Picture), The Music Box (Best Short Subject), Tit for Tat (Best Short Subject), Way Out West (Best Musical Score), Block-Heads (Best Musical Score)

– L&H films winning an: The Music Box (Best Short Subject) [Stan Laurel himself was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1960]

Ad-libs, repeated (proving that just repeating them doesn’t make them any funnier): “Will you stop crowding?” (Ollie, Berth Marks, while trying to undress with Stan in an upper berth), “What are you gonna do?” (James Finlayson, Way Out West, while he is clearly being tied to a chandelier)

Airplanes, runaway, containing Stan and Ollie: The Flying DeucesThe Big Noise

Amputations, faked/mistaken: Pack Up Your TroublesBlock-Heads

Amusement parks: Sugar DaddiesOn the LooseThe Dancing Masters

Animals not listed elsewhere on this page: Liberty (crab), The Chimp (fleas), The Flying Deuces (shark), Atoll K (pet lobster)

Apples: Call of the CuckoosDo Detectives Think?Sons of the Desert (wax)

Artists: Slipping WivesThe Fixer-UppersThe Flying Deuces

Auctions: One Good TurnThicker Than WaterThe Dancing Masters


– damaged/destroyed by/with Stan and Ollie: Leave ’em LaughingTwo TarsHog WildThe Stolen JoolsOur WifeOne Good TurnCounty HospitalThe Midnight PatrolTowed in a HoleBusy BodiesBlock-HeadsSaps at SeaGreat Guns (Jeep), Air Raid WardensThe Dancing Masters (bus), The Bullfighters (taxi door)

– Ollie almost run over by: The Perfect DayHog WildBelow ZeroAny Old PortJitterbugs

– Sunk in mud puddles: Leave ’em LaughingThe Perfect Day


Banana peels: The Battle of the CenturyFrom Soup to NutsA Chump at OxfordThe Dancing Masters

Bathtubs/bathing: Slipping WivesCall of the CuckoosBratsBe BigCome CleanDirty WorkThem Thar Hills

Bats: The Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseAtoll K

Beans: Them Thar HillsBlock-Heads

Bears: Flying ElephantsThe Rogue Song

Billiards/pool: BratsAny Old Port

Birds: The Finishing TouchThe Rogue Song (chicken), Towed in a Hole (duck), Dirty Work (shot out of the air), The Flying DeucesGreat Guns (crow)

Blackmail: Sugar DaddiesLove ’em and WeepChickens Come HomeThe Bullfighters

Block-and-tackle: The Music BoxWay Out West

Boat, Laurel & Hardy on a: Why Girls Love SailorsSailors, Beware!Men o’ WarTowed in a HoleSons of the Desert (alibi), The Live GhostOur RelationsSaps at SeaJitterbugsAtoll K

Boxing: The Battle of the CenturyBratsAny Old Port

Break-ins/burglaries: Habeas CorpusNight OwlsScram!The Midnight PatrolWay Out West

Brooklyn Bridge, the: Pack Up Your Troubles (seen in opening titles), Way Out West (dialogue reference), Jitterbugs (stock footage, allegedly of New Orleans but really New York)

Bulls: Fra DiavoloThe Bullfighters

Buses, double-decker: Putting Pants on PhilipHog WildThe Dancing Masters


Cake accidents: From Soup to NutsThe Hollywood Revue of 1929Our WifeTwice TwoOur Relations

Cameo appearances: Call of the CuckoosThe Stolen JoolsOn the LooseWild PosesHollywood PartyOn the Wrong TrekPick a Star

Cannibalism: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Stan and Ollie eating the supposed remains of their pig friend Elmer)

Care-givers (Stan and Ollie): BratsPack Up Your TroublesTheir First MistakeThe Bohemian GirlGreat GunsNothing But Trouble

Cats: Night OwlsMarch of the Wooden SoldiersAtoll K

Character actors, villainous (Hal Roach stock company): Mae Busch, Rychard Cramer, James Finlayson, Anita Garvin, Charlie Hall, Walter Long (shown at right), Charles Middleton, Blanche Payson, Tiny Sandford

Checkers: BratsThe Live Ghost

Cheese: The Rogue SongSwiss Miss

Cherries: The Second Hundred YearsFrom Soup to NutsMen O’War (soda)

Children, bratty: Block-HeadsThe Big Noise

Children, bratty, played by Stan and Ollie: BratsWild Poses

Chimneys, Ollie falling down: Hog WildDirty Work

Cigars: Their Purple MomentBig BusinessTheir First MistakeBusy BodiesWay Out WestSwiss MissThe Flying Deuces

Cities, name-checked: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (That’s My Wife); Pottsville, Pennysylvania (Berth Marks); Poughkeepsie, New Jersey (Pack Up Your Troubles); Jesup, Georgia (Dirty Work); Chicago, Illinois and Honolulu, Hawaii (Sons of the Desert); Atlanta, Georgia (The Fixer-Uppers); Pellore, India (Bonnie Scotland); London, England (Way Out West); Des Moines, Iowa (The Flying Deuces); Dayton, Ohio and Milledgeville, Georgia [Hardy’s real-life hometown] (A-Haunting We Will Go); Madison, Wisconsin and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (The Tree in a Test Tube); New Orleans, Louisiana (Jitterbugs); Peoria, Illinois (The Bullfighters)

Climaxes, special-effects, cheesy: County HospitalThe Dancing Masters

Coffee: Below ZeroOne Good TurnPack Up Your TroublesThem Thar HillsSwiss MissGreat Guns

Cooks/chefs: From Soup to NutsTheir Purple MomentPack Up Your TroublesBonnie Scotland (Stan, improvising), Swiss MissGreat GunsNothing But Trouble (Ollie), Atoll K

Courtrooms: Scram!Going Bye-ByeThe Bullfighters


Dancing: That’s My WifeThe Music BoxThe ChimpScram!Bonnie ScotlandWay Out WestThe Flying DeucesJitterbugsThe Dancing Masters

Dentists: Leave ’em LaughingPardon UsThe Dancing Masters

Dishwashing: HelpmatesThicker Than WaterSwiss MissNothing But Trouble

“Dixie,” heard in: The Music BoxBonnie ScotlandThe Bullfighters

Doctors: County HospitalThem Thar HillsSons of the Desert (veterinarian), Thicker Than WaterSaps at SeaGreat Guns

Dogs: The Lucky DogSugar DaddiesFrom Soup to NutsEarly to BedBacon GrabbersThe Perfect DayPardon UsLaughing GravySwiss MissThe Dancing Masters

Dream-motif finales: The Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseOliver the Eighth

Drunks, non-Stan and Ollie: You’re Darn Tootin’Scram!Our RelationsThe Big Noise

Drunk scenes (L&H):

– Stan and Ollie: BlottoScram!Them Thar HillsThe Fixer-Uppers

– Stan only: Fra DiavoloThe Bohemian GirlSwiss MissA Chump at OxfordThe Bullfighters

– Ollie only: Early to Bed

Dual roles: BratsTwice TwoOur RelationsThe Bullfighters (Stan only)

Ducks: Towed in a HoleDirty Work


Egg-breaking: The Hollywood Revue of 1929Hollywood PartyThe Live GhostTit for TatThe Bullfighters

Employment agencies: From Soup to NutsDouble WhoopeeA Chump at OxfordNothing But Trouble

Executions, attempted, of Stan and Ollie: Fra DiavoloBonnie ScotlandThe Flying DeucesAtoll K


Fake money, Stan and Ollie duped by: Hollywood PartySwiss MissA-Haunting We Will Go

Feathers: March of the Wooden SoldiersSwiss MissGreat GunsThe Dancing Masters (feather duster)

Female form, observation of the: Hats OffPutting Pants on Philip (Stan), From Soup to Nuts (Ollie), Hog Wild (Stan)

Female impersonations (Stan): Duck SoupWhy Girls Love SailorsThat’s My WifeAnother Nice MessA Chump at OxfordJitterbugs

Female impersonations, two persons dressed as one woman: Sugar DaddiesChickens Come Home

Fertilizer: Beau HunksChickens Come HomeAir Raid Wardens


– Color (not colorized): The Rogue SongThe Tree in a Test Tube

– “First” (shorts that were, for various reasons, cited as Laurel & Hardy’s “official” first film): The Lucky DogDuck SoupPutting Pants on Philip

– Missing: Now I’ll Tell One (first half), Hats OffThe Battle of the Century (middle portion), The Rogue Song

– With four-letter words: The Perfect DayPardon Us

– With future famous actors/actresses: Sailors, Beware! (Lupe Velez), Bacon Grabbers and Double Whoopee (Jean Harlow), The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Jack Benny), A Chump at Oxford (Peter Cushing), Great Guns (Alan Ladd), Jitterbugs (Vivian Blaine), The Dancing Masters (Robert Mitchum)

Film titles, recycled: Their First Mistake (originally the working title for Pardon Us), Jitterbugs (originally the working title for Saps at Sea)

Fire: Pardon Us (alternate ending), One Good TurnHelpmates

Fish: Towed in a Hole (referenced in song by Ollie), Dirty WorkBonnie ScotlandThe Big Noise

Flirting, unrequited (Ollie): Sailors, Beware!Putting Pants on PhilipWay Out WestThe Flying Deuces

Flour: HelpmatesGreat GunsAtoll K

Food fights: Their Purple MomentThe Battle of the CenturyThe Hoose-Gow

Foods, inedible, eaten by Stan and Ollie: wax apple (Stan only, Sons of the Desert), invisible soup and water (Oliver the Eighth), flower (Stan only, Thicker Than Water), hat (Way Out West), “synthetic” meal (Saps at Sea), food “capsules” (The Big Noise), invisible drink (Stan only, Atoll K)

Freak endings: (Click here to see our blog’s entry about this topic)

Freak endings administered by Walter Long: Going Bye-ByeThe Live Ghost



– Finger- , mastered only by Stan: Fra DiavoloThe Bohemian Girl

– Not listed elsewhere on this page: dice (Sailors, Beware!), jigsaw puzzle (Me and My Pal), pee-wees (March of the Wooden Soldiers)

Garbage/trash cans: Night OwlsPack Up Your TroublesBonnie Scotland

Ghosts: The Live GhostA Chump at Oxford

Goats: Flying ElephantsAngora LoveSaps at Sea

Gorillas: The ChimpSwiss Miss

Gout: The Perfect DayThem Thar Hills


Hangovers: Sugar DaddiesHelpmates

Harlow, Jean (photo only): BratsBeau Hunks

Hat, Ollie’s, as a source of gags: Hog WildBe BigThe Music BoxWay Out West

Hat-blowing trick (Stan): Towed in a HoleBonnie Scotland

High-and-mighty (dangerous height) scenes: LibertyHog WildCounty HospitalBusy BodiesThe Flying DeucesSaps at SeaNothing But Trouble

Hitch-hiking: On the Wrong TrekWay Out West

Homosexuality, latent (themes): LibertyTheir First MistakeJitterbugs

Horse costume (Stan and Ollie): Another Fine MessThe Chimp

Horses, actual: Wrong AgainThe Rogue SongThe Music BoxFra DiavoloWay Out WestGreat Guns (See also Reincarnations, animal [Ollie])

Hospitals: County HospitalThicker Than WaterThe Dancing Masters


Ice cream: Men o’ WarCome CleanTwice Two

Inheritances: Early to BedThat’s My WifeThe Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseLaughing Gravy (alternate ending), Way Out West

Insects: With Love and Hisses (bees), The Rogue Song (flies), Our Wife (flies), The Chimp (fleas), Bonnie Scotland (hornets)

Instruments, run over: You’re Darn Tootin’Below Zero


Jail/prison: The Second Hundred YearsThe Hoose-GowPardon UsPack Up Your Troubles (Army guardhouse), Bonnie ScotlandOur RelationsThe Flying DeucesSaps at SeaA-Haunting We Will Go (first scene), Nothing But Trouble

Jewelry: locket (Bohemian GirlWay Out West), ring (Our RelationsThe Flying Deuces)


Kennedy, Edgar, as a copThe Finishing TouchLeave ’em LaughingUnaccustomed as We AreNight Owls

Kiss, Stan overwhelmed by a: The Fixer-UppersThe Bullfighters

Kitchens, exploding: Unaccustomed As We AreHelpmatesBlock-HeadsSaps at Sea


Landlords/landladies, hostile: Leave ’em LaughingYou’re Darn Tootin’Early to Bed (if you count Ollie as the “landlord”), They Go BoomAngora LoveLaughing GravyThe ChimpFra DiavoloMarch of the Wooden SoldiersThicker than WaterBonnie ScotlandThe Dancing Masters

Laughing scenes (Stan and Ollie): Leave ’em LaughingBlottoScram!Fra DiavoloWay Out West (Stan only), Great Guns

Laundry: HelpmatesOne Good TurnBonnie ScotlandWay Out WestThe Flying Deuces

Laurel & Hardy as “themselves”: Pick a StarThe Tree in a Test Tube

Lawyers: Bonnie ScotlandAtoll K

Lawyers played by Stan: Sugar DaddiesNow I’ll Tell One

Laurel & Hardy-impersonation films, ill-advised: Another Nice MessThe New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy: For Love or Mummy

Legal issues: Pack Up Your TroublesTheir First Mistake, Our RelationsWay Out West

Lingerie displayed by L&H co-stars:

– Harlow, Jean: Double Whoopee (at right)

– Todd, Thelma: Unaccustomed as We AreOn the Loose

Lions: The ChimpHollywood PartyA-Haunting We Will GoNothing But TroubleAtoll K

Lockets: The Bohemian GirlWay Out West

Lodges: Sons of the DesertOur Relations


Magic acts: The Hollywood Revue of 1929A-Haunting We Will Go

Magic, “white” (Stan doing impossible things): Way Out WestBlock-HeadsGreat GunsA-Haunting We Will GoAtoll K

Marriages, attempted: Sugar DaddiesOur WifePack Up Your TroublesAny Old PortMe and My PalMarch of the Wooden Soldiers

Marshmallows: BratsTit for Tat

Mice: BratsMarch of the Wooden Soldiers

Military: With Love and HissesTwo TarsMen o’ WarBeau HunksPack Up Your TroublesBonnie ScotlandBlock-HeadsThe Flying DeucesGreat Guns

Milk: Their First MistakeWild PosesGoing Bye-ByeThe Flying Deuces

Mirrors: Hog Wild (Ollie), Helpmates (Ollie), Their First Mistake (Stan), Great Guns (Stan)

Monkeys: The ChimpDirty WorkSwiss Miss

Mortality: The Midnight PatrolThe Live GhostThe Flying Deuces

Musical numbers (Stan and Ollie): BratsPardon UsWay Out WestSwiss MissThe Flying Deuces

Musicians (Stan and Ollie): You’re Darn Tootin’Berth MarksBelow ZeroOur Relations (Stan on horn), Pick a StarSwiss MissThe Flying Deuces (Stan on bedsprings), Saps at Sea (Stan on horn), Jitterbugs


Nudity, near-: With Love and Hisses (Stan and Ollie), Call of the Cuckoos (Max Davidson), Double Whoopee (Jean Harlow)


Ocean liners, fictional: Sailors BewarePutting Pants on Philip (S.S. Miramar), Sons of the Desert (S.S. Luwanna and S.S. Meewana, Honolulu Steamship Company)

Ocean liners, real: Blockheads (RMS Mauretainia, Cunard Line), A Chump at Oxford (RMS Queen Mary, Cunard Line), Nothing But Trouble (S.S. Ile de France, French Line)


 – As an upper-class citizen: Early to BedChickens Come HomeMe and My Pal

– As a pawn in a jealousy plot: The Fixer-UppersSwiss Miss

– Getting married: Our WifeMe and My PalOliver the Eighth

– In politics: mayoral candidate (Chickens Come Home), island president (Atoll K)


Paint, wet: Habeas CorpusThe Second Hundred YearsThe Hoose-GowTowed in a HoleMarch of the Wooden SoldiersThe Big Noise

Parades, Stan and Ollie in: Beau HunksPack Up Your TroublesSons of the DesertBonnie ScotlandThe Flying DeucesGreat Guns

Pens, malfunctioning: The Battle of the CenturyDouble WhoopeeChickens Come Home (dry), Any Old PortThe Music BoxThe Flying Deuces (dry)

Phone conversations (Stan and Ollie): BlottoChickens Come HomeHelpmatesTwice TwoThe Fixer-Uppers

Phone numbers (Stan): BlottoHelpmatesBeau Hunks [Trivia: Stan Laurel used his current, real-life phone number in these movies]

Photographers, professional: The Battle of the CenturyThe Stolen JoolsPardon UsWild PosesHollywood PartyBlock-HeadsA Chump at Oxford

Pianos: Wrong AgainBig BusinessNight OwlsAnother Fine MessBeau HunksThe Music BoxWay Out WestSwiss Miss

Pies: The Battle of the CenturyTheir Purple Moment

Poetry, written by Stan and recited by Ollie: The Fixer-UppersSwiss Miss

Policemen, Laurel & Hardy as: Now I’ll Tell One (Hardy only), The Midnight Patrol

Policemen, Stan and Ollie’s encounters with: Duck SoupSugar DaddiesThe Second Hundred YearsPutting Pants on PhilipThe Finishing TouchYou’re Darn Tootin’Two TarsBig BusinessLibertyDouble WhoopeeUnaccustomed as We AreThey Go BoomBacon GrabbersThe Hoose-GowNight OwlsBelow ZeroThe Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseAnother Fine MessThe Music BoxPack Up Your TroublesMe and My PalSons of the DesertTit for TatOur RelationsWay Out West (Western sheriff), Saps at SeaA-Haunting We Will GoThe Big Noise

Process-servers: Bacon GrabbersTheir First Mistake

Professors, pretentious: Prof. Padilla (Habeas Corpus), Prof. Theodore von Schwarzenhoffen, M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F. F. F. and F. (The Music Box), Prof. Noodle (Dirty Work), Lord Paddington (A Chump at Oxford), Prof. Fendash Gorp (The Dancing Masters)

Prohibition: BlottoPardon Us

Punch-and-Judy show (puppet show referenced as a favorite entertainment of Stan and Ollie’s): Their First MistakeOur Relations


Rabies, mistaken cases of: Early to BedThe Dancing Masters

Radios: Bacon GrabbersHog WildCome CleanMe and My Pal

Rain: The Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseHelpmatesScram!Sons of the DesertAtoll K

Ration coupons: JitterbugsNothing But Trouble

Reading glasses: Going Bye-ByeOur Relations

Records, phonograph: Should Married Men Go Home?We Faw DownLibertyUnaccustomed as We Are

Reincarnations, animal (Ollie): Dirty Work (chimp), The Flying Deuces (horse)


– Non-wife: Ollie’s uncle (That’s My Wife and The Perfect Day), Stan and Ollie’s sons (Brats), Stan’s uncle (Laughing Gravy, alternate ending), Stan and Ollie’s sisters (Twice Two), Ollie’s brother-in-law (Sons of the Desert), Ollie’s mother & Stan and Ollie’s twin brothers (Our Relations)

– Stories about (Stan): The Laurel-Hardy Murder CaseOne Good TurnBeau Hunks

Remakes (and their predecessors): Another Fine Mess (Duck Soup), Laughing Gravy (Angora Love), The Music Box (Hats Off), The Fixer-Uppers (Love ’em and Weep), The Flying Deuces (Beau Hunks)

Retribution (Stan towards Ollie): Early to BedOne Good TurnA Chump at Oxford

Rifles/shotguns: Slipping WivesLibertyBacon GrabbersWe Faw DownWrong AgainThe Hoose-GowBe BigBlottoPack Up Your TroublesDirty WorkSons of the DesertOliver the EighthWay Out WestBlock-Heads

Roach family, Hal, cameo appearances: Hal Roach in Pardon Us (in front of Ollie in line, after Ollie’s re-capture); Hal’s daughter Margaret, in A-Haunting We Will Go (walk-on role; billed as Diane Rochelle)

Robberies, attempted by Stan and Ollie: Night OwlsFra DiavoloThe Bohemian Girl


Safes: The Midnight PatrolWay Out WestThe Dancing Masters

Salesmen: Hats OffBig BusinessThe Fixer-UppersSwiss Miss

Sand: The Second Hundred YearsBeau HunksBlock-Heads

Servants/waiters (Stan and Ollie): Slipping Wives (Ollie only), Sugar Daddies (Ollie only), From Soup to NutsEarly to Bed (Stan only), Another Fine Mess (Stan only, disguise), A Chump at OxfordGreat GunsNothing But Trouble

Shakespeare, William: Hollywood Revue of 1929(non-Laurel and Hardy portion has scene from “Romeo and Juliet”), Pardon Us (bust), The Music Box (bust), Pack Up Your Troubles (bust), Me and My Pal (bust), Tit for Tat (quoted), Our Relations (dialogue reference; also, plot is loosely based on “The Comedy of Errors”)

Shanghai-ing: Sailors, Beware!The Live Ghost

Shaving: The Rogue SongBusy BodiesOliver the EighthGreat Guns

Signing the register: Double WhoopeeAny Old PortAir Raid WardensThe Bullfighters

Silent-comedy legends who contributed to L&H movies: Harry Langdon (co-wrote the screenplays for Block-HeadsThe Flying DeucesA Chump at Oxford, and Saps at Sea), Buster Keaton (contributed uncredited gags for Nothing But Trouble)

Slot machines: Men o’ WarWay Out West

Snow: Below ZeroThe Rogue SongLaughing GravyThe Fixer-Uppers

Soda-fountain cashiers (“Soda jerks”): Should Married Men Go Home?Men o’ WarCome CleanTwice TwoTit for Tat

Soup: From Soup to NutsYou’re Darn Tootin’That’s My WifeThe Hoose-GowOne Good TurnTwice TwoOliver the Eighth (“invisible” soup), Nothing But TroubleAtoll K

Sports, non-boxing: golf (Should Married Men Go Home?), football (Nothing But Trouble)

Stan Laurel Productions: Our RelationsWay Out West

Steaks: Their Purple MomentBelow ZeroAny Old PortNothing But Trouble

Streetcars: The Lucky DogHog WildTit for Tat (sarcastic reference)

Stomach, expanding: They Go Boom (Ollie), Below Zero (Stan), Be Big (Ollie), Pick a Star (Ollie)


Taxidermy: Another Fine MessBlock-HeadsFra Diavolo

Taxis: Sailors, Beware!Their Purple MomentLibertyDouble WhoopeeMe and My PalSons of the DesertThe Bullfighters

Telegrams: BlottoLaughing GravyHelpmatesMe and My PalGreat Guns

“Tell me that again” (Ollie’s request that Stan repeat his initially brilliant idea, at which point Stan garbles it): Towed in a HoleOliver the EighthThe Fixer-UppersThe Dancing Masters

Thieves (Stan and Ollie): The Lucky Dog (Ollie only), Fra DiavoloThe Bohemian Girl

Town gossip, the: Their Purple MomentChickens Come Home

Trains: With Love and HissesBerth MarksBe BigA-Haunting We Will GoThe Big Noise

Tunneling as a means of escape: The Second Hundred YearsThe Flying Deuces


Vacuum cleaners: The Dancing MastersThe Big Noise

Venice, Italy, painting of: We Faw DownUnaccustomed As We AreBratsAnother Fine MessSaps at Sea



– Fountains: Early to BedThe Bullfighters

– Ollie dunked in: Dirty WorkMarch of the Wooden SoldiersThe Midnight PatrolBonnie ScotlandWay Out West

– Stan dunked in: Below Zero

– Stan and Ollie dunked in: BratsHog WildOur RelationsJitterbugs

– Thrown: Sailors, Beware!Angora LoveHog WildLaughing GravyHelpmatesTowed in a HoleSwiss MissBlock-Heads (on Ollie, from a hose), The Bullfighters

Wives, hostile: Their Purple MomentWe Faw DownBlotto (Stan only), Be BigChickens Come HomeCome CleanHelpmates (Ollie only), Sons of the DesertThicker Than Water (Ollie only), Block-Heads (Ollie only)

World War I: Pack Up Your TroublesBlock-Heads

Laurel & Hardy’s “freak endings”


The following is another contribution to this blog’s self-designated Laurel & Hardy Month. Don’t know what we mean? Click on the above image for further elucidation!


SPOILER ALERT – Read no further if you do not want the endings of 24 Laurel & Hardy movies disclosed!

As the uncredited writer-director of pre-1941 Laurel & Hardy comedies, Stan Laurel had an unexplained penchant for “freak endings” — finales that involved some kind of physical distortion. Nowhere in any L&H bio is it explained why Stan preferred these, but they obviously made some people uncomfortable (see the entry on Block-Heads). And seen in the modern-day era of anything-goes comedies, this might have been Stan’s only means of expressing full-tilt lunacy.

Herewith, I have listed all of L&H’s infamous freak endings. I have also included entries on L&H’s more unusual car-crash endings (which are “freak” endings of a sort — where can you find cars that do these things?) and L&H movies whose finales involved murder or suicide — strangely nonchalant wrap-ups in light of how we now regard such matters. It makes for interesting film history to at least acknowledge such things.


Liberty (1929) – Stan and Ollie escape from a skyscraper under construction via an elevator, which crushes a cop who has been searching for them. Final shot shows the cop as a midget.

Below Zero (1930) – Stan and Ollie are thrown out of a restaurant into the snow. Ollie comes to and calls for Stan, who has been dumped into a water barrel. Ollie asks where the water went, and Stan replies, “I drank it!” Stan emerges from the barrel with an abnormally swollen belly and no way to relieve himself. (A very similar gag appeared over 50 years later in Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas’s L&H-like comedy The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew [1983].)

Another Fine Mess (1930) – Vagrants Stan and Ollie escape from police on a tandem bicycle while wearing a horse costume [don’t ask]. They drive into another of those tunnels where a train is just waiting to run over Stan and Ollie, who emerge at the other end, each on a severed wheel of the bicycle.

Come Clean (1931) – Ollie, annoyed at Stan (who is taking a bath while completely clothed), pulls the bathtub plug. Sound effects suggest that Stan has slid down the drain. When Stan’s wife opens the bathroom door and asks of Stan’s whereabouts, Ollie replies, “He’s gone to the beach.”

Dirty Work (1933) – Stan accidentally knocks Ollie into a tubful of rejuvenating solution created by a mad scientist. In best Darwinian fashion, Ollie emerges a chimp (but still wearing his bowler hat). Stan pleads for Ollie to speak to him; Ollie-as-chimp replies, “I have nothing to say!”

Going Bye-Bye (1934) – An escaped convict (Walter Long) has threatened to tie the boys’ legs around their necks if he ever catches him. Final shot shows him having done so, with Stan and Ollie reclining in pretzel fashion on a couch.

The Live Ghost (1934) – An irate ship captain (Walter Long again) has threatened to turn Stan and Ollie’s heads backwards if they say the word “ghost.” They do, and he does.

Thicker Than Water (1935) – The ultimate in freak endings for this, their final “official” short subject. Stan gives Ollie a blood transfusion that goes haywire. Final scene shows Stan and Ollie doing imitations of each other (with dubbed voices).

The Bohemian Girl (1936) – Stan is placed in a crusher machine, while Ollie is stretched on a torture rack. Final shot shows a shrunken Stan tearfully looking up to an elongated Ollie, with James Finlayson doing his best eye-popping take at both of them.

Block-Heads (1938) – Stan had originally proposed an ending in which their neighbor/hunter shoots and mounts them like hunting trophies. Hal Roach nixed the idea and filmed an alternate ending with extras standing in for L&H, reprising their finale from We Faw Down (1928).

The Flying Deuces (1939) – Stan and Ollie crash an airplane. Stan survives but sees Ollie ascending to heaven. Final scene shows Stan as a lonesome vagabond who comes across Ollie reincarnated as a horse.

A-Haunting We Will Go (1942) – Stan and Ollie are a magician’s assistants. Final shot shows an egg rolling toward Ollie, who cracks the egg to find a miniature, tearful Stan emerging.

The Bullfighters (1945; shown at top) – Stan and Ollie are “skinned alive” by a gangster. Final shot shows them as walking, talking skeletons.

Bonus sections

Car-crash endings:

Two Tars (1928) – Irate motorists drive after Stan and Ollie through a railroad tunnel; a train passes through and scares the other drivers back. Final shot shows Stan and Ollie emerging from the tunnel in their squashed car.

Hog Wild (1930) – Ollie’s car is smashed between two tramcars while Ollie, his wife, and Stan occupy it. A (strangely unconcerned) tramcar conductor tells them to move out of his way. Stan nonchalantly signals for a turn and drives the elongated car away.

County Hospital (1932) – Stan drives Ollie home from the hospital after being mistakenly doped up; Ollie is incapacited in the back seat with a broken leg. The car crashes. Final shot shows Stan and Ollie’s car following itself in a circle.

Murder endings:

Be Big (1930) – Stan and Ollie are caught in a lie by their wives and try to hide behind the wall in a Murphy bed. The wives pull out their shotguns and blast the bed through the wall.

Blotto (1930) – Stan and Ollie escape Stan’s irate wife via a taxi. The wife aims her shotgun, blasts the taxi, and walks toward Stan and Ollie menacingly at the fade-out.

Chickens Come Home (1931) – Stan and Ollie are caught in a lie by their wives. They run off, followed by Stan’s wife, who tests her handy hatchet with a lock of hair to make sure it’s sharp enough to work on Stan.

Laughing Gravy (1931) – Stan and Ollie drive their landlord (Charlie Hall) to commit suicide (off-screen, suggested via sound effects). Stan and Ollie bow their heads in mourning.

Scram! (1931) – The judge who sentenced Stan and Ollie for vagrancy catches them drunk and in hysterics on his bed with his wife (more innocent than it sounds). Final scene shows the judge grimacing at them, Stan and Ollie gulping and turning out the lights, and sound effects of mayhem ensuing.

Pack Up Your Troubles (1932) – Stan and Ollie are rewarded for a good deed they did with an invitation to dinner. Unfortunately, the dinner’s chef is a cook whom they got in trouble during their army stint, and he had vowed revenge. “Well, if it ain’t the snitchers — and I got my knife!”

The Midnight Patrol (1933) – Stan and Ollie are cops who have mistakenly nailed their captain as having burglarized his own house. Stan and Ollie flee off-screen, the captain fires two shots, fellow officers remove their hats, and a command is given: “Send for the coroner!”

Bonnie Scotland (1936) – (This moment occurs near the beginning of the movie rather than at the end, but it’s definitely worth noting.) Stan is informed that when he was born, his father took one look at his face and committed suicide. Ollie says he doesn’t blame Stan’s father one bit.

Atoll K (1950) – Laurel & Hardy’s film career is brutally ended.

A brief history of Sons of the Desert (a/k/a The International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society)


The following article is part of this blog’s self-proclaimed Laurel & Hardy Month. If you’re not sure what the heck we’re talking about, click on the above image to find out!


Sons of the Desert is a worldwide group also known as “The International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society.” It is named after Laurel & Hardy’s 1933 feature film of the same name, in which “The Boys” lie to their wives in order to attend their lodge’s annual convention in Chicago.


Origins. A Michigan professor named John McCabe (shown above) first met Stan and “Babe” (the off-screen nickname for Oliver Hardy) when they were on tour in British music halls in the 1950’s. From there, McCabe began a friendship with Stan Laurel that lasted until Laurel’s death in 1965. McCabe also wrote a biography in 1961, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, that was seminal in the “renaissance” of Laurel & Hardy’s film work.

Shortly before Stan’s death, McCabe proposed to Laurel the creation of a small group of Laurel & Hardy “buffs.” (Until his own death in 2005, McCabe was persistent in distinguishing Laurel & Hardy enthusiasts as “buffs,” as opposed to being a “fan,” which word McCabe felt was short for “fanatic.”)

Laurel was delighted with the idea of the Society, and McCabe — with the help of actor Orson Bean (later of TV’s “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”), kid-show host and Ollie impersonator Chuck McCann, and L&H buff John Municino — formed Sons of the Desert. From a group of about a dozen members who met in a New York lounge in 1965, the Society has grown to hundreds of local chapters located in the U.S. and fourteen other countries.

Tents. Each of the Society’s regional chapters is known as a “Tent” and is named after a Laurel & Hardy film. (The only exception to the film-title rule is a South Florida Tent known as “Boobs in the Woods,” named by Laurel himself as a description of his and Babe’s screen characters.)

The manner of Tent meetings and presentations vary from Tent to Tent, though most Tents try to have meetings at least once a month. Many people have found life-long friends and spouses via their association with the Sons. Most notably, it was through Sons of the Desert that the widowed John McCabe met Rosina Lawrence (L&H’s co-star in Way Out West), to whom he was married from 1987 until her death ten years later.

In 1978, the Sons began holding biennial international conventions, where L&H buffs gather from around the world to share movie screenings, trivia contests, and their love of Stan and Ollie.

Constitution. Following is the Sons of the Desert’s “official” constitution, written by John McCabe and approved by Stan Laurel, who added two minor details to it (as noted within).


Article I

The Sons of the Desert is an organization with scholarly overtones and heavily social undertones devoted to the loving study of the persons and films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Article II

The founding members are Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, and John Municino.

Article III

The Sons of the Desert shall have the following officers and board members who will be elected at an annual meeting:

* Grand Sheik

* Vice-Sheik (Sheik in charge of vice)

* Sub-Vice-Vizier (Sheik-Treasurer, and in charge of sub-vice)

* Grand Vizier (Corresponding Secretary)

* Board Members-at-Large (This number should not exceed 812)

Article IV

All officers and Board Members-at-Large shall sit at an exalted place at the annual banquet table.

Article V

The officers and Board Members-at-Large shall have absolutely no authority whatever.

Article VI

Despite his absolute lack of authority, the Grand Sheik or his deputy shall act as chairman at all meetings, and will follow the standard parliamentary procedure in conducting same. At the meetings, it is hoped that the innate dignity, sensitivity, and good taste of the members assembled will permit activities to be conducted with a lively sense of deportment and good order.

Article VII

Article VI is ridiculous.

Article VIII

The Annual Meeting shall be conducted in the following sequence:

  1. Cocktails.
  2. Business meeting and cocktails.
  3. Dinner (with cocktails).
  4. After-dinner speeches and cocktails.
  5. Cocktails.
  6. Coffee and cocktails.
  7. Showing of Laurel & Hardy film.
  8. After-film critique and cocktails.
  9. After-after-film critique and cocktails.
  10. Stan has suggested this period. In his words: “All members are requested to park their camels and hire a taxi; then return for ‘One for the desert’!”

Article IX

Section “d” above shall consist in part of the following toasts:

* “To Stan”

* “To Babe”

* “To Fin”

* “To Mae Busch and Charley Hall — who are eternally ever-popular.”

Article X

Section “h” above shall include the reading of scholarly papers on Laurel and Hardy. Any member going over an 8-1/2 minute time limit will have his cocktails limited to fourteen.

Article XI

Hopefully, and seriously, The Sons of the Desert, in the strong desire to perpetuate the spirit and genius of Laurel and Hardy, will conduct activities ultimately and always devoted to the preservation of their films and the encouragement of their showing everywhere.

Article XII

There shall be member societies in other cities called “Tents,” each of which shall derive its name from one of the films.

Article XIII

Stan has suggested that members might wear a fez or blazer patch with an appropriate motto. He says: “I hope that the motto can be blue and gray, showing two derbies with these words superimposed: ‘Two minds without a single thought’.” These words have duly been set into the delightful escutcheon created for The Sons of the Desert by Al Kilgore. [The “escutcheon” is shown at the top of this post.] They have been rendered into Latin in the spirit of Stan’s dictum that our organization should have, to use his words, “a half-assed dignity” about it. We shall strive to maintain precisely that kind of dignity at all costs — at all times.


Theme song. The Sons of the Desert group’s theme song is, again, taken from the film. It was written by the movie’s co-writer, Frank Terry, and is a pastiche of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.” Here it is as sung in the movie (starting at the 0:48 mark).

Lastly, on a personal note, for those who do not have a Tent in their area or who cannot attend live meetings, there are online Tents as well — including mine (which used to be live but whose meetings were discontinued due to low attendance). Feel free to visit my Tent on Facebook — Tent #263, Laurel & Hardy’s Leave ‘em Laughing Tent.


For more information about Sons of the Desert or Laurel & Hardy in general, visit the Sons of the Desert website at


Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies, by Randy Skretvedt (Moonstone Press, 1987).

Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward, by Scott MacGillivray (Vestal Press, 1998).

CUCKOO (1974) – Loving documentary tribute to Laurel & Hardy


The following is my first entry in this blog’s self-declared Laurel & Hardy Month. If you’re a L&H fan, watch this space, as there’s plenty more to come!


What if, just the other day, you had viewed a copy of Hats Off — the only Laurel & Hardy film that hasn’t been seen in any form for decades? As an L&H buff, your most likely emotions would be: (a) astonishment, at your good luck in seeing such a rare find; and (b) joy, at being able to watch yet another chapter in the Laurel & Hardy canon.

Such was my experience with Cuckoo, a lovingly-compiled British L&H documentary that last saw any kind of broadcast in 1976. Years ago, for no reason other than the typical generosity to be found among L&H buffs, a British member of the online Laurel & Hardy Forum sent me a DVD of a second- or third-generation copy of this documentary. The gentleman warned me that, since the copy was over 30 years old, it would look a little bit beaten-up. After about five minutes of viewing it, the dupe-like quality of the video hardly mattered, because – as with Laurel & Hardy’s own best work – the care and love involved in the preparation of this film shown through like the midday sun.

Narrated by the British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, the documentary cleverly makes generous use of clips from L&H movies to comment on The Boys’ life stories. (Best intercut of all: Ollie in Oliver the Eighth expressing his wish to meet “the future Mrs. Hardy,” followed by an interview with that very person: Babe’s widow, Lucille Hardy Price.)

The doc also sports priceless interviews from Price, Babe London (Ollie’s hapless bride-to-be in the L&H short Our Wife), and L&H followers Marcel Marceau, Dick Van Dyke, and Jerry Lewis. In particular, Lewis (never shy about expressing his philosophies on-camera to start with) makes some surprisingly insightful comments about Stan Laurel’s modus operandi, i.e., most people would care only about the joy of receiving a lavish gift such as a piano; only Laurel would be interested in the plight of the piano’s delivery men (The Music Box).

The documentary sports a few inaccuracies (such as the oft-quoted “fact” that Stan Laurel was married eight times – wrong again!). But in the end, my only major regret about Cuckoo is that this loving L&H tribute is so frustratingly unavailable to the general public. Below is a link to the documentary’s current posting on YouTube; catch it while you can, as it will probably be yanked eventually!)




January 2019 = Laurel & Hardy Month!


(Of course, every month should be Laurel & Hardy month. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.)

If you subscribe to this blog and you keep up with new movie releases, you’re probably overly aware of two things:

(1) I have been a feverish fan of the movie comedies of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy for most of my life. When I was a 10-year-old growing up in Illinois, a local kiddie TV show broadcast Laurel & Hardy’s short subjects every Saturday morning. I became an instant fan and have never outgrown them, even though I have probably seen each of their movies dozens of times.

(2) Jan. 25 is the U.S. release date for Stan & Ollie, a new British bio-drama that depicts the later years of Stan and “Babe” (as Hardy was affectionally known off-screen), as they tour British music halls with their comedy act after their movie prospects in Hollywood dry up. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are earning near-unanimous raves for their performances as the movie’s title characters.

With all of that in mind, I figure it’s time for my blog’s readers to get a full-fledged education in the world of Laurel & Hardy!


For the rest of this month, I will be posting a wide variety of Laurel & Hardy-related minutia at this blog: Reviews of biographies of the team, interviewers with their biographers, and basically just anything I can think of that connects to L&H! Naturally, once Stan & Ollie makes its way to my neighborhood in a couple of weeks, I will review that movie in due time (if not sooner).

(And this L&H tribute includes a shameless plug for all 67 episodes of my Laurel & Hardy podcast Hard-Boiled Eggs and Nuts, which I recorded last year. Listen to it for free online at


So get ready to find out everything you always wanted to know about Laurel & Hardy but didn’t even know to ask!