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!






STAN & OLLIE vs. Laurel & Hardy


(WARNING: This is not a review of the new movie Stan & Ollie, which has not yet come to my area and which I have not yet seen. However, the hyperlink in this blog leads to another blog which does give SPOILERS about said movie. So if you want to see the movie before reading some major plot details about it, avoid the hyperlink.)

I was looking forward to seeing Stan & Ollie. The general consensus of the film’s mostly glowing reviews is that the film mucks up a few facts about the events in question but generally gets the details right about the friendship between the real Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

But then I read the blog of Mark Evanier, a feverish Laurel & Hardy fan. He has seen the movie, and his blog points out the voluminous facts that the movie shunts aside in favor of tearjerking dramatics.

Reading this account of the movie angers me, though I do not blame Evanier for my ill humor. I blame it on a simple fact: I have never seen a single movie or TV show about Laurel & Hardy, either biographical or fictionalized, that does not take some kind of liberties with the facts about L&H’s history.

My late father-in-law, a Navy veteran of two wars, said he could never watch any Navy-themed movie because he knew what real Navy life was like, and Navy-themed movies always managed to get the details wrong. Evanier and I, along with generations of hardcore L&H fans, have done much reading about our two comedy heroes, and we seem to have the same problem with L&H-themed movies that my dad-in-law had with movies about Navy-based films.

Let me give you just three examples regarding L&H:

  • A 1992 direct-to-video compilation movie titled Laurel & Hardy: A Tribute to the Boys was hosted by comedian Dom Deluise. Aside from the movie showing colorized clips from The Boys’ comedies (I’ll spare you my condescending opinion of colorization), at the end of the movie, DeLuise stated when Hardy died, Laurel was at his bedside, holding his hand. A touching image, to be sure, but it’s totally false. Laurel was too ill to even attend Hardy’s funeral, much less be at his bedside to hold Hardy’s hand at the time of his death.
  • Cuckoo, a generally well-meaning 1974 British documentary about L&H, sports the oft-quoted “fact” that Stan Laurel was married eight times. Wrong again! As Evanier points out, Stan was married to and divorced from three different women (one of whom he remarried before divorcing her again).(If you’re looking for a happy ending, Laurel’s fourth wife, the former Ida [pronounced “E-da”] Kitaeva, turned out to be Laurel’s soulmate, and they were married for 18 happy years before Laurel died.)
  • Just yesterday, another well-meaning tribute to L&H was broadcast on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Half of it was a plug for the Stan & Ollie movie, while the other half was a L&H mini-history of The Boys that included several clips from their classic comedies. All well and good, except that CBS listed the wrong years for two of those comedies. If you are going to bother to list their movies’ release dates in the upper-left hand corner of the TV screen, why not go to the trouble of getting the dates right?

Sadly, Laurel & Hardy are not alone in this rewriting of movie comedy history. In 1971 came a book titled W.C. Fields & Me, written by Fields’ on-and-off mistress of 14 years, Carlotta Monti. Fields biographers (including his own grandson) have since established that the book was a vanity account in which Monti played hard and fast with several of the facts about her relationship with Fields. But nobody knew that in 1976, when Universal made a film version of the book, starring Rod Steiger as Fields and Valerie Perrine as Monti.

The movie played even harder and faster with the book’s fantasy version of the story, stating that Fields was a somewhat impoverished comedian who came to Hollywood accompanied by a midget sidekick (played by Billy Barty). Truth: Fields had no such sidekick, and he was already fairly wealthy from his stage and Broadway careers. The movie claimed that Monti met Fields when she attended one of his parties anonymously and was brusquely put to work by Fields as the party’s waitress. The truth, at least according to Monti, was that she first met Fields when she was a starlet appearing in a screen test for one of his movies.

So it appears that Hollywood has a thing for exploiting the personalities of its comedy legends, but when it comes to getting the facts right, Hollywood figures, “Ah, they’re just comedians — who cares?” And it seems to me that Laurel & Hardy have suffered the most from this lackadaisical approach to comics’ biographies.

You might think that I’m being a little too sensitive about this kind of thing. I dunno. If a good friend or relative of yours died, and you commissioned an outside party to film or tape a tribute to that person, how pleased would you be if said party got most of the facts wrong about your beloved? Many Laurel & Hardy buffs will tell you that they regard The Boys as friends. And friends should not be so carelessly wronged.

With that in mind, I’m still interested in seeing Stan & Ollie. But I will probably do so with a far more disparaging eye than that of some exceedingly generous film critics.

BELOW ZERO (1930) – Laurel & Hardy in a cold, cold world


The following is my entry in The Winter in July Blogathon, being hosted by Debbie at the blog Moon in Gemini from July 13-15, 2018. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ takes on some of their favorite winter-themed movies!


(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Sometimes, the grim hostility in Laurel and Hardy’s movies seems to stem from nothing else than some scriptwriters eager to goose the film into action. At least the grimness of Below Zero makes some sense. It’s winter, it’s the start of The Great Depression, and Stan and Ollie are about penniless. L&H biographer Randy Skretvedt has said he prefers the L&H movies’ original black-and-white format to colorization because of the time and mood of the films. This movie definitely nails its period.

Laurel & Hardy’s early team efforts usually reflect a three-act structure (for example, their silent You’re Darn Tootin’ had scenes at a band concert, a boarding home, and outside a restaurant). Below Zero has sort of a two-and-a-half-act structure. It has a long, almost unrelenting setting in the frozen outdoors, then a scene in a restaurant, followed by a short attempt at redemption in the outdoors again, outside the restaurant. It’s as though even the movie was aware of its grimness and wanted to give L&H a break, miniscule as it was, at movie’s end.

Stan and Ollie’s roles as itinerant street musicians seem an extension of the same role from You’re Darn Tootin’. One can almost imagine them having played on the street for a year, to no good end, until the Depression and winter set in. After many fruitless attempts to collect money for their talent, Ollie urges them to move on and then discovers that Stan had parked their act in front of a home for the deaf. Ollie does the inevitable camera-look — but then, considering how eager he is to sing “In the Good Old Summertime” while his listeners get frostbitten, who is he to judge?

Stan and Ollie find a wallet in the street and then go to great lengths to evade a vagrant who noticed them perusing the wallet. A policeman comes to their rescue (for once), and magnanimous Ollie offers to take him out for a steak dinner as recompense. After eating in the restaurant and observing a patron who was violently ejected for lack of pay, Ollie decides to double-check his funds. Turns out that the cop was smiling down on them sooner than Ollie had thought — the cop’s photo is in the wallet. Eventually the cop figures out the situation and tells the restauranteur that he’ll pay for his own meal and leave Stan and Ollie to fend for themselves.

Stan and Ollie are rousted and dumped behind the restaurant. Ollie nearly gets run over by the omnipresent motorist before yelling, dramatically and quite convincingly, for his buddy. He finally finds Stan hidden in a water barrel. When Ollie sees that the barrel is empty and asks Stan where the water is, Stan replies, “I drank it!” and rolls out of the barrel looking eighteen months pregnant. (These days, such a premise would probably inspire an R-rated sequel.)

As implausible as the freak ending is, it’s almost a relief after what Stan and Ollie have been through. It’s comforting to know that their friendship can survive such unrelenting harassment, but this might be about as close to the edge as we’d ever want to see them.

Laurel & Hardy in WAY OUT WEST (1937) – My kind of Western

The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon

The following is my entry in The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon, being hosted by Classic Film & TV Cafe on May 16, 2018. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ reviews of their favorite cinematic versions of comfort food!


Way Out West is an anomaly in Laurel & Hardy’s film career. Laurel & Hardy shorts and features, like most of the work from their producer Hal Roach, were taken for granted by everyone but the public. Contemporary critics sniffed their noses at L&H, and the movie industry regarded them as modest time-killers between the big-studio productions.

But Way Out West had something beyond its modest pretensions at Western-spoofing. Its jaunty score, superbly done by L&H veteran Marvin Hatley, was nominated for an Oscar. And in the wake of L&H’s success, Western spoofs suddenly became the rage, as W.C. Fields, Mae West, and The Marx Brothers followed suit.

But as with most Hollywood spin- or rip-offs, none of them managed the charm of the original. This is the one everyone remembers, mostly because of a softshoe number that goes beyond comedy to touchingly demonstrate Stan and Ollie’s underlying affection for each other. If you don’t laugh at it, it’s probably because you’re crying with joy from it. (The complete movie is embedded below; the dance routine starts at the 13:43 mark. Try not to at least smile at it. I dare you.)

The plot concerns the deed to a late miner’s valuable property, which the miner was naive enough to entrust to Stan and Ollie for its delivery to the miner’s daughter, named Mary Roberts. Stan inadvertently spills the beans to Mary’s evil caretaker (famed L&H scowler James Finlayson), who enlists his wife to impersonate Mary so they can snag the deed for themselves.

As plots (particularly Laurel & Hardy’s) go, this one is pretty sturdy, though it’s light enough to encompass three musical numbers (all low-key and charming) and tons of physical comedy within the film’s 70 minutes. Most Laurel & Hardy feature films were criticized for trying to shoehorn brief L&H routines in between the “straight” plots or romantic interests, but this movie is pure Laurel & Hardy in every sense.

Among the movie’s highlights are a chase scene that culminates in Stan’s nearly being tickled to death, and an endlessly inventive burglary scene involving nothing more than a block-and-tackle and a mule (who gets a cast credit, and deserves it). And of course, there are the wonderful musical numbers. (40 years after the movie’s release, two of these songs were released on a record in Britain and went straight to #1.)

The best-loved comedians are inevitably the ones who make us think they’re us. This movie has a running gag of Ollie confidently negotiating a stream, only to be continually sucked in by an unseen pothole. It’s a perfect metaphor for Laurel & Hardy and their ongoing audience appeal.

(Also click here to visit my webpage devoted exclusively to this wonderful movie, and click here to listen to my new Laurel & Hardy podcast!)

I have a Laurel & Hardy podcast, y’all!


I have been a Laurel & Hardy enthusiast since I was a kid, and I finally decided to share my passion in a podcast. Below is a link to the first episode of my very first podcast, Hard-Boiled Eggs and Nuts – A Laurel & Hardy Podcast. Listen (at iTunes) and enjoy (I hope!).