45 Minutes from Hollywood is a cute little comedy, but in retrospect, it’s even more alien to Laurel & Hardy-style comedy than the usual Hal Roach/Pathe movies where Stan and Ollie appear in the movie but not together. Here, Laurel doesn’t appear until the final scene and doesn’t even get a screen credit.
The story revolves around a mama’s-boy who must go to Hollywood to pay the family’s rent. Once there, he gets mixed up with a gang of bank robbers who have dressed as movie-actors-and-crew who are supposedly faking a bank robbery for their film. (Hope you followed that.) In a tag-along subplot, Hardy plays a house detective who gets mixed up with one of the robbers. Near the end, Laurel plays a hotel tenant who gets mixed up in the middle of the film’s final chase. (Obviously, Hal Roach [who also gets a story credit here] thought that if he mixed up enough disparate elements, some comedy would eventually emerge. More often, though, the final result is not so much disparate as desperate.)
The funniest gags are some of H.M. Walker’s intertitles. We get an immediate take on the family’s grandfather, courtesy of the title that tells us he “saw a 1910 beauty contest [and] they had to blindfold him to get him home.” Later, when the mother gives her son the money to pay their debt, she warns him to “beware of confidence men and assistant directors.”
(There’s also a cute inside joke where Grandpa is thumbing through a fan magazine and gets all worked up about a photo of Vivien Oakland. Non-L&H buffs will be scratching their heads over this reference, but Oakland memorably appeared in the L&H shorts We Faw Down and Scram!, and the feature film Way Out West.)
As for Laurel & Hardy, considering that they never get together in the movie, they have some surprisingly Laurel-&-Hardy-esque moments: Ollie, when he plays coy to try to placate his angry wife; Stan, when he is crying about getting beat up only for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (However, it’s pretty obvious that Stan’s role was intended for James Finlayson, as he is made up to look like Fin, right down to the walrus moustache.)
45 Minutes from Hollywood is a funny enough 20 minutes from Hollywood. But astonishingly, Laurel & Hardy’s very next movie would get them together properly — before separating them again for a few more films.