The Return of Laurel & Hardy to the Jacksonville Beaches area


Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, my Tent has been reconstructed!

Let me explain a few things. A “Tent” is another name for a local chapter of The International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society, better known as “Sons of the Desert.” The group is named after the 1934 feature film in which Stan and Ollie lie to their wives so that they can go off to attend their lodge’s annual convention in Chicago. The group was founded in 1965 by L&H biographer John McCabe and several others, and it has grown to have chapters nationwide and throughout the world. Each Tent is named after a Laurel & Hardy movie.

I had wanted to have my own Tent practically ever since I discovered L&H as a young boy in the 1970’s. But back then, all we had were 16-millimeter movie copies of The Boys’ work, and what kid could afford that?

In the summer of 2006, I got a new job after being unemployed for several months, and my wife treated me to the British DVD collection of Laurel & Hardy’s movies (which, unlike the much-ballyhooed U.S. version, contains their silent films as well as their talkies). In August of that year, I made my wish come true and created the “Leave ’em Laughing Tent.”

For six years or so, I had meetings at a local library on the first Monday of each month, and they were very well-attended. Then at the start of 2013, the Jacksonville Public Library closed on Monday nights. I tried to carry on with the group on Sunday afternoons, but it was a bust, so I gave up in April 2013.

Now, nearly two years later, The Friends of the Beaches Branch Library (in Neptune Beach) has happily supported my cause. Since Mondays are still out, I am going to try to hold my screenings on the final Wednesday of Jan. and Feb. 2015. If the turnout is good, I’ll keep the Tent going on a regular basis again.


I cannot properly convey my adoration of Laurel & Hardy. Like many of their fans (or buffs, as John McCabe preferred to call their followers), I started watching them on Saturday morning TV when I was about 10 years old, and I haven’t stopped enjoying them since.

I can identify with those two “likeably dumb” men more than I care to admit. When I am caught short trying to repair something in the house, or my kids and I bump heads at some point, we all quickly identify it as a “Laurel & Hardy moment.”

If you are anywhere in or near the Jacksonville, FL. area, I humbly implore you to visit my first “reconstructed” Tent meeting on Wed., Jan. 28, from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. It will be at the Jacksonville Public Library’s Beaches Branch on 600 N. 3rd St. (just south of Atlantic Blvd.) in Neptune Beach, FL. Admission is free for all attendees, and with any luck, I’ll have a few light snacks to share along with the movies.

If you can’t make it to the live meeting, please visit my Tent’s Facebook page, or its lovingly built website at Let’s keep this classic comedy team going for the next generation!



WE FAW DOWN (1928) and SONS OF THE DESERT (1934) – All about Stan and Ollie’s gun-toting wives

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Dec. 29 happens to be a dual anniversary for Laurel & Hardy releases: one of their silent shorts, and one of their most popular talking features. However, being the contrarian that I am, I find this double-feature to be the perfect opportunity to discuss why I find Laurel & Hardy’s view of the female gender so relentlessly nasty, and therefore, not especially laughter-inducing.


We Faw Down is like a sitcom gone sour. Stan and Ollie’s wives start out hostile and suspicious, and they go downhill from there. Stan and Ollie are innocently caught in nasty circumstances, yet far from being terrified, they seem strangely nonchalant about the whole thing, as if they want to get caught.

There might be some potential for (very misogynist) comedy here, but the hostility of the situation kills every possibility. As Ollie’s suspicious wife, Vivien Oakland (later to make a kinder impression in L&H’s Scram! and Way Out West) has a sneer that could seemingly melt the celluloid that preserves it. When Stan and Ollie find themselves (innocently enough) in the apartment of some women other than their wives, they’re unusually unconcerned about being two married men sitting around some women’s apartment in bathrobes. Then there’s the climax, where Ollie tries to bluff his way through his wayward afternoon, his wife’s smothering gaze defeating him at every turn. And when Ollie admits defeat in his lie, Stan uncharacteristically laughs his head off at Ollie’s plight. He seems to be rehearsing for a similarly out-of-character laugh jag in the later Great Guns.

The movie is most celebrated for its closing gag, where Ollie’s wife blasts at him with a shotgun and numerous men, hearing the shots, jump out of windows in varying states of undress. Generations of L&H fans and biographers have never noted how one of L&H’s most celebrated gags has little to actually do with L&H, and a lot to do with a poisonously cynical view of marriage.


Given the unrelieved hostility of the wives in Sons of the Desert, and Stan and Ollie’s actions which take their cues from such nastiness, it’s hard not to read this movie as reverse misogyny as well. The movie’s premise is that the boys’ lodge (which supplies the movie’s title) is having its annual convention in Chicago, and all members are required to attend. Stan immediately starts to puddle up when he considers how his wife will react to this news, but Ollie only spouts the kind of “king of the castle” malarkey that Ralph Kramden would spew so continuously decades later on “The Honeymooners“: “I go places and do things,” declares Ollie, “and then I tell my wife!” The remainder of the movie takes great pains to show that, if Ollie does indeed go places and do things, telling his wife about them is the last thing he wants to do.

Mrs. Hardy (Mae Busch) barely tolerates Stan’s presence in their apartment, a sign of worse things to come. When Ollie tries to tell his wife that he will be attending the Chicago convention, he endures a lot of crockery on his head courtesy of Mrs. Hardy. After Stan witnesses this outburst, it’s his turn to play bantam rooster, telling Ollie (in a quite out-of-character speech) what a fool he is to endure such behavior. He is about to tell Ollie what he’d say to put Mrs. Laurel in her place, when lo and behold, Mrs. Laurel (Dorothy Christie) appears — shotgun in hand, having just come back from a day of hunting(!). Stan melts under his wife’s glare, tucks his tail between his legs, and heads on home (to the apartment next door).

In what appears to be a creation of one of situation comedy’s more enduring cliches, the boys then contrive to have a fake doctor (actually it’s a real doctor, albeit a vet) examine Ollie and tell Mrs. Hardy that Ollie needs a cruise to Honolulu to calm his nerves — and of course, Stan needs to go with him. The ruse actually works. Unfortunately, the wives then hear news that the cruise ship which Stan and Ollie were supposed to have boarded has sunk. Strangely enough, this scene allows the wives their only moment of affection, as they anxiously await news of the ship’s survivors. To take their minds off their worries, they go to see a movie, which is prefaced by a newsreel showing none other than Stan and Ollie clowning at the Chicago convention. The wives’ grief quickly turns into what, in male terms, would be deemed a p***ing contest, as Mrs. L. and Mrs. H. determine whose husband is the bigger liar.

Through contrivances as yawn-inspiring as anything in L&H’s later Fox movies, the boys end up in their pajamas, in the rain, accompanied by a policeman. The wives sit the boys down and ask them for their account of what really happened. They manage to contrive a tale only a couple of child-minded adults could concoct (they made it home before the rescue ship arrived, by ship-hiking), until Mrs. Laurel corners Stan once and for all. Stan tearfully acknowledges the truth and goes next door with his shotgun-wielding wife to face what looks like his final fate.

Mrs. Laurel won’t be shooting any game tonight, though — she’s happy that she got the best of Mrs. Hardy, and she rewards Stan with chocolates and cigarettes. Stan hears a commotion next door and goes to investigate, finding Ollie crouching from another round of crockery.

For all of the wonderful comedy that Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy brought to cinema, and at the risk of sounding like a member of the PC police, I think the anti-female stance of Laurel & Hardy’s movies should at least be re-examined, if not downright deplored.