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45 Minutes from Hollywood. Some Context for Laurel and Hardy

January 8, 2017

45

This one is not a Laurel and Hardy movie.  The image that you see is a juxtaposition of two separate frames from different scenes.  Stan and Ollie do not appear together in the film – it’s just a film that these two actors happened to appear in.  Ollie more than Stan.

For completists, it’s essential though, and it’s also invaluable as context, as a condensed expression of the comedic world that the partnership came from.  This is the very stuff of the world from which ‘Laurel and Hardy’ were plucked.

This 1926 movie is a Glenn Tyron vehicle.  He plays the slow witted scion of a rustic family that lives 45 minutes from Hollywood (by very fast train).  The family learns that the bank will foreclose on the farm if a payment is not made in person to a bank in Hollywood the following day.  The lecherous grandpa, aspirant actress daughter, and fanboy Glenn are all desperate to take on this necessary errand.  Cos they’ve never been. The following day, the girl, the boy, and the grandpa all struggle onto a single bicycle and career downhill in a life threatening effort to make the train on time.  Grandpa doesn’t make it and his dreams of cavorting with bathing beauties are shattered.  Following a tourist bus ride in which the boy always contrives to be looking the wrong way, they get involved in a bank robbery which is in turn confused with a movie shot.  As is often in the case in movies of this era, cops shoot wildly and irresponsibly in all directions so it’s just as well that 1920s movie guns seem capable of doing nothing other than damaging people’s trousers.  The remainder of the film takes place in a hotel.  Cross dressing, sexual jealousy, wardrobe malfunctions, explosive hootch and a final out of control fire extinguisher fill the remainder of this two reeler which feels no obligation to conclude by resolving anything resembling a plot.

In this film, as you can see, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are both obligated to wear enormous and obviously false moustaches.  These moustaches do not actually contribute to any joke as such, and must have been imposed in an early Hal Roach studio assumption that enormous moustaches are inherently funny and that people who look like Stalin will make people guffaw instantly. Stan Laurel, whose appearance is too small to even receive a screen credit, plays an actor too poor and hungry to get out of bed.  His bed is overwhelmed by an invasion of mayhem and he’s allowed to look unhappy for a few moments.  Oliver Hardy has a larger part as a detective with a (justifiably) suspicious wife.  At one point he finds himself in a crowded hotel lobby wearing a towel with a cat stuck up it.  The best thing in the film is Oliver Hardy squirming on the spot when his wife bursts in on a very compromising situation.  Oliver Hardy trying to make light of catastrophic exposure is of course one of the most sublime comic spectacles you’ll ever see on screen.  Nothing is funnier than Oliver Hardy’s face, which is why you’ll somewhat regret that a disappointingly large percentage of this face is covered with an otiose moustache.

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