Oliver Hardy

Oliver the Eighth (1934, Lloyd French)

Watching Oliver Hardy muddle through Oliver the Eighth‘s terrible dialogue makes one wonder if the short truly did not have a writer–there isn’t one credited–or if the actors just made it up on the spot.

Given the rampant stupidity in Eighth, the latter seems more likely.

The short’s idiotic “writing” hampers it more than enough and director French’s ineptitude just makes the viewing experience work. Eighth concerns Hardy and Stan Laurel ending up locked in a house with a murderous widow and her nutty butler. The butler, played by Jack Barty, is mildly amusing at times, making him the only good thing in Eighth.

In order for the plot to work Hardy and Laurel have to be incredibly stupid and incredibly passive. The short opens with them owning a barber shop. It isn’t believable they could get to a job, much less own a business.

Eighth is awful.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Lloyd French; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Bert Jordan; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), Mae Busch (Mrs. Fox) and Jack Barty (Jitters the Butler).


The Hoose-Gow (1929, James Parrott)

The Hoose-Gow is something of an early talkie mess. The shots are paced for a silent movie, leaving long awkward pauses in the soundtrack. The short’s synchronized sound is a fledgling effort. The stock sounds, when used, are obvious.

Parrott’s direction is problematic throughout, with his main deficiency becomes lucid at the finish. The short ends in a food fight and Parrott goes out of his way to remind the audience where the food (a big mess of rice) is on the frame. His direction’s artless and boring, which means the performers need to make it work. And they don’t. How can they with the awkward pacing of the scene.

The lack of sound hurts Stan Laurel mostly–Oliver Hardy gets more talking, sure–but Laurel’s often left without sound for his nervous tick behavior.

Besides George Stevens’s truly wondrous photography, The Hoose-Gow has nothing to recommend it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by James Parrott; written by H.M. Walker; director of photography, George Stevens; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Tiny Sandford (Warden), James Finlayson (Governor) and Leo Willis (Leo).


The Nightlife (1930, James Parrott)

The Nightlife is an unfunny mess of asynchronous sound. If I’ve ever seen a Laurel and Hardy picture before, I can’t remember, and maybe starting off with one of their Spanish-language pictures was a bad idea. There’s no ambient sound for most of the short and it often feels like a silent comedy drug out to sound pacing.

I assume there isn’t a lot of dialogue–or ambient sound–because Laurel and Hardy didn’t actually speak Spanish (from what I’ve read); they used cue cards and their delivery makes Nightlife a hideous curiosity. Even Linda Loredo, who one assumes speaks Spanish, is terrible in her deliveries. Laurel and Hardy make it sound like they’ve never heard the language spoken.

Parrott’s direction is really weak; he and editor Richard C. Currier hold shots way too long. If there was any humor, they’d be draining it.

Nightlife‘s too lame for words.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by James Parrott; written by Leo McCarey and H.M. Walker; director of photography, George Stevens; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie) and Linda Loredo (Mrs. Laurel).


Wizard of Oz (1925, Larry Semon)

Imagine–if you can–The Wizard of Oz reconfigured as a slapstick comedy with some elements of political intrigue. According to IMDb, director and actor Larry Semon’s career took a serious hit from Wizard of Oz, since he just didn’t get the material. Near as I can tell, however, all the vitriol against the movie is based on its differences from the 1939 and the original novel, not so much against the film. It’s a standard slapstick comedy and some of the scenes are very well choreographed.

Even some of the other elements–but not the political intrigue–work out well enough. Dorothy’s farm life–in Kansas, Dorothy is still a character, in Oz she is not–has a few nice bits, even though it’s obviously filmed in California. California has a different look from Kansas, especially when shooting on location instead of in a studio. The tornado, one of the few familiar elements (the Yellow Brick Road, the witches, and any recognizable version of the Wizard are gone), has some great special effects. It’s one of those miniature effects where the viewer only knows it’s a miniature because he or she stops to think about how it couldn’t possibly be anything else.

The Wizard of Oz, apparently, is not a material to be taken lightly. Semon even had Baum’s son working on the film and he couldn’t even cut it any slack. The film uses a strange framing device, a man reading his daughter the novel (even she’s bored with the political mumbo-jumbo, in one of the film’s funnier self-awarenesses). The device isn’t so strange, since it’s still used today–and in some inexplicably beloved films–but its set looks German Impressionist, with rounded corners. It adds an ominous air to the scenes, but like the rest of the film, never pays off. Still, there’s nothing wrong with the film, just so long as you aren’t expecting Keaton slapstick. Or The Wizard of Oz.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Larry Semon; screenplay by Frank Joslyn Baum, Leon Lee and Semon, with titles by Lee, based on a novel by L. Frank Baum; directors of photography, Frank B. Good, Hans F. Koenenkamp and Leonard Smith; edited by Sam Zimbalist; released by Chadwick Pictures Corporation.

Starring Dorothy Dwan (Dorothy/Princess Dorothea), Mary Carr (Aunt Em), Virginia Pearson (Lady Vishuss), Bryant Washburn (Prince Kynd), Josef Swickard (Prime Minister Kruel), Charles Murray (The Wizard of Oz), Oliver Hardy (Farmhand/The Tin Woodsman/Knight of the Garter), Frank Alexander (Uncle Henry/Prince of Whales), Otto Lederer (Ambassador Wikked), Frederick Ko Vert (The Phantom of the Basket), Larry Semon (Toymaker/Farmhand/The Scarecrow) and Spencer Bell (Snowball/The Cowardly Lion).


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