Stan Laurel

Pie-Eyed (1925, Scott Pembroke and Joe Rock)

There’s got to be something good about Pie-Eyed. I just can’t think of it. I suppose directors Pembroke and Rock do show some competence; they save the stupidest gag for last. Stan Laurel falls seven stories without injury. If there’s never any danger to him, why be interested?

But that complement is a sarcastic one. The timing is probably more coincidence.

I suppose Laurel isn’t terrible. It’s not his fault (presumably) the short has no story. Pie-Eyed opens, appropriately, with him being a drunken buffoon at a night club. Of course, he’s not drinking at night, the short later reveals, but during the day.

He gets flirty with the club owner’s wife, gets thrown out, has further misadventures. Even without an original plot point, Pie-Eyed might have been tolerable with some original gags. There aren’t any; every gag is familiar from much better comedies.

It’s exceptionally lame.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Scott Pembroke and Joe Rock; titles by Tay Garnett; director of photography, Edgar Lyons; produced by Rock; released by Selznick Distributing Corporation.

Starring Stan Laurel (Drunk), Glen Cavender (Nightclub manager) and Thelma Hill (Girl in club).


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).


Oranges and Lemons (1923, George Jeske)

Jeske isn’t much of a director, which I feel weird saying as Oranges and Lemons has a really masterfully done sequence. Jeske holds the shot as Stan Laurel keeps confusing Eddie Baker, who’s pursuing him. It’s brilliant stuff, as Laurel is a great physical comedian.

The directing problems come immediately following, when Laurel enters a warehouse and Jeske never does a proper establishing shot. It might be a budgetary constraint, but it really hurts the short. Except, of course, Laurel is there to make it work.

And Oranges does succeed. It doesn’t have a story–Laurel’s a lazy employee at a poorly run orchard. It follows his morning through a couple assignments (though lazy, he is industrious–Laurel doesn’t pass a single task without attempting it). He gets in trouble with his boss, chaos ensues.

The short succeeds specifically due to Laurel’s presence. It’s impossible to imagine Oranges without him.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by George Jeske; director of photography, Frank Young; produced by Hal Roach; released by PathΓ© Exchange.

Starring Stan Laurel (Sunkist), Katherine Grant (Little Valencia) and Eddie Baker (Orange Blossom).


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