Sunday, 24 July 2011

Laurel & Hardy in Sons Of The Desert (1933)

This feature is held up as one of Stan & Oliver's finest films, and it's not hard to see why.

Stan & Oliver are members of a lodge called the sons of the desert (think the shriners or in the UK the masons), they pledge an oath of allegiance, and swear to attend the annual convention in Chicago. Stan is worried about making a promise to go as his wife (Dorothy Christie) might say he can't go. Oliver tells him to put his foot down and show her who's boss, however it transpires Oliver's wife (Mae Busch) tells him in no uncertain terms he is not to go to the convention.

The boys come up with a cunning plan, Oliver pretends to be ill, and Stanley pays off a quack to show up and pronounce that Oliver is very ill, and needs to go on an ocean voyage to Honolulu to recuperate, Stan helpfully mentions that the doctor (really a vet) should give Oliver some medicine, so he promptly pulls out a horse pill from his bag and administers it to Ollie in true veterinary style!

With their plan working perfectly, the boys have a whale of a time at the convention, they meet up with a fellow lodge member, Charley (Charley Chase) who, when he finds out they're from Los Angeles, decides to let them in on a practical joke when he makes a prank phone call to his sister, who he hasn't seen since he was at school, who lives in L.A., after a while Oliver realises that she is Mrs Hardy, and hastily ends the phone call.

Stan and Ollie return home in Hawaiian garb, complete with a ukelele, only to find their houses deserted, it transpires that the passenger ship from Hawaii has been sunk after being hit by a typhoon, or a typhoid as Stanley calls it!.

The boys discover the news just as their spouses return home, needing to hide in a hurry they dash up into the loft. Realising they are going to be up there for a while they decide to make the best of the situation and create a make shift bedroom, impressed with their efforts they settle down in bed, as cosy as two peas in a pod(duh).

The girls meanwhile, are so distraught with worry, as they wait for confirmation from the shipping company, that they decide to go to the cinema to try and ease their nerves. As they wait for the main feature, a movie showing highlights of the sons of the desert convention appears on the screen, wracked with grief, the girls agree that they should have let the boys go to the convention, and just at that point the boys appear on the movie screen, dancing, enjoying a parade and looking very pleased with themselves!

The spouses, before being reunited with their errant husbands, have an argument. Mrs Hardy claims that they are both to blame, whereas Mrs Laurel says that Stan is honest, if easily lead. So when they do eventually catch up with them, they ask them both to tell the truth, Oliver tells his version of events, with Stan helpfully telling how they "Ship-hiked" their way home! Once Ollie has finished, Betty turns to Stan and asks him if this is the truth and he instantly buckles.

Stanley is rewarded for being honest by being pampered by his wife, meanwhile next door Oliver is facing the full force of Mrs Hardy's wrath, sitting on the floor with a black eye surrounded by broken crockery and defending himself with a saucepan on his head.

I love this movie, it's definitely one of my favourites by the boys. There are some beautiful moments here, Stan eating the wax fruit, the business with the tin bath, the "two peas in a pod-duh" lines, climbing down the drainpipe into the water butt, "I wouldn't let my wife wear any pants, I've never heard of such goings off!".

If you wanted to introduce someone to Laurel and Hardy, this would certainly be a good choice.

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