Rearended

I guess this has turned into LEO MCCAREY WEEK. Best make it official.

If ME AND MY PAL is Laurel & Hardy’s version of THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL avant la lettre, and it is, then the silent TWO TARS (1928) is their pre-empting of Godard’s WEEKEND.

The second half of it, anyway. In the first half, the boys, playing sailors on shore leave, pick up a couple of flappers (Thelma Hill & Ruby Blaine) and go on a spree. There’s a brief tit-for-tat with Charlie Hall, future antagonist of THEM THAR HILLS and TIT FOR TAT, then they get embroiled in an endless traffic jam. This sequence is probably slightly longer than Godard’s famous two-tracking shot vision of hell, but it’s also much funnier, without in any way lessening the sense of the human race as a hopelessly warlike, intransigent, malicious and brainless blight on the globe.

The boys get into rows with Edgar Kennedy and other motorists, which escalate into an orgy of windscreen-smashing, headlamp-removing, and bodywork disfiguration, while the girls whoop with anarchic delight at each atrocity. I’ve always had a horror of the kind of female who sits on the sidelines and encourages male-on-male violence, but this pair seem oddly innocent in their childlike glee. It’s all just moving shapes to them, and moving shapes are lovely and funny. Their hilarity is infectious — Laurel & Hardy’s films are among the very few that can make laughter itself funny.

The boys did make a very large number of these things — pants ripping (PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP), hat busting (in the now-lost HATS OFF), pie throwing (THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY). This is a very good one. Story & supervision: Leo McCarey.

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2 Responses to “Rearended”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    The girls do get into it, briefly, with another woman. L&H women usually take control of the situation, despite Ollie’s posturing as lord of the manor. Note how the chummy wives in “Sons of the Desert” bicker when defending their hubbies — or more precisely, their power over their hubbies.

    For me the funniest moment in “Two Tars” is when a lone motorcycle cop pulls up and surveys the riot from above. He comes down and strikes a disapproving-parent pose; that’s enough to cause everybody to stop fighting and scramble back to their vehicles. Comparable to the cop in “Big Business”; a patient observer who suppresses his disapproval while writing it all down.

  2. And he’s a real motorcycle cop who used to moonlight in movies. Amazing the authorities never felt he was harming the dignity of his office.

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