Archive for Laughing Gravy

Get Packing

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2019 by dcairns

PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES seems to confirm George Marshall’s suitability as a Laurel & Hardy director: good shots right from the start. Not artsy, but striking, and putting into imagery some of what we feel about the characters.

He also makes a damn good sneering villain. I was grateful Stan didn’t follow his usual practice of SHOWING the horrible fate the boys are threatened with… (cut throats, in this case: well, there’s no obvious slapstick iteration of THAT calamity).

In fact, the film is co-credited to Leo McCarey’s tragic brother Ray, who nobody at Roach rated very highly, and the IMDb proposes Harry Black and Lloyd French as unindicted co-conspirators. But I think there’s enough evidence of Marshall’s style to attribute the visual grace notes to his influence.

The plot requires Stan & Ollie to have a couple of friends from the “straight world.” Little Jackie Lyn Dufton works well as an addition to the team: although looking after a kid kind of limits the mayhem the buys can get up to, what’s good about her is she’s NO HELP. A bit like Laughing Gravy, she stands almost as an embodiment of their bond: she is both inconvenient and adorable. Her father has to be gotten rid of for plot reasons early on, and a good thing too: he violates a cardinal rule of their comic universe, by being a regular joe who isn’t annoyed by their ineptitude. This is fantasy is only sustainable by giving him as little real interaction with the boys as possible.

(As an example of the correct use of an unsympathetic world, in this movie the army offers no supportive camaraderie, and an officer deliberately tries to get the boys killed by the enemy because they irritate him.)

The rest of the time the support is provided by growling heavies like Marshall, and a nice range of stooges and apoplectic minor clowns, and though it’s nowhere near as good as their top ten shorts, it feels enough like them (complete with non-stop Marvin Hatley music) and has just enough narrative cohesion and funny sequences to sustain a warm glow for 68 minutes.

Our Laurel & Hardy podcast is here.

PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES stars Rhubarb Vaselino; J. Piedmont Mumblethunder; Mickey Finn; Mrs. Wiggs; Ming the Merciless; Professor Gordon; Tootsie Malone; Og Oggilby; Joe Pettibone; Mrs. Hudson; and Mr. Hall.

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Cant Sleep: Bed’s on Fire

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by dcairns

Our next podcast will be about Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Oliver Norval Hardy, with special guest Stephen C. Horne joining the discussion. So we’ve been looking at lots of the Hal Roach shorts.

THEY GO BOOM is positively Lynchian, especially when, at the climax, the boys’ bed is overinflated with domestic gas and rises like an impossible cake, bearing its occupants ceilingwards with an ominous HISSSSSS.

Nightmarish. We anticipate some comic invention will introduce a spark and cause the dirigible to explode and, for once, fulfill the title, but it’s not as logical as all that. Ollie sneezes and that alone is enough to ignite the holocaust.

Also good to see diminutive Mancunian Brummie Charley Hall as the landlord, anticipating his identical role in the classic LAUGHING GRAVY. While Edgar Kennedy and James Finlayson are excellent foils, making the “normal” people the boys interact with seem as daft as the central duo, Hall is genuinely a force of evil — he could surely have portrayed a convincing psychopath. His shortness ought to give him a Yosemite Sam absurdity, unlike the more imposing Walter Lang, who always brought the fear of actual mayhem with him, but in fact Hall is even scarier than Lang. He is simply malign.

There’s something slightly off about this one, though, since the major plotline, Ollie having a cold, makes him TOO pitiful. His natural dominance and self-importance need to be in play to make his awful mishaps truly funny. He can’t be merely a victim, he has to be somewhat full of himself. Here he’s just full of phlegm.