ONCE WE REALIZE that the Stan Laurel seen on the screen of this 1923 Hal Roach comedy short is a sort of "work in progress" and not the Laurel of 4 or 5 years later, then we can appreciate and properly analyze THE NOON WHISTLE. Following his teaming with Oliver Hardy, the brash, young wise guy gave way to and was superseded by our meek, dumb and lovable Stan.
IN VIEWING THIS one reel comedy, it seems in many respects to be light years behind that which would soon be the norm at the Hal Roach lot. It lacks that polished, high class look of later L & H titles such as BIG BUSINESS and DOUBLE WHOOPEE. By shear necessity, the story's pacing has to be rapid fire and hit or miss; if only for the reason of having only one reel's worth of film to get it done.
JOINING IN AS part of the cast are Roach stalwarts: James Finlayson, William Gillespie and Noah Young. Katherine Grant provides the feminine pulchritude and love interest as the bosses secretary.
CONDENSING THE ALREADY thread bare plot even more so, it boils down to this. The company boss (William Gillespie) calls in plant foreman (James Finlayson) and orders him to shake up and shape up his men into a more productive work force. In our first view of the lumber mill workers, Laurel is leading guys in group singing! The rest of the time is spent in O'Halloran's (Fin) pursuing a cagey Laurel all around the plant and lumber yard.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT we are not speaking in any derogatorily hostile manner when we refer to there being a simple and uncomplicated of a plot to follow. This is a real plus in our view; as a lack of strict adherence to the written page allows for and even demands the cast and director to work things out on the set. In that manner, gags are worked in the best light and to their fullest potential.
IN MANY RESPECTS, this periods out from Hal Roach more strongly resembles that of good friend and competitor, Mack Sennett. The impersonal approach is much in evidence; as characters are often not given names. The action is much more manic and rapid fire, pacing is obviously not a consideration.
ONE OTHER ELEMENT has occurred to us. It is that so much of the humor is expected to be generated by way of the title card. THe writing is purposely written in a manner to be a sort of written joke to itself. For example, the Boss tells the Foreman that "the employees are so lazy, that they have to lean against each other when they loaf" and the Boss also threatens to fire the Foreman, telling the secretary that she should "write up O'Halloran's hours." He then adds "I'll fix that Swede!"
LOOKING AT IT from a strictly artistic point of view, these comical title cards violate the basic principal of the silent films very elementary commitment to the visual.
BUT, PERHAPS WE are sounding all too serious; for we do recommend your screening it. If for no other reason, it helps one understand just how the comedy short evolved in the silent days and laid the groundwork for the coming of the talkie era.
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