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Pick and Shovel (1923)

5.0
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Title: Pick and Shovel (1923)

Pick and Shovel (1923) on IMDb 5/10

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Miner
James Finlayson ...
The foreman
Katherine Grant ...
His daughter
George Rowe ...
Miner
Sammy Brooks ...
Miner
William Gillespie ...
The boss
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Storyline

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Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Details

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Release Date:

17 June 1923 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dick und Doof: Männer im Schornstein  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Stan Laurel gets the shaft, drops a lode, and corrupts miners.
12 August 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

For me, the funniest thing about this barely funny slapstick comedy is its title. The movie takes place in a coal mine, so American audiences probably assumed that the title 'Pick and Shovel' is merely a reference to the miners' tools. However, in Britain the phrase 'pick and shovel' refers to hard labour -- any hard labour, with any tools or with no tools at all -- performed by prison inmates. That title indicates to me that some Brit who didn't get a script credit on this movie -- possibly the Lancashire-born Stan Laurel or his Scots crony Jimmy Finlayson -- had some uncredited input.

Apart from that title, the comedy here (what there is of it) is mostly formulaic slapstick, made slightly more cringe-worthy than usual because Stan and the other miners are swinging picks at each other. There are a couple of amusing surrealist gags: Stan reports for work at the coal face wearing a raccoon coat, and the foreman's pretty daughter has a job in the mine shaft. She must be one of those miners' canaries I've heard about.

The beloved James Finlayson performs opposite Laurel here, but I must warn fans of Laurel & Hardy that this movie contains none of the hilarious interplay between 'Fin' and Stan that highlighted so many of the classic comedies which pitted Fin against Stan and Ollie.

Although I enjoy slapstick and physical comedy, I tend to dislike gags which involve someone getting covered in dirt, sludge, slag or industrial waste. Here, I cringed even more than usual when the dirt came, because it involved a load of coal showering down onto Finlayson's head.

I was one of the thousands of volunteer workers at Aberfan in October 1966 just after the mine-tip disaster which killed 144 people, and later I worked as a miner (opals, not coal) in the tunnels at Coober Pedy, so I've some idea of how extremely dangerous pit mining is. (I've also been down the shaft of the now-disused 19th-century anthracite mine at Beamish in Durham.) Just this moment, as I write this review, there are desperate attempts to rescue some miners trapped underground in Utah: let's hope they get to daylight alive! (UPDATE: They didn't. R.I.P.)

Slapstick is my favourite form of comedy, but mining is such a deathly dangerous profession that I just couldn't laugh at the mishaps in 'Pick and Shovel'. Nice title, though. My rating for this miner comedy, which is indeed a minor comedy: just 2 out of 10, partly in appreciation for pretty Katherine Grant's performance.


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