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This early Laurel & Hardy comedy is something of an oddity, and
although fans will want to see it at least once Early to Bed is not one
of the team's more entertaining efforts. Moreover, for anyone who cares
about Laurel & Hardy, that is, anyone who regards the characters they
portray with fondness, this film could well be a disturbing, unpleasant
experience. I'm a lifelong L&H fan and enjoy most of their output, but
seeing the boys' friendship go sour in Early to Bed feels like watching
helplessly while two old friends get into a vicious fistfight.
By the time this film was made the guys had developed the screen personae we all remember, complete with derbies and shabby-genteel suits. More to the point, their childlike personalities and relationship with each other were pretty well established, as we observe in the opening scene. Stan and Ollie sit on a park bench with a scruffy little dog called Buster; they may be homeless, but they aren't starving and their world is somehow in harmony. But when Ollie learns he has inherited a fortune, and magnanimously allows Stan to become his butler, things get seriously out of whack, for it quickly becomes obvious that prosperity does not bring out the best in Mr. Hardy.
For the next several scenes (which take place after Ollie has acquired a big house and filled it with possessions), we watch with growing dismay as Ollie, now a drunken playboy, torments his conscientious servant. Ollie locks Stan out of the house, bops him on the head and laughs, chases him, and pours water on him in his bed. Understandably, Stan becomes increasingly upset and exasperated with the new order of things, although he's expected to maintain decorum and address his tormentor as "Sir." These scenes are more pathetic than funny, and the (generally under-appreciated) acting skill of both men makes matters worse, for Ollie's gleeful sadism seems just as real as Stan's deepening sense of humiliation. It's only when Stan finally reaches the limit of his tolerance and retaliates that the film becomes more satisfying, for we all enjoy seeing a worm turn, and God knows Ollie deserves a comeuppance. Nevertheless, in the end this movie leaves a rather disagreeable aftertaste.
The best thing in Early to Bed is a sequence involving an ornate indoor fountain that graces the Hardy mansion, decorated with cherubs designed to resemble Ollie. The fountain becomes the climactic setting for Stan's revenge, and the boys' implied reconciliation. (The gag is a reworking of a sequence in a Mabel Normand comedy entitled Should Men Walk Home?, released a year earlier, with Oliver Hardy in a supporting role.) While this sequence is clever in its own right, the amusing egotism of the fountain's design also offers a neat satirical comment on the Nouveau Riche. The scene works well as a stand-alone excerpt in Robert Youngson's compilation The Further Perils of Laurel & Hardy. In the context of Early to Bed the fountain sequence is certainly the highlight, and the best reason to watch in the first place.
Compared to the other silents L&H made during this silent era, this one is
disappointing. Having inherited his fortune and appointed Stan as his
butler, Ollie comes home drunk one night and torments Stan in a manner
consists of unoriginal slapstick and chase sequences.
When Stan subsequently fails in his attempts to quit as Ollie's butler, he embarks on mindlessly destroying furniture and ornaments.
Whilst destruction and chaos were prominent in virtually all L&H films, it was not the destruction alone which made the audience laugh out loud, but the originality, the gags and the insane absurdity which led to that destruction that kept us in hysterics.
Unfortunately, "Early to Bed" lacks those qualities, and the script seems to indulge in destruction and vandalism for it's own sake. The only saving grace is perhaps the water fountain scene. Still, for L&H fans like you and me, it's worth watching, just for the record.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film begins with Stan and Ollie sitting in the park with their dog.
Ollie is reading his mail and to his surprise, he's been left a large
inheritance. Ollie agrees to take Stan to live with him provided he
become his butler (gee, thanks). However, it soon becomes obvious that
the money has changed Ollie. He is now a drunk jerk who delights in
making Stan's life a living hell.
You could really tell that this was an early Laurel and Hardy film because the basic chemistry that made them such a lovable team isn't present in this film. In fact, such a film probably NEVER would have been made by the boys if the script had been written just a year or two later. That's because the "Laurel and Hardy formula" never would have allowed Ollie to be THIS mean and unrepentant. Sure, Ollie might have taken advantage of his friend occasionally, but he never would have taken pleasure in tormenting Stanley--it just NEVER would have happened. However, the teaming of the two was still relatively recent in 1928 and so this formula was still in flux.
While the film is indeed funny and original, fans of the team might be very disturbed by the evil Ollie. I didn't so much mind it myself (after all, it was funny in a "black" sort of way), but did feel taken aback by it! Not a great film by any stretch and it could have been better if there was any sign that Ollie was the least bit sorry for his actions--this tough edge did hinder the film from being a bit better, that's for sure.
Mr. Hardy inherits a large fortune and takes Mr. Laurel and his dog along to act as his butler --- Mr. Laurel, that is. The Boys hadn't quite settled into their screen personae when this was made, so there is still a bit of backing and filling as Ollie comes home drunk and in high spirits on his birthday, while Stan tries to get him to bed and preserve his own self-esteem. There are a couple of amusing bits involving a dog and a fountain, but the lack of a common foe for their bumbling -- Charley Hall or Jimmy Finlayson, for example -- means that they wind up squabbling among themselves. Not among their best, but highly amusing on its own terms.
One of the lesser lights of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's silent
productions. Early to Bed is directed by Emmett Flynn and photographed
by George Stevens.
Over the years it has proved to be one of the boy's films that most can agree is a little bit off. It's not so much that the gags are in short supply, but more so it veers towards a darker side that doesn't sit well. Plot has Ollie inheriting some cash, which quickly turns him into a completely different person. He hires Stan as his butler and promptly starts to lord it over his abode. But Stan will only take so much bullying...
The most fun comes from a number of sequences set around the water fountain in the gardens, and the carnage that ensues once Stan finally flips and goes on a mad rampage. These sequences are heightened by the jolly musical accompaniments and the quality sound effects, while a cunning canine pet is fun and the only one unhindered by the odd tone of the piece.
Not essential and only of interest to Stan & Ollie completists. 5/10
This movie its humor is very childish, even for a Laurel & Hardy movie.
Never have I seen Oliver Hardy act like a bigger baby before. Sure, it
still gives the movie some good laughs but the humor is too simple and
predictable to consider this an above average Laurel & Hardy silent
Of course none of the Laurel & Hardy movies really have humor of a very high order when it comes to originality, predictability and subtlety but in normal cases this doesn't matter at all, since it's so extremely fine executed and timed. They however really went too far with this movie however. It's even more simple and predictable than we are accustomed to. Not sure what they tried to accomplish here. Perhaps they were targeting for a younger audience?
It's very sad to see acting Oliver Hardy as childish as he does in this movie. It gets to a level that it's almost too embarrassing to watch.
But still, the movie its slapstick is good. Although certainly predictable, it's still funny to watch all. Some of the sequences are really memorable but the rest of the movie and its story drags down the level of entertainment.
As a curiosity, EARLY TO BED is one of the oddest films of Laurel and
Hardy. It is not one of the funniest of the boys' films - with good
reason. Hardy has to be chief victim of the two because he is so
pretentious, and he has to be victim by the actions of his close friend
Laurel (who does not know his actions are going to hurt Hardy). But
Stan rarely, if ever, purposely attacks Hardy - unless he is bullied by
Hardy beyond endurance. In some of their shorts he does rebel and lash
back at Hardy. But it usually is very brief in duration.
The general view of Oliver Hardy is that he is just as dumb as Stan Laurel but pretentious. That's true, but if either of them happen to have any social position (except in A CHUMP AT OXFORD, where Stan turns out to be a brainy Oxford student and nobleman) it is Hardy. He is a successful businessman turned reform candidate for Mayor in one short, and an apparently wealthy stock speculator turned bridegroom in a second film. In a third film he masquerades as a wealthy hunter and home owner with Stan as the upstairs maid. This is tied to his physical presence and southern courtly behavior. But in all these shorts (except the one where Ollie is an impostor) Stan is a business associate or friend of Ollie's. It is only in EARLY TO BED that we see the actual effect of Ollie getting rich and how it changes his relationship with Stan.
For when he gets rich Ollie gets mean. He enjoys the good life (including a wardrobe that is far more like that of a man about town than the typical derby and wrinkled suit that Ollie wears). He is something of an art collector. And he can only see his pal Stan as a servant. Stan accepts the offer to be Ollie's servant, but probably figured that Ollie would treat him as a pal and close associate. Instead Ollie plays practical jokes, like ringing the doorbell, hiding, while Stan goes outside to see who rang, and then locking Stan out.
Stan puts up with this and more painful and annoying jokes, until he finally gets tired and tells Ollie he's quitting. Ollie refuses to let him (he considers Stan his possession too), and Stan accidentally knocks over one of Ollie's art treasures. It horrifies Ollie, and Stan starts purposely destroying items in Ollie's house. He also chases Hardy, who hides (as has pointed out) in an ornate fountain that has cherubs with Hardy's head sprouting water. Ollie tries to keep up a stream of water, but can't after awhile. Stan than hits him on the head to see if the head is jammed or not. And Hardy releases more water from his mouth!
It is, as most of the comments here say, a rather odd film. It has some moments of humor, but the central business of the story is so contrary to what we expect from Stan and Ollie that it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. As most say on this thread, see the film for completeness, but you don't have to see it again afterward.
Early to Bed (1928)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Hardy becomes rich overnight and offers his best friend Laurel a job as his butler. Money soon goes to Hardy's head and he come home picking on Laurel. This is a very unfunny film and certainly the worst I've seen from L&H. The two have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever, which really kills things. Most of the jokes come off annoying and not funny.
Sugar Daddies (1927)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
A millionaire (James Finlayson) wakes up after a night of partying to discover that he's now married. The new bride and her crazy brother are now trying to blackmail him so he calls his attorney (Stan Laurel) to settle the matter. Not too many laughs here but the thing is fun nonetheless. Oliver Hardy plays the butler.
This was a strange Laurel and Hardy silent short subject. For one thing
except for a dog there are no other cast members. No Jimmy Finlayson
for reaction shots to their clowning.
Early To Bed also has Ollie almost turning into a bully. God knows his character gets thoroughly exasperated with Stan, but I never saw him bully Stan. As for Laurel. I've never seen him change so radically as he did except in A Chump At Oxford. When the worm turns it really turns.
One day these two with their dog are polishing a park bench with the seat of their pants when Ollie gets a letter saying he now has a fortune. Stan is concerned that there's no place for him, but Ollie offers him the position of butler and Stan takes it.
It's abundantly clear soon enough that all Ollie wants is a doormat or a punching bag. But Stan soon tires of being a doormat and when he does watch out.
This is a different Stan and Ollie, but I'm not sure I liked them this way.
This is an early Laurel & Hardy vehicle of curiosity value because it
is quite clear that the boys are in the very early stages of their
joint career, and their basic characters and relationship have yet to
be cemented. It's Ollie Hardy who is the annoying child of the two in
this silent short - although, unlike Laurel in later films, Ollie goes
out of his way to be deliberately annoying to Stan, whom he has
employed as a butler after he inherits a fortune from his uncle.
Although it's strange to see their roles essentially reversed, the film does have some funny moments. Roach clearly had enough faith in the boys' ability to work together with solid results to cast them here with no supporting actors (other than a dog called Buster) and this at least pays off, even if they haven't yet got the relationship right. For this reason, if nothing else, the film serves as an interesting footnote in the development of Laurel & Hardy as we know and love them.
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