Oliver invites his friend Stanley over for a nice home-cooked meal, but Mrs. Hardy wants nothing to do with it and walks out. Mrs. Kennedy, Oliver's beautiful neighbor from across the hall,... See full summary »
Oliver invites his friend Stanley over for a nice home-cooked meal, but Mrs. Hardy wants nothing to do with it and walks out. Mrs. Kennedy, Oliver's beautiful neighbor from across the hall, volunteers to help out, but the boys' bumbling soon has her dress on fire. Her husband, a policeman, investigates the ruckus just as Oliver gets the now partially-unclad Mrs. Kennedy hidden in a trunk. Kennedy's boasting of how he handles his own womanizing backfires when his wife pops out of the trunk and blackens his eye. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hardy has returned and wonders what all the noise is coming from next door. Written by
Paul Penna <email@example.com>
This was Laurel and Hardy's first talkie. Three shorts that were already completed were withheld in order to rush this into release. The three completed shorts were then released with music and sound effects added. See more »
From the first seconds of this film's opening credits you know something's a little "off." Leo the Lion roars his roar in silence, backed not by the beloved Koo-Koo theme but by unfamiliar, generic theme music which cuts off sharply when the dialog begins, and from then on it's talk, talk, talk. While Laurel & Hardy buffs will tune in to Unaccustomed As We Are well aware that it was the team's first talking film, willing to cut the boys some slack, casual viewers looking for a chuckle or two should be warned that this is a movie with all the faults of the earliest talkies, i.e. slow pacing and somewhat uneasy performances. All things considered, the guys adapted pretty well to the new technology, but at times this film looks like a nervous dress rehearsal.
The marital squabbling between Ollie and Mae Busch, later developed into a fine art, feels a little forced here, and occasionally suggests an improv exercise in an acting class. And while it's always a pleasure to see Thelma Todd and Edgar Kennedy in support, it's apparent that they're just as uncomfortable the new technology as our two stars. Generally speaking Stan comes off better than Ollie because so much of his material is visual, allowing for his hilariously over-scaled reactions. It could be mentioned too that Stan had more extensive stage experience than most of his colleagues, and was therefore more comfortable delivering dialog.
Still and all, Unaccustomed As We Are is a decent maiden effort in the new medium, and there are some interesting attempts to experiment with sound, as when Ollie puts on a jazz record during one of Mae's tirades and causes her to unintentionally rant in time to the music. It's kind of odd, but amusing. Other bits involving off-stage explosions, fights, and crash-bang sound effects must have made more of an impression when the film premiered, when their impact was still so new. But the major problem here is uncertainty about what sort of material will work in talkies and what won't. For instance, there are moments when the guys strike deliberately theatrical poses and deliver their lines in the style of ham actors, as when Ollie threatens to leave for South America "to do Big Things!" Cute, but this sort of shtick played a lot better in the silent days, and they would soon leave it behind. Dedicated Laurel & Hardy buffs will surely want to see their first talkie, but even the fans need to make allowances for (understandable) awkwardness and remember that soon after this debut, after a little more practice, the guys were producing talkies as strong as their late silent output.
A couple of technical notes: a silent version of Unaccustomed As We Are was also released in 1929 for theaters not yet wired for sound, and for many years it was the only version available, but it's deadly to watch and should be avoided. The major element of interest here, after all, is to observe how the gang at the Roach Studio handled the new technology, and without that you've got nothing. The soundtrack was not re-discovered until the 1970s, and, in the version of this film currently available on DVD, Reel Two is in pretty rough shape. During the latter scenes you can detect a strange, metallic echo under the dialog, which at times sounds almost like the chirping of birds. That's the closest you'll get to hearing the Koo-Koo Song in this one!
P.S. I'm pleased to add that there's a newly restored version of this film now available, and the sound quality in the second reel is much improved.
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