Laurel and Hardy re-create CHICKENS COME HOME in Spanish--and it might just be a bit better!
In the early 1930s, Hollywood hadn't yet perfected dubbing American films into other languages. However, by then Laurel and Hardy were international stars thanks to their brilliant silent comedies and the studio didn't want to lose foreign sales. So, many of their early shorts were shot multiple times with the boys--having them phonetically say their lines in a variety of languages such as Spanish and French. I have seen several Spanish ones and their pronunciation isn't that bad (especially Ollie's), though the French language ones made me cringe! In addition to having Stan and Ollie speak various languages, the supporting actors often were native speakers of that particular language, though this isn't always the case. James Finlayson and Edgar Kennedy re-did their parts in other languages as well in several films.
In this film, however, it's hard to exactly call this a remake. While several others were made in English at about 20 minutes and stretched to about 30 minutes in Spanish or French, this one was 30 and is now 53 minutes long--almost double the length of the original and with a lot more new material. However, the main plot is all still there--Ollie is running for mayor and an old flame shows up to blackmail him. He pays or she ruins his election! And, like in the original, Ollie is throwing a party and has his assistant (Stan) keep the lady busy and away from Ollie's important guests.
Among the new routines used to pad the film were a sleight of hand artist who really was exceptional to watch--especially when Finlayson got in on the act. There also is a bizarre act involving a regurgitator that just has to be seen to believed. He's exceptional but not quite as amazing as Stevie Starr (a modern regurgitator who's been on TV quite a few times). The sum effect of these acts is to make the film look like CHICKENS COME HOME combined with a talent show. This same combination occurred in the Spanish language version of BLOTTO (LA VIDA NOCTURNA), but in the case of LA VIDA NOCTURNA the acts were bad and really hurt the film. Believe it or not, the acts were so good in this film that they actually improved the film and were very entertaining! The film was also an improvement over CHICKENS COME HOME with a few of the new scenes that weren't talent show acts. In the first one, Ollie left the house to "get some cigars". Here, he first tries to sneak out and there are some great scenes with his wife as she catches him again and again. Later in the film, he tries to leave to get cigars but this never materializes--just more fighting with his insanely violent wife. Also, Stan's arguments with the hot tempered blackmailer were much more intense than in the original and it's interesting to see this lady--she is amazing and rather scary! The old prude is even more intensely angry in this version. The stereotype of the "fiery Spanish lady" is alive and well in this film and boy did they make me laugh.
Overall, I was very shocked to see that I actually preferred the Spanish version to the original. With all the others I've so far seen in French and Spanish, they just weren't as good. Try watching this film---even if you don't understand Spanish. If you've seen the original film, then following this one isn't hard at all and it's worth it if you are a Laurel and Hardy fan.
By the way, I read once that there were also Italian and German language Laurel and Hardy films out there, but have yet to see them and would love to know where to find them. Plus, I was wondering if other actors did multiple language versions. I know that THE BLUE ANGEL was made in multiple versions with Marlene Dietrich, but were there others? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, drop me a line. Thanks.
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