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Honolulu baby, Where'd you get those eyes?
It's one of their better feature-length efforts. The plot outline is familiar enough. Laurel and Hardy live next door to one another and both are married to domineering wives. L&H belong to an organization, The Sons of the Desert, that is holding its national convention in Chicago, but Hardy's wife is intent on taking him along on a vacation to the mountains. They contrive to convince the wives that Hardy is ill and must spend some time in Honolulu, with Laurel as his companion.
Instead of going to Hawaii, L&H go to the convention, leaving their wives at home. They have a riotous good time in Chicago, drinking in night clubs, playing practical jokes, prancing along in a parade. Meanwhile the wives ponder the situation. Could the boys, somehow, have been up to something. Laurel's wife looks straight into the camera and declares in a steely voice, "Stan would never lie to me. I hate to think of what might happen -- if he ever did." The two wives discover that the ship on which their husbands are returning has sunk in a typhoon. They're frantic with worry. Then, in a newsreel, they watch a film of the convention in Chicago. There on the screen are Laurel and Hardy, making faces, tipping their hats, blowing kisses at the camera, dancing joyously in the streets.
Some of the monkey business is less funny than the rest. Laurel is so stupid in a childlike way that he can't tell his own doorway from that of his neighbor. The childishness extends to the acting. Laurel breaks into his familiar cries when he finally confesses. Hardy appears to mask his terror by running his chubby fingers nervously over the table top, as if it were a piano.
It's one of their best.
It's not easy to keep the Laurel and Hardy brand of humor going for a
full-length feature, but here they accomplish it pretty well. Although
the premise would have been tailor-made for one of their two-reelers,
they successfully stretch it out into over an hour's worth of material,
providing plenty of laughs and using some clever ideas.
The story has Stanley and Oliver as two members of the "Sons of the Desert", who are preparing for their national convention. This gets the two into difficulty with their wives, and from there things build up into the kinds of predicaments that are familiar from their shorter features. What's rather impressive is how well they keep things going for so long. There's nothing that's forced or pointless, and the pacing is generally just right. As the wives, Mae Busch and Dorothy Christy have relatively easy roles, but they (and also Charley Chase) have a few good moments.
Anyone who enjoys Laurel and Hardy's shorter features will probably also joining the "Sons of the Desert" in this amusing movie.
For me, this is the funniest of the Laurel & Hardy films. In this one, the boys, who belong to a lodge, are expected as members to attend a convention in Hawaii. This is quite an exploit but Stan's wife is OK. Ollie, on the other hand, as is always the case, has the shrew for a wife and nothing will deter her. So what happens is that Ollie feigns illness and gets a doctor (a veterinarian) to say he needs time away. They decide to go to Honolulu, but it is a ruse to get them to Chicago. They go, have a great time, and return with leis around their necks, thinking they are in the clear. Unfortunately for them, the girls have gone to a movie and see a newsreel about the convention and see the two idiots waving to the camera. To make matters worse, the ship the boys supposedly were on sinks on its way to Hawaii. Well, the girls are loaded for bear and the fun really starts. This is one hilarious film by any standard.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Normally, the domestic oriented Laurel and Hardy films don't interest
me as much as the ones where they are alone together. I find that the
harpy women are violent and unlikable, and it takes away from the
silliness of what made them such a great team. But in the case of this
one, it's fun to see harpy wife Mae Busch get it even better than she
gives, literally ending up in hot water, literally!
If this doesn't almost seem like a plot line from an episode of "The Honeymooners", then I don't know what else to compare it too. Hardy and Busch are a parallel to Ralph and Alice Kramden while Laurel and the rifle toting Dorothy Christy are identical to the Norton's. The plot concerns their efforts to go to a convention while Busch insists that they are going to the mountains. Oliver fakes a breakdown, and Laurel hires a fake doctor to prescribe a trip to Honolulu. An encounter with his own brother in law (Charley Chase) nearly exposes them, but it is the sinking of their boat coming back from Honolulu that is the real threat.
At just over an hour, this is their third feature, and perhaps their best. Chase is only on screen for a few minutes, which was fine for me because I can barely tolerate his shorts. A plus is the musical novelty, "Honolulu Baby", complete with Busby Berkkey over the head shots. Busch and Christy believably go from being nagging wives to loving caretakers (and back again), all with great hilarity. This deservedly became the name of Laurel and Hardy's fan club, creating another Hollywood legend and one of the most beloved comedy duos of all time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As good or as faulty as one's memory might be after fifty or sixty
years, I'd say that this Laurel and Hardy flick is the one that managed
to permeate my brain the best with a whole host of memorable catch
phrases like the one in my summary line. Others include that business
about two peas in a pod-duh (emphasis on the 'd'), and Ollie's
ubiquitous exclamation about 'another fine mess you've gotten me into'.
Oh yeah, and can't forget the one about 'every man should be king in
his own castle'. It's no wonder Stan and Ollie have remained so popular
over the years, I just love these guys.
For me, the puzzler in this story is why the boys would go with the Hawaiian cruise gambit to put one over on their wives. Seems to me the girls should have jumped at the chance to go along and then we'd have had an entirely different picture. But since they went with it, I got a kick out of hearing that 'Honolulu Baby' song from nightclub crooner Ty Purvis. I'm pretty sure that song was parodied in one of those old Warner Brothers cartoons so I'll have to stay attentive to catch it some time.
And this wouldn't have been the first time I noticed how well Stan fractures the English language with statements like "I think he's suffering from a nervous shakedown". Seems to me Leo Gorcey must have been well inspired by the malapropisms his predecessor came up with. But to my mind, the biggest baffler with the boys in this or any other picture, is how they managed to have such good looking wives. Mae Busch as Lottie Hardy and Dorothy Christy as Betty Laurel - go figure!
One last thing, with Charley Chase as the obnoxious convention attendee, he kept using this word 'darb' so much that I had to look it up. Turns out it's an out of use expression that back in the day meant that a person or thing was excellent. So coming full circle on that, I'd have to recommend this film for all of you who haven't seen it yet, because after all is said and done, it's quite darb.
While growing up with my older brother we would often quote a line from one of Laurel & Hardy's movies that we knew so well, including this movie. It was sort of like that old joke about career convicts in a cell-block who after repeating the same jokes over and over, found themselves resorting to simplifying the system by yelling out a number. Each number was associated to a specific well-worn joke, and thus, when the number was yelled it would made everyone in the cell-block remember and laugh. Number 6!!! LOL. Our L&H routine basically created the same reaction for me and my brother. Our mother did not understand how a simple line of dialogue would set us off. Some of the best lines I still remember, and which still makes me laugh are: 'There's going to be a fight. It's going to be terrible.' 'There were two of them Nick and Nick Jr.' 'We ship-hiked.' The quotes would often lead to further laughter as we commented on the actions that transpired in the movie that keyed on the quote. This kept us in hysterics for some time. Our mother just ignored it and left us to our own little world. It is funny we remember these small events all our lives. An interesting side note: When I briefly lived in southern California in the 1970's I attended several meetings of the "Sons of the Desert," which was the official Laurel and Hardy fan club (or 'Tent"). These meetings were surprisingly staid and quiet. It often included the showing of a L&H short, or obscure silent movie. Frequently it included the introduction of a little-known, surviving player or technician whom were involved in making L&H movies. At the time I wished my brother was there with me so we could have lightened up the place with our L&H routine. Isn't that what a fan club is all about?
When Stan and Ollie trick their wives into thinking that they are
taking a medicinal cruise while they're actually going to a convention,
the wives find out the truth the hard way.
This is not my favorite Laurel and Hardy. I am now beginning to think that their shtick works best in smaller doses, maybe 25 or 30 minutes. The first half of this film is really good, then it begins to sag with only a few parts really attempting to redeem it. The gag is pretty simple and does not require a full hour.
That being said, I do appreciate the influence this film has had on others. As others have pointed out, it seems to have been directly lifted for a Flintstones episode. (And with the Flintstones being more in the 25-minute range, it is perhaps more effective.)
This is the first Laurel and Hardy movie I've seen. Of course, I might
judge it differently after I become more familiar with them. But that's
the thing with watching classic movies - I'm constantly jumping in the
deep end and there's always more to learn and understand. For now, I've
got to trust my feelings and interpretations as they stand.
I didn't like Stanley Laurel at all. I found his character overly stupid. A complete and utter moron but not in a funny way. His existence is unrealistic. He doesn't learn from his mistakes and he's unlikable (he eats fruit without asking and he's clumsy and useless). He always has a fake, blank expression on his face. As a performer, he is too one-dimensional and obvious. He didn't make me laugh once.
On the other hand, I warmed up to Oliver Hardy pretty quickly. By halfway through, I was laughing at many of the things he did. His character is not an idiot. His acting is very natural and not too over- the-top. I enjoyed most of the times he fell or got hurt because they didn't look put on and his reactions were realistic.
It's funny seeing someone get frustrated as things go wrong for them. Hardy opens a prank cigarette pack and then jumps when something suddenly pops out. He looks annoyed at the camera as he settles his nerves and then gives a fake smile and laugh to the person that pranked him. He also joins in on a prank call and the look on his face when he realises who he's talking to is priceless. I also love the look of curiosity/apprehension/confusion on his face as he watches his wife gathering all their plates and bowls in the kitchen.
I think the material with the wives is quite dated. Aspects of it are funny. The idea that the men can't stand up for themselves is amusing. But the violence and anger of the women is too much and distracts from the otherwise innocent comedy that's going on.
About 20 minutes into Son of the Desert, I was worried that it was going to be another huge disappointment similar to Duck Soup (I was excited for that movie but then found out that I abhor the Marx Brothers). But it picked up and Hardy kept me entertained. Laurel left a lot to be desired - his character is a cardboard cut-out and his comedic style is tired and obvious. I look forward to seeing some of their other films and finding out if my assessment of them will change or grow.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Why did you get a Veterinarian?" "I didn't think his religion had
anything to do with it." Woody Allen would be proud of that one. Sons
of the Desert is one of the boys' most beloved films. And rightly so.
Ollie of course, fakes an illness so his wife will let him attend a
Chicago convention - ah, c'mon you know the plot, you don't need me to
This is a comedy full of classic moments, wonderful character stuff ("If I have to go to Honululu alone then he's going with me!" and delightful sit-com antics. It all builds up to that legendary moment when the two wives, fearing their husbands lost at sea, attend a cinema to get the latest newsreel. "If I could just see Oliver one more time." Aha, indeed! And of course the rambunctious Charlie Chase adds some salt to the proceedings. He worked off camera with Stan and Ollie many times of course.
But if I had one favourite moment, it's a simple one: Ollie's expression when Stan has ratted him out. No one could do it like Oliver. No one.
A prefect tonic for a rainy day.
Arguably the funniest of Laurel and Hardy's feature-length movies, Sons
of the Desert is simply crammed with gags, most of which are as funny
as anything you're likely to see from 30s Hollywood. Much has been
written about why the advent of sound spelled the beginning of the end
for such giants of the silent comedy as Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd
and, to an extent, Charles Chaplin, who didn't make a sound film
until 1941 and whose output came to a near standstill once sound was
established. There seemed to be no place for the physical comedy of the
greats, and they seemed incapable of using words to win laughs. The
likes of the Marx Brothers and Eddie Cantor were an entirely different
breed of comedian from those who had reigned just a few years before
their rise, and the plot was suddenly more important than the physical
And yet, there were Laurel & Hardy, already a successful double act in silent days, effortlessly and seamlessly gliding into the world of sound with perfect voices for their characters and builds. They possessed none of the physical brilliance of Keaton or the graceful dexterity of Chaplin or Lloyd but they had something indefinable that left them unscathed while all about them were falling by the wayside.
Perhaps the key to their success was the fact that they combined both verbal and physical dexterity. Stan can get laughs both times that he mistakenly calls the Sons of the Desert's Exalted Leader their 'exhausted' leader while big Ollie can make tripping over a case look like child's play (have a try at it sometime and see how convincing you feel you were ). Laurel & Hardy also play characters who aren't too bright, which somehow made them more lovable than Chaplin's tramp and Lloyd's go-getting spectacles character. Sons of the Desert plays on the fact that Stan and Ollie aren't as smart as they try to be and are definitely no match for their formidable wives. They hatch a plan to enable them to attend the Sons of the Desert convention in Chicago by pretending to go to Honolulu for Ollie's health while their wives go hunting bear in the mountains. With typical bad luck, the liner they would have caught home from Honolulu sinks in a storm and the boys have to hide in their own attic so that the wives don't catch on. Of course, even this simple ruse goes wrong and they find themselves falling into both a barrel full of water and the waiting arms of the law
The laughs come thick and fast in Sons of the Desert, interrupted only by Honolulu Baby, a musical number featuring the rare sight of a belly dancer with no belly button.
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