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Ollie Dee and Stanley Dum try to borrow money from their employer, the toymaker, to pay off the mortgage on Mother Peep's shoe and keep it and Little Bo Peep from the clutches of the evil Barnaby. When that fails, they trick Barnaby into marrying Stanley Dum instead of Bo Peep. Enraged, Barnaby unleashes the bogeymen from their caverns to destroy Toyland. Written by
Paul Penna <email@example.com>
Laurel & Hardy's BABES IN TOYLAND is to Hal Roach Studios as what THE WIZARD OF OZ is to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Christmas comes but once a year. Of course we think of Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), which until recently had been thought to be in public domain. It was subject to almost constant showings. From Thanksgiving until New Year's, it was run on any channel and was. (We even remember seeing it run on 2 channels, simultaneously!)
Well, due to some technicality concerning the music's not being out of copyright straightened out that Public Domain business. But that, Schultz, is another Story!
Other Seasonal Favourites include: WHITE Christmas (1954), Christmas IN CONNECTICUT(1945), A CHARLIE BROWN Christmas (1965), HOW THE GRINCH STOLE Christmas (1966), Jean Shephard's A Christmas STORY (1983), MEET JOHN DOE (1941)*, GOING MY WAY (1944)*, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (1945)* and Charles Dickens'A Christmas CAROL (all versions).
One film that makes its appearance with out any fanfare each Yuletide is BABES IN TOYLAND aka MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS (Hal Roach/MGM, 1934). The Musical Fantasy, based on the Victor Herbert Operetta, first performed on October 13, 1903. Its premiere was at the Majestic Theater, on Broadway in New York City. Much of the music that was retained for the film was very well known to the general public.
The Movie of BABES IN TOYLAND takes the characters of Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle Dee, prominent in English literature even before being featured in Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND; and transforms into Stannie-Dumb & Ollie-Dee. It was a near perfect adaptation; putting Laurel & Hardy right in the story, both as Mother Goose type characters and in their familiar roles.
OUR STORY The Boys have jobs working in the Toy Factory and share the rental of a room from Mother Peep (Florence Roberts), who is a Widow and lived in a huge Shoe and had so many Children, etc. Her eldest child, Bo-Peep (Charlotte Henry, Woo,woo,woo,woo!) has the job of tending the sheep, which she continually looses. After "playing hard to get", she agrees to marriage with Tom-Tom, the Piper's Son (Felix Knight). All of Toyland is jubilant at the announcement. That is, except for one citizen.
Lecherous, dirty old man type, Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon) is the old miserly guy who is desirous of Bo-Peep, and has unsuccessfully proposed marriage to her. But, the "Crooked Little Man, who lives in a Crooked Little House" also holds the now overdue, subject to foreclosure Mortgage on Widow Pep's house.
The Boys attempt to help Mother Peep both in trying to borrow the money from their stern and crabby boss, the Toymaker (William Burness) and in an unsuccessful attempt to steal the Mortgage agreement from Barnaby's house.
Rather than see Stannie-Dumb & Ollie-Dee face punishment and to save her Mother and family from eviction, Bo-Peep agrees to nuptials with Barnaby. With help of Stan & Ollie, Barnaby is fooled (he didn't know that the highly veiled Bride was really Laurel!), but he frames Tom-Tom, who faces punishment of "Banishment to Bogeyland". Bogeyland's being a cavernous wasteland populated by the Bogeymen (or 'Boogiemen', if you please!) They are monstrous, half beast-half man, vicious, wild creatures; who turn out to be followers of, you guessed it, Silas Barnaby! In the finale, after Stan & Ollie rescue Bo-Peep & Tom-Tom, Barnaby leads the Bogeymen in the invasion an sacking of Toyland; until Laurel & Hardy turn the tables by using "The March of The Toys" and some hereto for useless Toy Soldiers.
BABES IN TOYLAND (or MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS) successfully touches all the bases and hits the ball right out of the ball park, a Grand Slammer! As a Christmas story, as Family Viewing Fare, as a Musical and of course, as a Laurel & Hardy starring vehicle it cannot be beat! The Laurel & Hardy bits of business just roll out naturally, without any slowing of the story. And we are treated to a vast array of the great Comedians' best stuff; what, with Stan's prowess for a sort of "stick ball game" ("Peewees") and some references to bits of comic business from previous pictures.
Producer,Mr. Hal Roach, Sr. did an excellent job of assembling a supporting cast featuring many a veteran of the old silent comedy days, like Old King Cole (Sennett veteran Kewpie Morgan), Chief of Police (Billy Blecher) and Townsmen (Sam Lufkin, Ham Kinsey & Roach Studios regulars, Baldwin Cooke & Charlie Hall). Additionally we see veteran "B" film actors like: Stanley "Tiny" Sandford, Frank Austin, Richard Alexander, Jack "Tiny" Lipson, Virginia Kams, Marie Wilson, Jean Darling and many more.
We must take notice of our Bo-Peep,Miss Charlotte Henry the young, delicate, beauty of a starlet, who regrettably made only about 30 films; opting for early retirement. Her screen persona was so sweet and sexy, even! (What a "dirty old man" I have become!) The music is all Victor Herbert, but for short quotations from Disney's "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf"; as the Three Little Pigs and a couple of additional characters added were "The Cat and the Fiddle's" foil, a Monkey dressed as Mickey Mouse! If you see it on Broadcast, Cable or Satellite TV, you're stuck with whatever the format that is being shown. If you rent or buy a DVD or VHS, check its running time to make sure that it isn't an abridged version, as you'll miss out on a lot.
It's a shame that this movie was not done in Technicolor, as the MGM Musical Extravaganza, THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) would be 5 years later. This is one time where I could approve of the "Colorization", which has been done to some VHS & DVD editions are; for the effect is one of its being a Gigantic Story Book. And, that's exactly what it is, Schultz!
NOTE: * Strictly speaking, these 3 are not Christmas pictures, but do come to their endings at Christmastime; but,so does NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955).
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