Unbeknownst to Stanley and Oliver, their long-lost twin brothers, sailors Alfie and Bert are in town on shore leave carrying a valuable pearl ring entrusted to them by their ship's captain.... See full summary »
It's 1938, but Stan doesn't know the war is over; he's still patrolling the trenches in France, and shoots down a French aviator. Oliver sees his old chum's picture in the paper and goes to... See full summary »
Oliver is heartbroken when he finds that Georgette, the inkeeper's daughter he's fallen in love with, is already married to dashing Foreign Legion officer Francois. To forget her, he joins ... See full summary »
Laurel and Hardy work for sickly heir Dan Forrester, who has been diagnosed with a myriad of debilitating allergies. However, when the draft board sees things differently and he seems very happy to leave the confines of his sick room, his loyal employees join him in the U. S. Army. He seems to thrive on Army chow and regimen and even becomes a rival to the growling Sergeant Hippo for the affections of beautiful post employee Ginger Hammond . The bumbling Stan and Ollie also get a chance to redeem themselves when they participate in the all-important war game maneuvers. Written by
Gabe Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This was Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's first movie for a major studio--their previous films had been released by MGM but not made by the studio--and they were confounded by the ways of the Hollywood studio system. All of their previous films had been shot in sequence and had been directed, edited and supervised by an uncredited Stan Laurel; Fox did not allow him such creative activity. In later years Laurel continually and bitterly recalled the "shabby" treatment he and Hardy received from Fox and MGM. See more »
There's no way Hardy could have been drafted into the army with his weight as high as it was. See more »
What did I ever do to deserve a couple of yaps like you?
Maybe you were good to your mother.
Now at 10:00 you're all going over for an IQ test, and according to the answers you give, you'll be classified in a job.
Swell! We're good at quizes, aren't we, Ollie?
Maybe they'll put me in the intelligence "corpse".
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Under the watchful eye of producer Hal Roach, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy moved from silent shorts in the 1920s to feature length talkies in the 1930s to become one of the world's best loved comedy double acts. At Roach's studios Laurel in particular was given the freedom he needed to refine the duo's act, working as writer and producer on a number of films. By the end of the decade, with scores of classic shorts and features behind them, relations between the double act and Roach were strained beyond breaking point, and Laurel and Hardy left the studio - and their glory days - behind them.
Great Guns was the first proper film of the post-Roach era, The Flying Deuces with RKO something of a one-off. The move to Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 brought down these giants of comedy in four short years, assigning them to the B unit where little care was taken and little interest shown in what was being made. Their talent wasted by the talentless men who surrounded them, the Laurel and Hardy we loved were dismantled, simplified and bastardised.
In Great Guns we find them as gardener and chauffeur to a sickly rich kid drafted in spite of being allergic to everything. When the army medical proves there's nothing wrong with him he eagerly jumps into uniform, with Stan and Ollie joining him to make sure their master is well looked after.
The change in the duo is jarring, Fox's fumble immediately noticeable. Here we see not the gentle troublemakers we remember, nor the ambitious under-achievers content in their delusion that they can better themselves. As gardener and chauffeur they are servile, loyal, self-sacrificing. They know their place, and that there they belong; none of Ollie's arrogance here, no petty one-upmanship with exasperated authority figures. Gone are the childlike, naïve little strugglers, our charming anarchists replaced by simple idiots. This wasn't just a botched attempt to move them on; it was a fundamental misunderstanding of their appeal.
This isn't Laurel and Hardy. Look at how Ollie's size is now handled; with joke after joke about his waistline, we see him compared to a blimp and a weather balloon as people queue up to tell him how fat he is. In their glory days the joke was Ollie's agility in spite of his girth, his delicate finger taps and tie waving. Now the joke is his girth. He's fat. We get it. The same subtle treatment is extended to Stan's simple-mindedness. He was always in a world of his own but before all we needed was one of Ollie's withering looks to tell us so. Here people just call him an idiot, name-calling a poor substitute for punchlines. It makes their act too blatant, as if Fox wanted to assure us they understood what the boys were all about.
The Flying Deuces showed that the duo could work well enough without Hal Roach, but to do so they had to have solid writing and directing, with input from Stan Laurel. At Fox they were just actors, and actors saddled with poor scripts and no creative control. Simon Louvish's biography tells how Oliver Hardy would sit at home going over the Fox scripts, shaking his head in disbelief as his character was betrayed; a terribly sad picture to imagine. Beyond its poorly handled characterisation, Great Guns just isn't funny, with Penelope the crow an obvious example. Consider, too, the drippy romantic subplot that keeps the boys on the sidelines for scene after scene.
We don't care about it. There's no reason to.
One of the biggest problems with the boys' wartime output was the war itself. Stan and Ollie don't belong in a world with Nazism. They'd been in the army countless times before, but those were more innocent times. Here our heroes were confronted by such a unique evil that they were horribly out of place. They should be struggling with a piano and a flight of stairs, or fighting with James Finlayson because he won't buy a Christmas tree. Seeing them in the same world as Pearl Harbor and the holocaust is uncomfortable.
Given their reputation it's surprising to learn that the first few Fox pictures were modest successes, but it's easy enough to understand. In an age before television repeats, re-issues and re-mastering, the only chance to see the much-loved duo was in their new films, and even a below-par Laurel and Hardy were better than none at all. Today, when a short from the '20s is as available to us as the feature-length dross from the '40s, there's less reason to be so charitable. In Great Guns we can see the beginning of the end and that, however sad the end was, it was inevitable with material of this quality.
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