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The Tree in a Test Tube (1943)

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Ratings: 4.7/10 from 240 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 2 critic

Laurel and Hardy demonstrate the uses of wood in this World War II propaganda film.


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Cast overview:
Pete Smith ...
Interlocutor (voice)
Lee Vickers ...
Narrator (voice)


Stan and Ollie are stopped by narrator Pete Smith for the purpose of showing the audience how much wood and wood by-products the average person carries. Stan and Ollie then begin to open their pockets and briefcase, pulling out a variety of things that derive from the tree. The narrator talks all the way through this short film (about 7 minutes long). The idea is that scientists can put everything that comes from the tree into one test tube. Written by Bob Silvia <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Documentary


See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 April 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

¡Más madera!  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(restored DVD)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's only color theatrical short subject. See more »


Narrator for first half of film: Let's see the rest of your junk... I mean your nice things.
See more »


Featured in Classic Comedy Teams (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

As depressing as seeing the middle-aged Elvis in his white jump suit
17 July 2002 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This brief propaganda short is remembered today for one reason only: it's practically the only surviving color footage of Laurel & Hardy. (There's also a minute or so from a trailer for The Rogue Song, and some 8mm home movie footage from the 1950s.) The Tree in a Test Tube was produced to promote wood conservation on the home front during the war, and for some reason Stan and Ollie were recruited to appear in one sequence. If you're a die-hard fan it's worth a look, but be forewarned, it's a pretty depressing experience. The guys were past their prime, they didn't age well, and they seem quite out of place in the world of the 1940s.

The Laurel & Hardy sequence opens this film and was shot silent, with music and overbearing narration added later by Pete Smith of the "Pete Smith Specialties." Smith's films are generally amusing on their own terms, but the wise guy delivery he employs here is at odds with Laurel & Hardy's childlike style of humor. While the guys dutifully display various items in their wallets made from wood and wood by-products, narrator Smith yammers instructions at them like a drill sergeant; worse still, Stan and Ollie are the butt of his sarcastic quips. The closest we get to a gag comes when Stan finds a pair of nylons-- presumably Mrs. Laurel's property --in his wallet, and feigns embarrassment while Smith chides him. The annoying narration expresses the spirit of the times more far aptly than the aging comedians do.

For what it's worth, the redness of Stan's hair and the blueness of his eyes are quite apparent here, even in the somewhat washed-out 16mm print I saw, while Babe Hardy appears far more tan than he ever did in any of their black & white films. This short possesses historic value for its offbeat subject matter and the color cinematography, but for entertainment I'd much rather watch in the guys in their youthful prime in something like You're Darn Tootin' or Busy Bodies, great comedies that don't need any help from Pete Smith.

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