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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As depressing as watching the middle-aged Elvis in his white jump suit
This brief wartime educational short is remembered today for one reason only: it offers the rare sight of Laurel & Hardy in color. (They also appear briefly in a color trailer for The Rogue Song, and in some 8mm home movie footage from the 1950s.) The Tree in a Test Tube was produced to promote wood conservation on the home front, 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 nagging narration evokes the spirit of the times, while the aging comedians seem like throwbacks to another era.
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 require any narration from Pete Smith or anyone else.
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