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Big Business (1929)

Ollie and Stanley are two Christmas Tree sales reps who get into one of their usual mutual destruction fights with a homeowner.


James W. Horne (as J. Wesley Horne), Leo McCarey


H.M. Walker (titles)

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Complete credited cast:
Stan Laurel ... Stan
Oliver Hardy ... Ollie


Stan and Ollie are Christmas tree salesmen in California. Business is slow and a simple argument with one grumpy prospective customer (James Finlayson) escalates from a simple argument into full scale mutual destruction with Stan & Ollie destroying the customers house and garden, whilst Finlayson reduces their car to scrap metal, all under the disbelieving gaze of a police officer and an assembled crowd. Written by Steve Smith

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of a man who turned the other cheek-and got punched in the nose.


Short | Comedy | Family


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Release Date:

20 April 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das große Geschäft See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Roach Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The scene at Finlayson's house was planned to be the second of several stops, but when Laurel, Hardy, and Fin began improvising there was no stopping them, and director James Horne just let the cameras roll. See more »


Stan: I've got a big business idea.
See more »


Featured in Foxtrot (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

They're Selling Christmas Trees in California? Well, We Guess It's Easier Than Selling Refridgerators to Eskimos! ( or makin' a Great Comedy!)
8 November 2007 | by redryan64See all my reviews

The year of 1929 marked the Big Turnabout for Hollywood. The clamor for Sound Film, "the Talkies", "All Singing, All Talking" and what have you, had started out slow and was rapidly snowballing to the point that "sounded" the end of silents. In this year we had both sound and silent films released as well as some released in both sound and silent versions. If there were to be any more Silent Masterpieces, now was the time to do it, or forever remain Silent.

As it just so happened that there was to be this one, truly unique Silent Laurel & Hardy Comedy Short coming down the pike! And this was 1929, it was surely none too soon!

One thing for sure is that BIG BUSINESS was far better known by title to the public than most any other L & H Silent Short. This is mainly because of the Robert Youngson compilation film FOUR CLOWNS (1970). The film from Mr. Youngson centered on the Silent Screen work of 4 of the top artists from that period. They were: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charley Chase and Buster Keaton. Among the titles that were reviewed and condensed was BIG BUSINESS.

Furthermore, back in the1970's, before the advent of Home Video Recorders, film buffs/collectors had film with which to pursue their hobby. There was 16 mm and 8 mm. And late in the game we saw the arrival of the format of Super 8 and finally, Super 8 Magnetic Sound films.

Various catalogue houses around the country provided us with the titles we wanted. At that time, one firm, Blackhawk Films of Davenport, Iowa, was perhaps the greatest company in that field. As well as featuring titles from other companies (Castle Films aka Universal 8, Ken Films, Official Films), Blackhawk was probably the largest company to bring more titles into 16 mm, 8 mm and Super 8 formats under their own label.

Furthermore, it was the folks at Blackhawk who had the exclusive with Hal Roach Studios to manufacture and offer for sale the titles from the Roach back-log. And that of course meant a legalized monopoly on Laurel & Hardy Films! So, an awful lot of collectors in those early days of yesteryear made their first Laurel & Hardy home film BIG BUSINESS. I know we did!

OUR STORY: As the movie opens, we see Stan & 'Babe'* riding along in their truck with facial expressions betraying the fact that they haven't been doing so well that day. They stop and very ceremoniously unload a Christmas Tree from the back and proceed to go up to the door of the 1st house in front of them to sell their wares. After an absurd exchange with a Lady, they go to the second house. After having no more luck and even receiving a clunk on the head they finally get to the house of old nemesis, James Finlayson .

The sale not only goes bad, but the three get involved in an ever escalating back and forth battle, which is in itself a classic example of what Roach Studios Directorial Supervisor, Mr. Leo McCarey had dubbed, "Reciprocal Destruction. As things continue to intensify, more and more neighbors are drawn into the gallery. At last, a Police Officer (Stanley J. "Tiny" Sandford) arrives via Prowl Car; but at first, rather than making his considerable presence known, 'Tiny' sits pen in hand, jotting down his observations in his notebook.

Finally we see an official Police intervention and it has the effect of pouring oil on a choppy sea. One by one, the Beat Cop gets the story from each about the disturbance, and some questionable "Crocadile Tears" from "the Boys" turns the mood to sadness and conciliation. Peace is restored and tranquility reigns supreme, momentarily, that is until…..No, no Senor, I'm not gonna tell!

See the Picture! Or better yet, buy the Picture! In the whole scheme of things, at least in regards to film history, BIG BUSINESS ranks as just about the zenith of the Laurel & Hardy silents. It showed a team that had been together for nearly 3 years, all the time finding their way and perfecting the business between the twosome that, to the public, was Laurel & Hardy.

And BIG BUSINESS was perhaps the finest single film exponent of that above mentioned "Reciprocal Destruction". What a fitting way to bid a fond farewell to the '20's and the Silents, and a hello to an Exclusively Sound output.

NOTE: * Oliver Norvell Hardy, while known on the screen and to the public as "Ollie", had, to all his friends, the nickname of 'Babe'.

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