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One Good Turn (1931)

Stan and Ollie are down on their luck and beg at an old lady's house for food. While they are eating they overhear a villainous landlord (Finlayson) threatening to evict her if she does not... See full summary »

Director:

James W. Horne

Writer:

H.M. Walker (dialogue)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Stan Laurel ... Stan
Oliver Hardy ... Ollie
Mary Carr ... Old Lady
James Finlayson ... A Community Player
Edit

Storyline

Stan and Ollie are down on their luck and beg at an old lady's house for food. While they are eating they overhear a villainous landlord (Finlayson) threatening to evict her if she does not pay the mortgage. Not realizing that they are hearing a rehearsal for a play, the boys decide to auction their car to help. In the confusion surrounding the auction, Stan finds himself in possession of a fat wallet and Ollie accuses him of stealing the old lady's money. When the truth is revealed, Stan exacts painful retribution. Written by Stephen Harrison <stephen@telos.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Seeing America: Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy have cast off all financial worries- Total assets: one Ford, model 1911, one tent, model 1861, One union suit, two shirts and three socks.

Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 October 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Retter in der Not See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Roach Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The opening titles claim Stan and Ollie's Model T Ford is a 1911, but it actually the 1921 model, which they've used in other shorts as their trademark car. See more »

Quotes

Oliver: One good turn deserves another.
Stanley: So do I neither.
Oliver: What do you mean, "so do I neither"?
See more »

Alternate Versions

There is also a colorized version. See more »

Connections

Edited into Zwei Ritter ohne Furcht und Tadel (1932) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Hard times put a strain on a famous friendship
14 September 2008 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

I've always loved Laurel & Hardy, no matter which of their films I'm watching. Their best movies are delightful, and even in their lesser efforts I find that their impeccable teamwork and special idiosyncrasies usually carry the day. Over and above the comedy it's their relationship I savor, and for that reason I've always found One Good Turn a rather disturbing short. If you care about Stan and Ollie as buddies this one can even be a somewhat traumatic experience, for in this film the pressure of unemployment and homelessness put a serious strain their friendship, causing not just the usual knockabout quarreling, mind you, but a genuine crisis that leads to a misunderstanding, hurt feelings and, worst of all, a rift in their partnership that is left unresolved at the end. When I first saw this short as a kid it left me upset, and watching it again today I remember why.

Normally at the beginning of an L&H comedy we find a fairly stable situation: the boys are workers of some sort, or suburban husbands who've assigned themselves a home fix-it project. Gradually, of course, and despite their best efforts, things unravel. But when One Good Turn opens their situation has all but unraveled already. Stan and Ollie are homeless and broke, though they still own a car, and it appears that the car and a pup tent are their only shelter. They're camping in a field, and right off the bat Ollie is irritated with Stan, who is cooking their soup and hanging up their laundry. Within minutes Stan has managed to ruin the soup, wreck their clothes and destroy the pup tent, so the guys are reduced to going door to door, begging for a handout. At the first home they visit a nice old lady answers the door, and Ollie explains that they are "victims of the Depression" and asks her for buttered toast.

The guys were often broke and struggling to get by in their movies, starting with their earliest appearance as a team in Duck Soup back in 1927, but outright panhandling is not typical of them, and the blatant appeal for sympathy in citing the Depression is even more unusual, not to mention dicey. (Topical references of any sort are rare in their films.) The old lady is receptive and quick to oblige, which makes the boys' subsequent behavior all the more exasperating. Ollie offers to work for their meal but is plainly unhappy when Stan volunteers his friend's services as a wood cutter. They accomplish very little, and to make matters worse, when they sit down to the meal the old lady has kindly provided they quarrel and wind up in a childish food fight. Any laughter the sequence provokes is tempered by our awareness of that wasted food. Did viewers laugh at this in 1931? As it happens, the old lady is active with the local community theater group, and when she rehearses a scene in the next room with a colleague (an enjoyably hammy Jimmy Finlayson) Stan and Ollie mistakenly assume that the dialog they overhear is real, and that she is going to be evicted from her home. Happily, at this juncture the boys' good-hearted spirit reasserts itself, and they venture into the nearby town to sell their car, and raise the cash to save their benefactress from financial ruin. But due to a misunderstanding Ollie jumps to the conclusion that Stan has stolen the old lady's money, and so he marches his "one-time friend" back to her house to make a full confession. When the mistake is revealed, the worm turns as Stan exacts a violent revenge on his embarrassed, remorseful ex-pal.

Wow, that's kind of a heavy storyline for a Laurel & Hardy two-reeler. I guess it's a testament to the skill of the cast and crew that One Good Turn has its funny moments despite the dark atmosphere. Thematically this film reminds me a little of L&H's silent short Early to Bed, in which Ollie inherits a fortune, Stan becomes his butler, and Stan finally rebels against Ollie's relentless abuse. That one leaves me a little queasy too, but there it's the sudden arrival of unexpected money that causes Ollie's bad behavior, and in the end, the boys reconcile. Here, it's the LACK of money and shelter that sours the mood. The tone is harsh from the outset: Ollie is irritable with Stan even before he destroys what little they have, everything deteriorates from that point, and in the end they haven't reconciled at all. Laurel & Hardy fans will certainly want to see this film, and perhaps some will enjoy it more than I do, but if you're like me you may want to follow it up with one of their happier efforts such as Way Out West, in which the boys actually succeed at their given task and are still friends at the final fade-out.


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