Two guys end up in prison after attempting to sell beer to a policeman during Prohibition.Two guys end up in prison after attempting to sell beer to a policeman during Prohibition.Two guys end up in prison after attempting to sell beer to a policeman during Prohibition.
Opening title: "Mr. Hardy is a man of wonderful ideas ... so is Mr. Laurel, as long as he doesn't try to think." Set during the Prohibition era, Oliver has a get-rich-quick scheme about brewing beer. He tells his partner, Stanley, "whatever we can't drink, we can sell." Next scene finds the Laurel and Hardy handcuffed and escorted to prison after Stanley sells their home made beer to a policeman he mistakes for a streetcar conductor. After meeting with their warden (Wilfred Lucas) who gives them a lecture on prison life, they are then placed in a cell with four other convicts, with The Tiger (Walter Long) the leader and toughest of the bunch. Because Stanley's loose molar causes him to make a buzzing sound mistaken for what's commonly known as a "raspberry," which gets him into trouble, The Tiger takes it as a sign of courage, making Stanley his immediate pal. With Ollie wanting to get in good with the Tiger by doing the same thing, he isn't so fortunate. Going through the daily routine of prison life, attending school and placed into solitary confinement for unwittingly disrupting the class, Stan and Ollie later take part in a prison break, and hide themselves from the law by taking refuge in a Negro community disguised as black cotton pickers.
PARDON US may not be the best in the filmography of Laurel and Hardy, but delivers with its full quota of laughs. The classroom sequence with James Finlayson as the schoolmaster is a true highlight. School was never like this, especially with prisoners beginning their school day singing, "Good morning, dear teacher," along with the teacher asking students questions and getting the answers not found in text books. For the ten minute cotton field sequence where fugitives Stan and Ollie appear in black-face, they, along with the other Negro workers, do some singing while working in the fields to such tunes as "Hand Me Down," "Way Down in the Old Camp Ground," "Swing Along," "From Birmingham" and "Down at the Farm." Oliver Hardy, a gifted singer in his own right, solos during the evening's recreation period with "Lazy Moon." While there's no secondary love interest to bog down the plot, June Marlowe, as the warden's daughter, is the only female in the cast, with very little to do, probably a victim of heavy film editing. Other Laurel and Hardy stock players, aside from Walter Long's parody of Wallace Beery from THE BIG HOUSE, and the hilarious Jimmy Finlayson, include Charles Hall as The Dentist; and Stanley "Tiny" Sanford as one of the prison guards. It should be noted that in the French language version of PARDON US, Boris Karloff appears in place of Walter Long. Not that's something to see!
A neglected comedy gem that would have been virtually forgotten had it not been for television where Laurel and Hardy comedies were rediscovered by a new generation with each passing decade since the 1950s. By the 1980s, home video such as Nostalgia Merchant, and cable TV guaranteed further popularity for Stan and Ollie, where this and their short subjects and features were presented, including American Movie Classics (1994-1996), and Turner Classic Movies where PARDON US premiered April 1, 2005 as part of its April Fools festival.
While prints of PARDON US were shown in years past in slightly choppy 55 minute format, the TCM print offers better picture quality at 64 minutes. Regardless of its pros and cons, PARDON US demonstrated further that Laurel and hardy are capable of carrying on successfully in feature length comedies, especially with such masterpieces as SONS OF THE DESERT (1933), BABES IN TOYLAND (1934) and WAY OUT WEST (1937) into their not so distant future. (**1/2)
- Aug 23, 2008