High school is easy, in college you have to perform tricks, one’s girl will have it so.
Impossible and ludicrous as they are, Keaton fails at each one.
His girl is kidnapped by the expelled college trickster, Keaton runs the Olympic gamut to rescue her.
They marry, age and die.
The best analyses are offered by Dali & Buñuel in Un Chien Andalou, Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou, and Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School.
The selling of Christmas trees has its failures, these are two. The unmarried woman lives in prospect, she will not buy one. “If you had a husband,” Mr. Laurel asks, “would he buy one?”
Around the corner no sale provokes absolute destruction to sellers’ truck and customer’s home.
Chickens Come Home—
Mr. Hardy, literally a bullshit politician, has his hopes for City Hall dashed by a fling from his “gilded youth”. And just as he bore her on his shoulders then at the beach, so he bears her out of his house now, and so does his business partner, Mr. Laurel.
“Whom flirts imagine as a hat, old maids believe to be a cat.”
It does not entail moral rejoinders on one’s choice of traveling companions, but simply exists to be enjoyed for its own sake.
Thus Laughing Gravy, a small dog owned by Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, and whom their landlord on a snowy night particularly objects to.
A succession of wedding jokes based on the everlasting principle of the best man (Mr. Laurel).
Unwanted visitors want ice cream, en route Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy rescue a suicide who wants keeping.
The police want her, too. The wives are ever vigilant.
One Good Turn
Much ado about something like Babes in Toyland overheard in rehearsal for the Community Players. Bumbling Laurel and Hardy on the bum try to save the sweet old amateur actress from Mr. Finlayson, but only wreck her garage and themselves still further.
The single joke on Brenon’s original derives from the earlier gag on Allah and the French flag, Jeannie Weenie is truly loved by everyone.
Any Old Port!
Skretvedt’s account of the original film is valuable, he reports that James Parrott directed the new second reel.
The released film has no African canary and no beau, only a serene and beautiful formula for expressing the brutality of the hotelkeeper, and that is the loaded boxing glove.
Thicker Than Water
The roomer has a plan to help the household economy. It fails, and Mr. Hardy is struck so hard by diminutive Mrs. Hardy, who stands on a chair for this, that Mr. Laurel must give blood at the hospital, too much blood, some must be returned from Mr. Hardy, and each of the two gentlemen leaves the hospital transformed into the other.
With the lady at the auction bidding on a grandfather clock, a comedy about two cents’ worth of minding your own business.
There has been a misprision about Bonnie Scotland since its premiere, and even earlier, at a preview which caused twenty minutes to be removed (according to report). The missing footage pertained to what Variety described as “the love strain”, because audiences then and critics ever since saw this as two films loosely conjoined, a frustrated romance and a Laurel and Hardy short, as though you were to criticize Shakespeare for patchwork.
It’s set in Scotland because MacLaurel inherits a snuffbox and bagpipes, which is as surreal as Lautréamont gets (Mr. Hardy sneezes himself off a bridge and down to the bottom of a rivulet, then sneezes all the water away), and in India because the pipes blew at Waterloo and Balaklava and Mafeking.
The romance is frustrated by the conditions of inheritance, which send the girl to India. There’s a plot to marry her off to a serving officer and keep her money in the family, as it were, but MacLaurel and Mr. Hardy have enlisted by mistake, thinking to acquire a suit of clothes on tick.
The officer is a gentleman, however, and Bonnie Scotland is not to be understood as any sort of mishmash. Horne’s direction is surprisingly acute, as the camera wends its way in to the reading of the will, the microphone is shifted as well. Two men are at an anvil, one beats out a familiar tune, and through an open door in the background, looking onto the gentle slope of a curving village road, from the far distance Laurel and Hardy gradually make their entrance.
The boy enlists, too, to be near his girl, and finds himself in the stockade after a contretemps. “I lost my head,” he explains. “You didn’t lose your head,” says MacLaurel, pointing at it, “it’s still there. It’s one of those” mirages he starts to say before Mr. Hardy squelches him, which are an Indian phenomenon explained to green recruits by veterans.
The snuffbox was a gift from Mary Queen of Scots to a muchly great ancestor of MacLaurel’s, whose gag portrait is a famous resemblance. “Why don’t ye come up and see me sometime,” says a blonde Scottish lady to an acquaintance, and MacLaurel blurts out, “Mae West!”
Mary Gordon as an innkeeper delivers her first line with an impeccable brogue, “I can give ye th’ rroom, but ye’ll have to take the bath y’rrself.” James Finlayson as the sergeant major, David Torrence as the lawyer, Anne Grey as the scheming aunt, Vernon Steel as her brother, Colonel McGregor, and Maurice Black as Khan Mir Jutra, are all superb.
Bonnie Scotland is certainly an inspiration of the Road pictures, and even has music and dancing—one famous bit anticipates the roadmending scene in Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke—and one of Mr. Hardy’s scowls shows a startling resemblance to Spencer Tracy.
Way Out West
It all takes place in the fairy-tale realm of Brushwood Gulch, where the saloon is named Mickey Finn’s Palace after its proprietor, with a line of lovely girls and a Serio-Comic Entertainer, Lola Marcel.
This is the version of Cinderella on which The Magnificent Seven (dir. John Sturges) was based, to all appearances. Stanley and Ollie have come to tell poor Mary Roberts, who works at Mickey Finn’s, that her father has bequeathed her a gold mine. They spill the beans to Finn, who passes off his wife Lola as the girl. The boys are wheedled out of the deed, and sent packing.
As a consequence, Stan eats Ollie’s hat, at first with great reluctance, then with a little salt. Ollie, emulating Tom Sawyer’s schoolchums, tries it himself, briefly.
They resolve to obtain the deed and restore it to Mary. This involves a block and tackle and Dinah, their mule (cp. The Music Box, dir. James Parrott). Lola tickles it out of Stanley’s shirt again and says triumphantly, “ha-ha!” Her husband answers, “ho-ho!” Ollie snatches it and makes off, shouting, “hee-hee!”
Aside from the scene of their dejection, Stan and Ollie have another shock in the gradual apperception of their extreme poverty, the former’s holey shoes and the latter’s patched dungarees, whereas a sign at the saloon reads, “Griano—Rarest of Wines”.
Variety was not at all impressed, but once in a thousand films Halliwell finds something to admire, something to beguile him, and this was such an occasion, “seven reels of perfect joy.” He particularly mentions the musical numbers and the dance scene, which is first filmed by Horne against a rear projection of the busy Western street, then a reverse angle places the boys in the immediate context of the saloon where the Avalon Boys are out front strumming and crooning.
Stanley throughout displays an ability to flick his thumb up in such a way as to set it afire, which is useful for lighting the pipe he smokes with the stem in his mouth, removing the bowl as occasion warrants. Ollie tries the trick and fails, repeatedly, until success is the best revenge.
All Over Town
The joke that killed vaudeville (“murdered during a dress rehearsal”) leaves behind a jinxed venue and “the true vanishing Americans” at a theatrical boarding house. Olsen and Johnson sell their filling station and are thought to be millionaires, the show must go on.
Sally the singing seal is but Laughing Gravy with a career. Franklin Pangborn the costumier “on the bias”. There are designs upon the theater...
Another dress rehearsal, another murder, this time Sally is suspected, “she had a guilty look on ‘er conscience.”
“What’re ya doin’?”
“I’m puttin’ the gun in the fish. Now remember, mum’s the word and keep your mouth shut.” A game of cat’s cradle, “hey, ya wanna try it? Take my end.” Sally’s taken for a ride and cleared of suspicion. Scenery repossessed, off on the radio. “Who are you?”
“Well, we’re not Amos ‘n Andy.” MacDougal’s Mackerel sponsors the revelation on The MacDougal Theatre of the Air. The sponsor is a murderer’s shield or not, as the case may be.
Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “never really pulls together.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “routine”.