Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Bohemian Girl (1936)

This comedy version of the Balfe opera starring Laurel and Hardy is not one of the team's best features, but is still quite enjoyable. By this point in their career, they had moved into making features exclusively, and producer Hal Roach was eager to repeat the success of THE DEVIL'S BROTHER from three years earlier by putting them into another lavishly-produced comic operetta.

The result is a funny if uneven film that, despite being based on an established stage property, is ultimately tailored as a vehicle for Laurel and Hardy, and thus is mainly of interest to fans of the team. It follows the general story of the opera with the boys as the gypsies who raise a nobleman's kidnapped daughter as their own, but the comic scenes are for the most part isolated sharply from the main "plot" scenes. It's less a parody and more a straight telling of the story with the comedy sandwiched in.

While it is undoubtedly heavy on plot and music, Laurel and Hardy's scenes contain some excellent comic material. Highlights include the boys' attempt at telling fortunes, Oliver's altercations with shrewish wife Mae Busch, and Stan bottling wine and getting increasingly tipsy in the process (a particularly brilliant scene that ranks as one of Laurel's finest moments in any of their films). The funniest moment is also the simplest: Oliver sees Stan eating a banana and tells him to give him part of it, and Stan casually hands him the peel, which Oliver just tosses away with a resigned shrug. A little gag like that is all they need to reduce me to tears of laughter.

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