Saturday, October 10, 2020

Laurel & Hardy: One Good Turn, County Hospital, Blotto

One Good Turn is an interestingly topical short for Laurel and Hardy, explicitly referencing the hard conditions of the Depression. The boys are down on their luck vagrants, living out of their car, who offer to chop some wood for an old lady in exchange for food. When they come to believe the kindly old woman is in danger of being evicted from her home, they set about trying to raise the money to help her. The ending reverses their roles somewhat, with Stan turning on Oliver and getting revenge for his cruel treatment of him.

County Hospital is one of my favorites. Stan comes to visit Oliver in the hospital, and sets in motion a series of mishaps. That set-up is all they need for one of their funniest shorts. There's a great scene of Laurel eating a hard-boiled egg and making it uproariously funny as only he could. The climactic scene, with Laurel falling asleep at the wheel after sitting on a hypodermic needle, is often cited as a weak wrap-up to the short, with its overuse of obvious back-projection, but for me it works in exactly the same way as the back projection in W.C. Fields' The Fatal Glass of Beer or Man on the Flying Trapeze -- hilarious in its sheer artificiality.

Blotto is a good situation comedy for the Boys. Stan and Oliver sneak out to a fancy new nightclub for an evening of drunken carousing. Stan steals a bottle of liquor that his wife has been stashing away since Prohibition, but she's on to him, and ends up getting the upper hand on the Boys. It's an odd thing to comment on here, but I've always been struck by the elaborate production design of the Art Deco nightclub set. No art directors are credited on the Laurel and Hardy films before 1936, and I have never read any information about the set designers on these short subjects. I'd love to know more about the unsung designers who came up with that set.

1 comment:

Cullen Gallagher said...

Obvious back project sounds great to me, love how it is used in FATAL GLASS OF BEER, too.