Series: Laurel and Hardy
Director: James W. Horne
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Art Lloyd, Jack Stevens
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Sound: Elmer Raguse
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James W. Horne, Charles Middleton, Broderick O'Farrel, Harry Schultz
Released: 12 December 1931
Length: 4 reels
Production No.: L-3
Filming dates: July 15-18, and July 27 - August 11, 1931;
added scenes August 24, 1931
BEST DVD VERSION
Ollie is in a somewhat mushy mood as he plays the piano in the apartment with Stan looking on. When Stan questions Ollie's strange behaviour Ollie confesses that he is infatuated with a woman whom he intends to marry. Shocked at the sudden announcement Stan asks for more information before a telegram arrives from the fiancee. Overcome with excitement Ollie asks Stan to read the letter aloud. Unfortunately the news isn't good as the telegram informs Ollie that his sweetheart is no longer interested in him. [the full letter is transcribed in the TRIVIA section below] Dejected, Ollie announces he is going to go somewhere he can forget all his troubles, and takes a reluctant Stan with him, but not before an accident (caused by guess who) leaves Ollie crumpled on top of a broken piano with a chair spring sticking out of his backside!
Stan and Ollie arrive at the new legion headquarters for an introduction which gets off to a predictably poor start when Stan pisses off the commandant Charles Middleton who questions the purpose of them wanting to join the Foreign Legion? After some awkward dialogue where Stan refers to the Commandant as "Ma'am" and Ollie calling him "Admiral" and "Brigadier", the boys are led, along with the other recruits to their quarters. When there they see several other recruits with the photograph of the woman who is identical to the one possessed by Ollie. Ollie realises she wasn't worth the effort and thus informs the commandant of their mistake of having joined the army, but the commandant reminds them that no matter what their excuse, they are there to stay.
Resigned to the fact they are now trapped, and after a delightful routine where they keep forgetting their hats on the commandant's desk [see favourite scene] Stan and Ollie are ordered to return to their quarters. The next day the recruits return to camp exhausted from an eight-hour march in the desert. Ollie proclaims that he is is so tired his feet are killing him then proceeds to removing what he thinks is his boot before performing an over-exaggerated massage on his bare foot. He doesn't realise it's Stan's foot until Stan demands that Ollie scratch his back! The commandant is informed of an imminent attack on Fort Arid and thus all available men must be sent on a mission to protect it. This of course includes Stan and Ollie, who are just on the verge of taking a much-needed sleep. After marching all night through the desert, Stan comes up with an ingenious method of keeping the hot sun out his eyes, by turning around his head flap. Ollie copies him and it isn't long before they are rolling down a steep sandy hill and taking out the captain. A sandstorm hampers their progress further when the boys become separated from the rest of the group.
At Fort Arid, the Arab enemy leader tries to negotiate with the camp commander, who is unwilling to surrender the fort. Sensing defeat, the commander sends him on his way but his optimism is restored moments later when the sound of a marching band of men approach the fort on the outside. The gate is flung open with anticipation only to discover a tired-looking Stan and Ollie on the other side.
|The opportunistic enemy seize this opportunity to fire at two guards on an elevated patrol, killing them. The boys are required to take their places, as the Arabs plan their attack. Manoeuvering across a narrow walkway they cross over each others' paths as Stan gets his rifle entangled in Ollie's uniform. After several attempts to free it, eventually he just gives up and walks off, much to the bemusement of Ollie. The enemy scale the outside wall and breach the fortress when the boys aren't paying attention then overpower the gate guards, allowing for their group to penetrate the fort. Fortunately for the men, the legionnaires manage to isolate the prisoners and close the gate but prepare for the imminent attack by placing Stan and Ollie on grenade duty. They are meant to pull the pins out and throw the devices over the gate, but Stan in his usual clumsy manner ends up throwing the pin over the top and the grenade back into the pile of fellow grenades on the floor. Ollie saves the day, but then they are accosted by an Arab who decides to use a convenient side door to gain access to the fort, who then chases them into a store room. A barrel of tacks are spilled all over the floor and this is enough to stop the bare-footed assassin in his tracks. This gives the boys an idea! They grab handfuls of tacks and wildly spread them all over the entrance so that when the enemy charge through they will all be 'attacked' (sorry, that was bad!) The fort is saved, the boys redeem themselves and just when Ollie had finally got to forget all about the reason he joined the army in the first place, the photograph suddenly appears one last time!|
The commandant orders Stan and Ollie to return to their quarters after their cheeky request to leave the army, but the boys have left their hats on his desk. They pick them up and go to leave.... then continually return because one of them has left his hat on the desk. This goes on for a whole minute before the commandant erupts! As long as the sequence is, it never gets tiresome or boring. Simply exquisite.
• Copyrighted November 3, 1931. Though not released until the end of 1931, the copyright on the title card shows MCMXXX (1930).
• Released with Spanish subtitles as Heroes de Trachuela, in which it was combined with Helpmates.
• The 1937 reissue was edited from the original 1931 and the cut footage is considered lost (although some claim to have had prints with the cut footage, nobody has released it nor has it ever been included in any TV, video, or DVD release). Mainly, the cut footage was the first couple of minutes, before Ollie sings "You Are the Ideal of My Dreams". Ollie actually sings "The Pagan Love Song" first and there is additional dialogue and business about fertilizer. Also, when they printed up the new titles for the 1937 reissue they screwed up some of the gags in the cast list, from what was in the original 1931 titles.
• Released as "Beau Chumps" in the UK.
• In the opening on-screen credits, James W. Horne (who also directed the film) is billed as "Abul Kasim K'Horne (In person). Also listed in the credits are "3897 Arabs, 1921 Riffians and four native Swede guides."
• The song Ollie sings at the beginning of the film is You Are The Ideal Of My Dreams, composed by Herbert Ingraham (1882-1910). In addition to his song turning up in few other Hal Roach films, Ingraham had another Roach Studios connection: his daughter Amo Ingraham appeared in a few Roach films in 1928-29.
• Ollie is puzzled when Stan asks him who is getting married to and remarks, "Have you ever heard of anyone marrying a man?" Remember this was the 1930s when the world and its attitudes were so much different!
• Stan claims that he has a sister. In real life, however, he never did.
• The letter Jean sends to Ollie: "My dear, darling, precious Oliver. As I sit writing this note to you with your picture in front of me, I have decided that all is over between us. For I love another. Your one-time sweetheart, Jean. BS. It's best we never see each other again. Jeanie Weanie."
• Just for the record, at the time this film was released Oliver Hardy was 39 years old and Jean Harlow would have been 20. Now that is some age gap! Just sayin'.
• Stan's phone number is Hollywood 4368.
• When Charles Middleton tells Ollie to go back to his quarters Ollie replies, "Yes sir, thank you sir." Do you think he was being sarcastic?
• Even the commandant has a framed photo of Jean on his wall. The inscription on it reads "Yours till Niagara Falls".
• During the initial parade introduction of the new recruits Stan refers to the commandant as "Ma'am" but then in the next sentence he calls him "Sir". After they come back from their first march Stan addresses him as "General".
• There is a continuity error in the scene where Stan and Ollie are lying in their bunks (when Ollie shifts his fat arse over and Stan almost falls out of his bed). When we cut to the close up of them it appears their beds are closer together than in the preceding shot. See here. You can also see that the clothing between the beds hanging on the wall is different as well.
• Throughout the film there are three intertitle cards seen (click image to enlarge):
• There are 2 references to Rudyard Kipling - Ollie's line "And I learned about women from you" comes from the refrain of Kipling's poem "The Ladies", and when he gazes at the photo and says "You vampire", he's referencing the title of "The Vampire", another Kipling poem that presents women as predatory and duplicitous. It's the poem from which the term "vamp" for a seductive and destructive woman comes from. Several continuity problems, which you may have noticed. Stan's hat changes position from back to front in the opening scene, and he's wearing a different hat in the roll call scene than in the scene in the commandant's office. Stan (or his double) drops his gun when rolling down the dune, but it reappears in his hand when he reaches bottom. I'm not sure if Jeanie-Weenie's Dear John letter to Ollie is supposed to be a telegram or a letter. It's delivered as if it were a telegram and comes in a telegram envelope, but Ollie sniffs its presumed perfumed scent and declares "It's from her", which wouldn't be possible with a telegram, since the telegram wouldn't be personally composed by the sender. For Jeanie-Weenie to scent it with her perfume, it would have to be on paper she used herself. Stan's reference to a dromedary as "a thing that eats dates" is to a brand name of dried dates which I think are still around in 2019. [observations submitted by Robert Winslow]
• When the camera dollies in on the barracks and there's a rack of guns in the shot, you can hear the sound of the rack being pulled aside as the camera moves in closer. Also the barracks set gets reused in Bonnie Scotland. Another continuity error: when Dick Gilbert takes out his Jeanie-Weenie photo, he's wearing a button-down shirt, but when he delivers his line "You shouldn'ta oughta have done it, baby", he's wearing just an undershirt. [observations submitted by Robert Winslow]
• The woman who is at the centre of all the attention is Jean Harlow, who appears in the film only in a photograph - just as she did in Brats.
• The colourized print of the film (available on DVD) is simply horrible!
• Was originally scheduled to be a 2-reel short but Hal Roach made the decision to extend it to 4 reels due to the amount of quality material in the script.
• Charlie Hall is recruit #13, Baldwin Cooke is #14, Ollie is recruit #21 and Stan is recruit #22.
• Stan's "number" is Hollywood 4368.
• Charlie Hall's part in the film is brief. He is first seen in the line-up as the group arrive at camp (he calls out his number 13) and then afterwards in the background organizing his clothing as the boys note the photograph sequence among the other men.
• The morning after the army march through the desert, the camera picks up Ollie and Stan at the rear of the marching army, walking towards the camera. As the camera pans back (as they walk towards it) look at the ground (sand) where Ollie is walking. Where there are footprints all around, the ground over which Ollie walks is completely smooth. It is my guess that this is due to the camera being mounted on a sledge of some sort and was being dragged backwards through the uneven sand, and why it appears to be smooth in front of Ollie.
• The final photograph held by the Chief is signed "To my Sheikie Weekie".
What the experts say
• "Some great scenes in a fairly decent L&H vehicle. Not perfect by any means, but certainly entertaining for the most part. The last ten minutes or so seem to slow the film down considerably but the compensation is overwhelming in favour of some stand-out scenes such as Ollie massaging Stan's foot, the scene in the commandant's office with the hats, and the march through the desert." ~ Lord Heath.
|James W. Horne
Chief of the Riff-Raff
Fort Arid commander
New recruit #14
New recruit No. 13
Jeannie Weannie (photograph)
Marconi Ally, Arab informant
Voice of New recruit No. 11
Fort Arid legionnaire
(click any image to enlarge)
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|SPANISH & FRENCH LOBBY CARDS
(click any image to enlarge)
Jesse Brisson (identification of William Gillespie and Bob Kortman)
Jerry Murbach (Dr. Macro) (some posters and stills - used with permission)
Jim Dallape (lobby cards)
Rick Greene (lobby cards)
Robert Winslow (trivia)
Richard Finegan (trivia)
This page was last updated on: 16 November 2019