Helpmates  
 
23 January 1932
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
sound short
2-reels

 

Director: James Parrott  Producer: Hal Roach  Dialogue: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Art Lloyd  Editor: Richard C. Currier  Sound recording: Elmer Raguse

AVAILABLE ON DVD

There has been a wild party in Ollie's house, evident by the utter mess seen in the opening few shots of the film.  Having taken advantage of his wife's absence, Mr. Hardy has woken up with a hangover - and a very untidy home.  Looking straight into the camera (which is revealed to be the bathroom mirror), he berates himself over his childish actions and even losing all of his money in a poker game.  The self-defeatest dialogue is broken up by a ring of the doorbell, which only ends when an overly-aggressive Ollie slaps the telegram messenger on the arm.  Informed that the wife is due home at noon, he panics and runs inside to telephone Stan for assistance, sitting on a concealed soda water bottle in the process.  When the telephone rings at Stan's end he is fast asleep in bed and dismisses the sound as his alarm clock.  When he fails to quieten the noise he smacks the clock with his shoe and puts it under his bed.  After an eternity he finally realises it's the telephone ringing.  Naturally when Ollie speaks his first question is to ask Stan what he was doing for so long for him to not answer the call!
Ollie: "Where have you been?"
Stan: "I was here, with me."
Ollie asks why Stan wasn't at his party and Stan replies he was bitten by a dog.  Unable to understand what Stan means, Ollie asks him first to spell it and then asks where he was bitten, to which Stan then holds up his injury to the telephone to 'show' his friend, not realising he has in fact picked up the ashtray instead to speak into.  When he realises his mistake he picks up the receiver and clunks himself in the eye before putting the mouth piece to his ear!  It's a great piece of comedy.  When asked if the situation was serious, Stan replies that the doctor told him he could catch 'hydrofosphates' (whatever that is!)
Ollie orders Stan to come over to his immediately to help him clear up the mess before the wife sees it.  Seconds later the doorbell rings once more and in walks Stan, much to the shocked Ollie's surprise.  He quickly tells Stan of his predicament and asks his help in clearing up after showing him the wedding photograph if his wife (Blanche Payson with a comically grumpy face on her) and offers to have done the same for Stan had the situation be reversed.  Stan argues that Ollie would never have done the same and is asked what is meant by that statement.  Stan says it's because he is never going to get married (if only he had know then what that would have meant to his future in real life!)  He does though, agree to help Ollie.


Whilst Stan is washing the dishes Ollie is getting dressed and readying himself to go meet the wife but as he walks through the living room he trips on the roller-brush and flies off into the kitchen through the air and right down on top of Stan's clean dishes - and then even has the audacity to shout at Stan to clean the mess up - like it's his fault!  Things quickly go from bad to worse as Ollie opens the back door, causing a smoke stack to collapse and fall down on his head, spilling its soot all over him.  He goes to the sink to wash his hands and accidentally picks up the block of butter Stan had put there moments before instead.  Covered in soot and butter, Ollie then approaches the kitchen cupboard only to add flour to the list of stains on his clothing as it falls from the top shelf over his head!
So, a third change of clothes is forced upon Ollie.  He drops something on the bedroom floor and gets down on all fours to search for it (never been able to quite figure out what exactly it was he lost?) when Stan comes in and asks for a handkerchief.  Ollie directs him to the top drawer of the cabinet and Stan pulls it open, takes one and leaves.  As he blows his nose Ollie gets up, wondering what the noise was and puts his head up through the drawer which Stan has failed to close.  We then catch Stan in the kitchen trying to unblock the sink with an oversized plunger.
Well, guess who walks straight into the end of it as Stan pulls it out of the sink?  When asked what he is supposedly doing, Stan says he is trying to unblock the sink and asks how to manage the situation.  Foolishly Ollie suggests Stan use his own discretion.  After opening a small window Stan chucks a bowl full of water out into the yard but the window drops shut and the resulting wave hits Ollie who is standing in the kitchen.  Eager to assist, Ollie then goes outside to wedge open the window with a small block of wood and after opening the window receives two full bowls of water to the face, drenching him from head to foot.  The comical timing is exquisite.  Hardy is infuriated when Stan seemingly dismisses the acknowledgement of his faux pas and suggests breakfast, sending Ollie into a rage.  Picking up a fallen plant pot, he hurls it at Stan but he ducks and the pot flies through the house and out of the front window, knocking poor neighbour Bobby Burns flying into a forward summersault on the lawn.
Stan is quick to point out that this act of violence was not his doing before Ollie confesses he is close to breaking point and orders Stan to clear up the mess before the wife gets home.  Fed up with the abuse he has incurred, Stan retaliates with "What do you think I am, Cinderella?  If I had any sense I'd walk out on you". To which Ollie replies, "Well it's a good thing you haven't any sense!"
Stan spends the next minute trying to figure out the remark whilst Ollie walks into the bedroom to find the neighbour's hosepipe spraying water everywhere through the open window.  When he returns to the kitchen he aks Stan to dry the wet clothing - so Stan rolls the suit through a clothes ringer straight into the sink full of water, as Ollie sticks the other half of the suit in the oven to dry off.
When Stan's efforts are unappreciated Ollie takes matters into his own hands and announces he will dry the clothes himself so goes to light the oven, not realising he has left the gas on.  The camera cuts away to the empty living room in anticipation of what follows... Ollie comes flying in through the door and straight through the dining table, with Stan observing close by.
The telephone rings and it's a furious Mrs. Hardy wanting to know why she hasn't yet been picked up from the station.  Ollie makes an excuse and leaves Stan to attend to the house as he makes his journey to meet the wife whilst wearing the most ridiculous costume imaginable (minus a horse!)  Stan does eventually get the house tidy and lights a nice cosy log fire for the return of Ollie and his wife.  An hour later Ollie returns, wiser, sadder and dizzier and without his wife and finds Stan hosing down what is left of the house!  As the defeated Ollie sits in the armchair wondering how things could possibly get any worse... it starts raining.

Favourite bit
During the strange telephone conversation near the beginning of the film, Stan picks up the receiver, puts it down, picks up a statue-type ashtray, then puts that down and finally the receiver again, this time putting the mouth-piece up to his ear so he has the two ends of the telephone in both ears.  It's a split second gag which is made all the more funnier by the bizarre conversation they have!

Ollie: "You never met my wife did you?"
Stan: "Yes, I never did."

Facts
•Filmed October 19-26, 1931.
•This was filmed during the filming of another short, Any Old Port!, which had started shooting but was awaiting re-shoots which were then shot later in November - after this film had already wrapped.
•Blanche Payson's screen time amounted to 8 seconds and two lines of dialogue.

Did you notice?
•The opening credits unfolds sideways like a scroll.
•In the opening shot there is a hat on the lightshade, hanging from the ceiling as well as a cigarette in the ashtray which is still burning.
•The number displayed on the wall outside Hardy's home is 1645.  This was shot at a real location, 1645 LaBonia, an address which has long vanished from the environs of Los Angeles. [source: Randy Skretvedt]
•Ollie signs for the telegram with his right hand, and the messenger offers the telegram to him with his right hand also.
•The doorbell to the front door is located on the wall on the right-hand side, and there is a window on the door (at head height) split into four quarters.
•Stan's telephone number is Aptos 8080.  Aptos is a small community in Santa Cruz, California, USA, close to the San Andreas Fault.
•When we first see Stan he is in bed and the time is 11:10am, according to the alarm clock on his bedside cabinet.  There is a newspaper at the foot of the bed which is turned to the comics section and there is a statuesque-type ashtray next to the telephone (seen in close-up on a small table).
•It takes 6 rings on the telephone before Stan finally answers Ollie's call - a duration of 1 minute and 15 seconds from the time Ollie asks the operator to reach him.
•Stan's dog bite is on his right wrist.
•There is a painting of a yacht on the water just inside the front door hanging on the wall.
•When Ollie shows Stan the wedding photograph of his wife, his face is not evident in the picture.

•Ollie twice trips over the rolling sweeper - both times on his right foot.
•It is revealed that Mrs. Hardy is in Chicago with her mother and had been gone for over a week.
•Stan pokes Ollie in his right eye with the plunger.
•When Ollie hurls the plant pot through the windows it hits the neighbour (Bobby Burns) outside whilst he is watering the grass.  Look on the extreme right of the frame of film and you can see a man's hand throwing the plant from short range.

•The clock on the mantle says 12:54pm as Stan starts to light the fire.  Shortly afterwards the title card says the story moves forward one hour.  Now given that Ollie was supposed to meet his wife at noon, there couldn't have been much time before the start of the fire and Ollie arriving back home so it begs the question how a fire could have caused such immense damage in such a short period of time?

Stan Laurel
Stan
Oliver Hardy
Ollie
Blanche Payson
Mrs. Hardy
Bobby Burns
Neighbor
Robert Callahan
Messenger

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Acknowledgements:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022994/ (IMDb.com)
"Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies" by Randy Skretvedt (book)

This page was last updated on: 23 January 2015