|Oliver The Eighth|
|13 January 1934|
|Director: Lloyd French Producer: Hal Roach Cinematography: Art Lloyd Editor: Bert Jordan Sound recording: Warren B. Delaplain|
|AVAILABLE ON DVD|
|Stan and Ollie own a barbers shop. The film opens with Stan cutting out an advertisment from the newspaper and reading it to Ollie, who is busy combing his moustache. The message is from a wealthy widow who is seeking marriage from a congenial young man. Ollie dismisses the idea as probably "some old crab with a face that would stop a clock" before announcing he wouldn't marry he regardless of how wealthy she was. Stan replies that he would marry her. Ollie responds sharply, "you would!" Given Stan's real-life ongoing martial problems and the unusually frequent marriages he endured this is quite an "ouch" statement!
Though Ollie initially shows reluctance to get involved Stan manages to talk him into it so both men agree to reply to the advert and shake hands with a "may the best man win" gesture. Hardy takes charge of mailing both letters but at the last moment conceals Stan's under his hat and never does mail it. Ollie returns to the shop and asks Stan to give him a shave whilst we cut away to the widow (Mae Busch) opening his letter. The true intentions of her advert are then revealed when she confesses to her butler (Jack Barty) that she was jilted by an 'Oliver' on the eve of her wedding and ever since she has sworn revenge on any man bearing that name who crosses her path.
Back at the shop Ollie is merrily singing "On top of the world" when Stan re-enters. Ollie informs him that he is packing up and going off to live with and marry the wealthy widow after she replied to his letter, so he offers the barber shop to Stan as a consolation. Ollie arrives at the new mansion gleaming with smiles and eager to meet his new bride-to-be and introduces himself to the unusual (putting it mildly) butler (Jack Barty).
|Ollie may have been forgiven in thinking something is not quite right when he offers the servant his hat and coat and sees them dropped deliberately on the floor, but his suspicions are confirmed when the butler engages in conversation with, "Nice weather we had tomorrow" and then proceeds in playing a game of cards with an invisible deck. The doorbell rings and Stan is ready to give Ollie a piece of his mind, barging in and blackmailing his pal that unless Ollie shares his new-found wealth then Stan is going to spill the beans about him. Ollie agrees, and asks what Stan has done with their shop? Stan informs him he swapped it for a brick that has been painted gold, and some nuts. Ollie's blank expression towards the camera says it all.
This is quickly forgotten though when he first sights his new bride descending the stairs, resulting in yet another amusing conversation (see favourite bit). As the new lovers retire to the living room, Stan finds himself right at home when he meets the butler! He invites Stan to pick a playing card from his imaginary deck and then show it to Ollie. Ollie slaps Stan's hand and dismisses his actions as stupid before the widow orders dinner to be served. Bowls of invisible food are placed on the table, along with empty salt & pepper canisters. Stan's confusion grows until eventually he stands up and declares the hostess to be nuts.
She laughs off the insult as the butler summons the boys out into the hallway to inform them of her intentions: that when they lay sleeping that night she will enter their room and slit their throats, in keeping with the morbid tradition she has exercised seven times previously. Armed with this knowledge Stan and Ollie make for a quick exit but are thwarted when the widow appears and makes it clear there is no escape from the house before bidding them a good night's sleep.
The butler then sounds his "death at dawn" trumpet. The third reel begins with the boys being shown to their room (their death bed if you will) and the door being locked behind them. Worried about their fate, Ollie calms Stan's fears by telling him that all they need to do is rotate their sleep so that one of them is always awake and on guard. Stan puts away the clothes in a cupboard and finds a shotgun. Ollie asks if it is loaded, and his underwear soon finds out that it was! The boys retire to bed but Ollie is soon awoken by the sound of Stan's snoring:
Ollie: "What are you trying to do? Do you want me to get my throat cut?"
Ollie: "Well then don't go to sleep"
Stan: "Well I can't tell when I'm asleep"
Ollie: "That's why I want you to stay awake, so that you can see that you are not asleep"
Stan: "Well I couldn't help it, I was dreaming I was awake and then I woke up and found myself asleep".
|Ollie tries to resume his sleep but again Stan manages to disrupt the proceedings by playing with the rifle. He complains he cannot stay awake because he has nothing to occupy his mind so Ollie devises a simple-yet-genius trap whereby he attaches the brick (which was swapped for the barbers shop) to a piece of string and placed precariously over a lit candle so that Stan has to keep an eye on it to save the flame burning through and having the brick bump him on the head. Unfortunately it's Ollie who receives the blow and is rendered unconscious in the chair. Stan rushes into the cupboard when he hears the bedroom doorknob being turned and is locked in. In comes the widow, knife in hand and is about to do her thing when Ollie awakens to find himself back at the barbers shop with Stan giving him a shave.... it was all a bad dream.
Whichever way you want to look at it, the material in the film certainly didn't warrant three reels. It is slow, at times tedious and overstretched. Notwithstanding some wonderful moments of comedy, it cannot disguise the thin plot and plodding pace.
Upon meeting for the first time, Mae Busch introduces herself to Ollie at the foot of the stairs.
Hardy: "My queen".
She then notices Stan standing beside him.
"What is that?" she asks.
For a brief moment even Ollie doesn't understand as to what she is referring to. Of course, she is surprised of Stan's presence and makes such a comical statement to underline the fact.
•Filmed between 15 December 1933 - mid-January 1934.
•This was the last of Laurel & Hardy's 3-reel shorts.
•Production was halted during filming when Stan's brother Everett died from heart failure whilst under anesthetic for having some teeth extracted.
•Phyllis Barry was originally cast in the role of the widow.
•Scenes involving Charlie Hall as a laundryman were shot but later cut.
Did you notice?
•When Stan cuts out the advert in the opening scene he cuts through several layers of the newspaper.
•The advert in the paper responds to the code Box 204J.
•Stan stuffs a tuft of his hair inside the envelope he mails to the widow.
•Next to the barber shop is a drug store.
•Ollie uses the address of 201 Spring Street, Los Angeles, California on the envelope of his letter, and the date stamp reads 8th January 1934.
•Stan's double chin is evident in this film, a result of a turbulent personal life and alcohol abuse. (sponsored link)
•When Mae Busch wishes Ollie "a nice looooooooong sleep" it is reminiscent of the dialogue spoken to him by Frank Austin in The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case, which takes place in the same house/film set.
•As the butler locks the boys in their room he bids them "goodbye" rather than "goodnight".
Jitters, the butler
"Laurel And Hardy - The Magic Behind The Movies" by Randy Skretvedt (book)
This page was last updated on: 23 September 2014