Babes In Toyland  
 
30 November 1934
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
sound feature
9-reels (79 minutes)

 

Directors: Gus Meins, Charley Rogers  Producer: Hal Roach  Original story and screenplay: Frank Butler, Nick Grinde
Cinematography: Francis Corby, Art Lloyd, Kenneth Peach  Editors: Bert Jordan, William H. Terhune  Sound recording: James Greene
Composer: Victor Herbert  Musical direction: Harry Jackson, John W. Swallow  Assistant directors: Gordon Douglas, Chet Brandenburg
Makeup artist: James Collins  Special effects: Thomas Benton Roberts  Visual effects: Roy Seawright

AVAILABLE ON DVD

This popular fairytale-with-a-comedy twist opens with Mother Goose (opera singer Virgina Karns) introducing the story through song and accompanied by an on-screen character-who's-who from the film.  We cut to the very first gag of the movie with Ollie Dee and Stannie Dum passing a feather between them through snoring in bed...
Toyland, a merry town in a very confined space (very clear to see it's a film set) is buzzing with excitement as the inhabitants going about their daily business and the children go off to school.  Bo Peep (the beautiful Charlotte Henry) is off tending her sheep when the town's bad-man Silas Barnaby (Henry Kleinbach a.k.a. Henry Brandon) calls at her home (or in this case, shoe).  Mother Peep informs him of her daughter's whereabouts where he seeks her out to propose marriage.  When she rejects his advances, his proposal of a wedding quickly turns to one of blackmail, reminding her mother that he owns the mortgage on her home (er.. shoe) and fully intends to collect by the end of the day.
Lodgers Stan and Ollie learn of this scheme and vow to raise the necessary money by borrowing it from their employer, the toy maker, but not before Ollie demands to know why his life savings have been emptied from his money box and replaced with a hand-written I.O.U. from Stan.
As the boys leave for work Stan is asked to demonstrate the purpose of his money-borrowing and proceeds to show Ollie the art of hitting pee-wees (a novel game of placing a dart on the ground, hitting it up into the air with a stick and then hitting it baseball-style into the air and having the object return to him a là boomerang.  Unfortunately this leads to a confrontation between them and Barnaby when Stan's pee-wee knocks his hat off.  Late for work, the boys are reprimanded by the toy maker who threatens to dismiss them if it happens again, which puts further strain on Ollie requesting the loan of money he intended to ask for.  Besides, after they spill a tin of paint all over him they think better of it anyway!
Out in the field, Bo Peep has lost her sheep and is comforted by Tom-Tom Piper first through song then by his proposal of marriage, which she accepts (after some gentle persuasion).  Back in the toy factory Santa Claus has arrived to inspect an order he placed.  Ollie proudly presents him with the work: one hundred wooden soldiers at six-feet high.  Unfortunately the order was meant to be six hundred soldiers at one-foot high.  Stan and Ollie are promptly fired.  They return to their home (shoe) to give the bad news and find Barnaby there waiting to evict all of them.  Barnaby leaves but overhears Stan making idle threats against him, so Barnaby returns to clunk Stan over the head.
In retaliation Stan gets out his pee-wee and scores a direct hit on Barnaby's head.  Later that night the boys have schemed up a plan to steal the mortgage deeds from Barnaby with Ollie hiding inside a large crate and Stan wheeling him to the house.  As a token of apology Stan offers the large box as a Christmas gift.  The plan works, as Stan wheels Ollie inside Barnaby's house.  Unfortunately as Stan leaves the house he bids a goodnight not only to Barnaby, but also to Ollie, who responds in kind and giving away their plan.  The boys are charged with burglary and sentenced to a ducking by the King.  Ollie is first to go (led away by a masked Tiny Sandford) and is tortured in the ducking stool.  However, his weight breaks the wooden ducking arm and he sinks to bottom of the pond.  Appalled by the spectacle Bo Peep pleads with Barnaby that she will ahdere to his marital request if he stops the procedure.  He agrees, and the boys are set free.
The wedding ceremony is staged but when the bride's veil is lifted Stan is underneath.  Too late - Ollie has received and ripped up the mortgage papers and Barnaby's marriage to Stan is now legal.  Angered at being double-crossed, Barnaby swears revenge on the town and kidnaps one of the three pigs and plants evidence in Tom Tom's house.




Tom Tom is found guilty of pignapping and banished to Bogeyland, a most undesirable place full of half-man/half-creature beings.  A suspicious Ollie discovers the whereabouts of the missing pig (in Barnaby's cellar) and the patrons of Toyland seek to punish Barnaby, who has fled.  The boys see Barnaby escape down the well and wait for him to re-emerge, not realising he has slipped through an secret exit at the bottom.  Bo Peep catches up with Tom Tom, where he sings them (and us) to sleep, but is soon confronted by Barnaby.  This is where the film turns quickly from the feel-good of before into violence and horror as Tom-Tom fights with Barnaby.  Sensing defeat, Barnaby summons the bogeymen from their underground lair and Tom-Tom and Bo Peep are soon seriously outnumbered despite being joined by Stan and Ollie.  A chase ensues which leads back to Toyland.  The bogeymen trap the boys in the warehouse, but then armed with ammunition (darts), Stan and Ollie fight back to victory, with a little help from their wooden soldiers.  Toyland is saved, the boogeymen are defeated and Barnaby is exiled.
Stan was never a fan of these long, full-length features because he felt the extra padding slowed down the pacing of the comedy.  How true he was.  However, unlike Swiss Miss, The Bohemian Girl and the like, it has to be conceded that the boys' scenes in this picture are well worth waiting for because when they are on screen they are on top form, funnier then ever.  The comedy is exquisite.


Favourite bit
This briefest of moments when when Stan is demonstrating the art of hitting the pee-wee with the stick outside the house: it's the little shove he gives to Ollie when he ignorantly blocks attempts to hit the pee-wee, which is funny enough on its own but it gets even better when it is followed by Ollie's expression immediately afterwards.  Pure brilliance.  Absolutely wonderful scene.

Facts
•Production F-5 - Laurel & Hardy feature.
•Some sources give a release date of December 14, 1934.
•Filmed August 6-16, and September 24 - October 17, 1934.
•Copyrighted November 28, 1934.
•US reissue title: March Of The Wooden Soldiers.
•Hal Roach wrote the original unfilmed version of the story.  He and Stan Laurel had a conflict of ideas on how the film should be made, which resulted in Roach washing his hands on the project and lettng Stan do whatever he wanted.  Roach later said he felt he was right and Stan Laurel was wrong.
•The production was plagued with illness and injuries with the actors.
•This film holds the distinction of being the only Laurel and Hardy film released in the UK which did not receive the lowest possible viewing rating by the BBFC.  It was classified as 'PG' (Parental Guidance) due to the 'disturbing' sequences with the Bogeymen.
•Henry Brandon who plays Silas Barnaby was made up to look like an old man.  He was in fact 21 at the time.
•Florence Roberts took over the role of Mother Peep from actress Margaret Seddon.
Did you notice?
•Elmer, Willie and Jiggs are the names of the Three Little Pigs.
•The opening shot of Mother Goose (Virginia Karns) has a very unsteady camera control.
•Actor-director Charley Rogers can be seen in the first scene as we enter Toyland.  He is the man holding the fishing rod by the side of the pond with the children.  He is wearing a pointed hat.
•The black and white print of "March Of The Wooden Soldiers" has the title card on three lines, whereas if you compare it to the colourised version the title card is spread over four.  (Both images are on this screen near the bottom of the page).
•Apart from the introduction of the characters in the opening song, Stan and Ollie don't show up until 10 minutes into the film.
•When we first see the boys the clock in the shoe says 7:52am.
•Ollie's savings amount to $1.48.
•In the scene where Ollie boasts that anything Stan can do he can also do, Stan reminds him of two examples of what Ollie can't:
The earsie-nosey and the finger-wiggle sequences from "The Devil's Brother".
•Actor Henry Kleinbach (Henry Brandon) spends most of his time crouching.  In real life he was 6'5" tall.

Stan Laurel
Stannie Dum
Oliver Hardy
Ollie Dee
 
Henry Kleinbach
Silas Barnaby
Virginia Karns
Mother Goose
Charlotte Henry
Little Bo Peep
Florence Roberts
Mother Peep
Felix Knight
Tom-Tom Piper
William Burress
The Toy Maker
Alice Dahl
Little Miss Muffett
Charley Rogers
Simple Simon
Frank Austin
Justice of the Peace
Tiny Sandford
Dunker
 
Kewpie Morgan
Old King Cole
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Billy Bletcher
Chief of Police
Ferdinand Munier
Santa Claus
Sumner Getchell
Little Jack Horner
Marie Wilson
Mary Quite Contrary
Alice Moore
Queen of Hearts
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Alice Cooke
Mother Hubbard
Fred Holmes
Balloon man
Johnny Downs
Little Boy Blue
Jean Darling
Curly Locks
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Jack Hill
Townsman
Pete Gordon
Cat and the Fiddle
Angelo Rossitto
Elmer the little pig
John George
Barnaby's Minion
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Dickie Jones
Boy
 
Evelyn Finley
Red Riding Hood
Ricardo Lord Cezon
Baby in treetop
  Richard Alexander
King's guard
 
     
UNIDENTIFIED
Jack
UNIDENTIFIED
Jill







 
Acknowledgements:
Jim Clewer (identification of Evelyn Finley)

This page was last updated on: 14 February 2017