Series: Laurel and Hardy

Director: James Parrott
Producer: Hal Roach
Dialogue: H.M. Walker
Photography: George Stevens
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Sound: Elmer Raguse

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Dell Henderson, Fred Kelsey, Frank Austin
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 06 September 1930
Length: 3 reels
Production No.: L-34
Filming dates: May 5-21, 1930
Rating: 7/10

The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

Available on DVD:

See also Feu Mon Oncle and Noche De Duendes and Spuk Um Mitternacht
A lazy day fishing on the docks for Stan as Ollie takes a nap. Stan catches a fish and Ollie is awakened with it flapping around underneath his trousers. Ollie picks up the fish and throws it angrily into the water below before wiping his hands on Stan's trousers. Undettered, Stan tries once more, but accidentally hooks Ollie's hat and that too ends up in the water. Luckily, Stan manages to reel the hat back and hands it to Ollie. Naturally, it's full of water and when Ollie places it back on his head, so is he.
The physical discomfort for Ollie continues when he receives Stan's crumpled newspaper in his face. But this actually turns out being a blessing because within the pages of the paper is an advert calling all known relatives of the late Ebeneezer Laurel to attend a reading of the will later that evening. Ollie suddenly perks up and after a few intelligent questions and dumb answers later, the boys decide to abandon their fishing gear and make their way to the Laurel estate to collect their inheritance of three million dollars (and yes, that is more than a thousand, Stan!)
At the house three detectives and a policeman are present to inform the would-be claimants that they were all lured to the house under false pretences in order to catch the killer of their relative.
The outraged guests protest their innocence one by one, but the detective makes it clear that nobody will leave the house that night, as they are all under suspicion of murder. The weeping housekeeper (Dell Henderson in outstanding form) and butler (Frank Austin) are left to show the guests to their bedrooms for the night. Stan and Ollie arrive, unaware they are walking into a trap. Ollie reassures Stan that from now on they have it made, but Stan is keen to bring to Ollie's attention that his friend has no part in the will or the estate, and that the inheritance is solely for Stan. With such an absence in gratitude, Ollie threatens to leave but they are called over by the butler and introduced to the detective, who questions the boys over the authenticy of their claim to the will. Ollie remarks upon the family resemblance by likening Stan to a picture on the wall. The detective points out the picture is of General Grant. Ollie asks to see the will but his request is declined, as the detective tells him that nothing will be done until it is established who murdered Ebeneezer Laurel and instructs the butler to show the men to a room for the night.
Upstairs, Ollie enquires as to why there are sheets over all the bedroom furniture. The butler tells the boys they are about to spend the night in the room where the old man was murdered, then bids them a "nice looooooong sleep!"

After being informed of the situation they are told they must spend the night in the house. As the butler (Frank Austin) shows them to a darkened bedroom with covers over all the furniture he informs them it was the room in which the body was discovered.
Ollie: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into"
Stan: "What do you mean I got you into?"
Ollie: "Well your name's Laurel isn't it?"
Stan: "Well only on my mother's side".
Already spooked and with their nerves shredded, the last thing Ollie needed was some terrific comic timing by Stan as he pulls the bedsheets over his head just as Ollie turns around. It's simple little gags such as these which made the duo so top-of-the-game at what they did. Brilliant.
As the evening progresses several guests are invited downstairs to answer a supposed telephone call for them, but none of them return to their rooms after their screams break the silence of the night. Disturbed by the commotion Stan and Ollie are on edge, frightened with cats in closets, lampshades which move when tugged and a bat which can open and close windows! There are some exquisit facial reactions from the boys throughout the relatively slow-paced feature, and just watch for an outrageous scene where Ollie gets tangled up in the lampshade and flies across the landing. It's obvious the film was speeded up for these brief few frames, but it definitely adds to the humour.
After having a plastic(!) bat chase them around the house, eventually it's the boys' turn to answer the non-existent phone call. Tired of hearing the screams followed by a loud thud coming from the room downstairs, the detective decides to take matters into his own hands, so investigates, before meeting his end. The butler informs Stan and Ollie that they are wanted on the telephone, and this time Ollie steps up and enters the room confidently to find out what exactly is going on but Stan follows close behind and as Ollie sits down he grabs the phone away from him to reveal the chair is rigged to dump the sitting occupant backwards into the basement. When the boys survive the scare they are confronted by the housekeeper-in-drag (Dell Henderson) armed with a knife. The boys manage to overpower him and as a struggle ensues they wake up on the dock to find that the whole thing was a dream.

Favourite bit
Detective: "Where were you November the fifteenth?"
Stan: "November? [thinks about it] Septober, Octember, Nowonder..."
Fantastic dialogue.

Copyrighted July 16, 1930.
Also filmed in Spanish as Noche De Duendes and in German as Spuk Um Mitternacht and in French as Feu Mon Oncle.
This was the first Laurel and Hardy 3-reel short.
It was in this film that Ollie first uttered his most remembered line, "Well here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."
The colorized edition of this film on VHS contains a 1986 music score orchestrated by Ronnie Hazelhurst. This edition was a part of "The Laurel & Hardy Show" (originally syndicated in black and white in the United States from 1986-88), produced by Michael Agee. A very brief music cue was lifted from The Flying Deuces (the scene where the note from a pal is thrown into the Boys' cell) and used when Stan picks up the telephone receiver, causing Ollie's chair to move in Murder Case. Also, incidental music cues from The Bohemian Girl were used throughout as well. All of these additions are found exclusively on the colorized edition. The organ score during the dock sequence was specifically prepared for Wrong Again, but used in the original 1930 release. Fortunately, these cues exist in all versions today.
In the opening scene, Stan is fishing. He was a keen fisherman in real life.
As Stan sits on the dock, the newspaper beside him is briefly lifted by the wind. This reveals a photograph of a young lady in the headlines on the page.

Stan waves the fishing line above Ollie's head and hooks his hat with it. The hat clearly comes off Ollie's head, but in the close-up edit of the next shot it is still on his head before being yanked away (again). Continuity error.
Just as Stan hooks Ollie's hat into the water the camera shows a wide shot of the boys sitting on the dock. Look on the extreme left of the screen and you can see a man leaning against a bollard with his leg dangling over the side. Also, in the same shot, another man appears to be lying on top of the stacked timber (directly above the second bollard from the left of the screen).

After Stan fishes Ollie's hat out of the water, he hands it to Ollie and it is dry. There is an edit in the film as we go to a close-up of Ollie putting the hat on his head and it is wet.
Stan crumples up the newspaper into a ball, but when it flies into Ollie's face it is perfectly flat.
In the newspaper advert, the sum of money being offered for the inheritence is 3 million dollars. The advert is signed by L.A.H. Among the other adverts, there are job vacancies for a stenographer and a saleslady.
The first line of dialogue comes after 2 minutes 50 seconds: Ollie, "Say, was your father and mother's name Laurel?" That is 10% of the film gone already before anybody speaks!
Ollie asks Stan where he was born. Stan answers that he doesn't know.
When we first see the Laurel mansion, a streak of lightning can be seen in the top-left of the picture. It remains there for exactly 24 frames. This was obviously painted onto the film cell. Also the proportion sizes of the house and its surroundings reveal it to be a model.
As well as Stan and Ollie, there are five relatives who turn up for the reading of the will. The order in which the film reveals them is: Dorothy Granger (powdering her nose), Bobby Burns (looking nervously), Rosa Gore and Lon Poff (sitting anxiously and checking his watch), Art Rowlands (looking suspiciously).
We have to assume that the boys arrive late at the house, given that their arrival comes as a surprise to the detective. Also, the other guests were already assembled in the living room at the time.
Stan shakes hands with the butler, the detective and Ollie whilst at the house. Ollie also shakes hands with the detective.
Well for once, you have to say that Stan is quite selfish when he tells Ollie that the house belongs to him and not them; especially after it was Ollie who discovered the advert in the first place!
Ollie has some unusual dialogue: "Twas ever thus". And later, "Ra, ra, ra. Ra, ra, ra. Sis. Boom. Ra."
The detective refers to the butler as 'Jack'.
When the detective informs the boys they will not be leaving the house until the murder-mystery is solved, Ollie says to him, "Don't you think you're overstepping your bounds? A couple of years later, Ollie would repeat the line to cop Sam Lufkin in The Music Box, when correcting Stan's jumbled dialogue.
As the boys are shown to their bedroom the butler tells them that "this is the room where the old man was murdered." Look on the left of the shoot and you can see a reflection of his hand pointing to the right, reflected on a white sheet by the light of the candle he is holding. In the subsequent shot, he then moves his hand to point. A continuity error.
When Del Henderson comes out dressed in drag and attacks the boys with a knife, as they struggle, the knife hits the table twice and you can clearly see it bend. Rubber knife.
My opinion
Sometimes slow, sometimes funny, this ranks somewhere in the middle when it comes to my favourite Laurel & Hardy short film. It definitely has its moments of sheer greatness but there is also a staleness to the film which makes it drag a little bit too.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Dell Henderson
Fred Kelsey
Chief of detectives
Frank Austin
Jack, the butler
Stanley Blystone
Detective Boyd
Jack Cifford
Bobby Burns
Nervous relative
Rosa Gore
Elderly relative
Lon Poff
Elderly relative
Dorothy Granger
Young relative
Art Rowlands
Theatre-going relative
Tiny Sandford

(click any image to enlarge)

(click any image to enlarge)

Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
"Sadistic Stooge" for the cast photograph
Max Lanzisera (factual information provided)
Brad Farrell (observations)
Jack Clifford (identification of his father in the film)
Robin Cook (information)

This page was last updated on: 15 December 2022