Series: Laurel and Hardy

Director: Leo McCarey
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: George Stevens
Editor: Richard C. Currier, Morrie Lightfoot

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 26 January 1929
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: L-16
Filming dates: October 1-17, 1928; retakes November 13-19, 1928
Rating: 8/10


Available on DVD:

Stan and Ollie have escaped from jail and are being pursued by shotgun-wielding officer Tom Kennedy as they all run down the middle of the road. The boys take a detour through some woods and climb into the back of a waiting getaway car. Frustrated at having lost his prisoners, the policeman stamps his rifle on the floor sending a shot up into the air and bringing down a branch of leaves on his head. Stan and Ollie discard their prison attire in the back of the car as they change into their civilian clothes but in their panic they put on each others trousers by mistake. A mistake they spend the rest of the film trying to rectify.
The gang drop them off by the side of the road as their car continues to be chased by a cop on a motorcycle. Having evaded recapture, the boys look for a place to change their clothing once more but are constantly thwarted in their attempts by a series of obstacles or inconveniences. The most obvious one being when they stop off in a back alley behind a crate of fish and Stan accidentally (and unknowingly) drops a live crab into his trousers. Walking down the street he suddenly realises something is not quite right and starts to get fidgety. At random moments he makes quirky movements, including shoving Ollie into a stack of records which have just been placed outside a music store by proprietor James Finlayson. Eager to explain to him that is was an accident, the three of them start to clear up the mess on the sidewalk before another pinching attack from Mr. Crab causes Stan to cause even more destruction. Strangely on this occasion, Finlayson keeps relatively calm about it all!
Stan and Ollie then find themselves on a building site and again resume their quest to swap trousers. They inadvertently end up on the top of the under-construction skyscraper when Ollie knocks a lever in the lift, sending it back down leaving them stranded on top of the girders. Balancing on the steel girders they do manage to exchange their clothes, but of course this time Ollie inherits the crab from the trousers Stan was wearing.
The rest of the film focuses primarily on their struggle to balance on top of the awkward and narrow platforms 250 feet above the ground. Ollie can see that Stan is afraid of the height and extends his leg for him to grab his shoe, but that soon gets torn off and dropped onto the ground far below, narrowly missing the pursuing patrol cop. Not withstanding the lost shoe, Ollie offers the outstretched sock which once fitted the missing shoe only to see that torn off and dropped as well. The backdrop to all of this action is a lovely panoramic view of Los Angeles, one of the most picturesque Laurel and Hardy films (thank you George Stevens).
Ollie finally realises the crab and discards it, but it later comes back to bite him on the toes. Stan spends a while balancing on a ladder with only a rope to break his fall, whilst Ollie tries to help out. But if that wasn't hair-raising enough of an experience for him Stan goes one better (or worse) by performing a stunt which would have put former comedy partner Larry Semon to shame: swinging aimlessly around in mid-air on the girder. Just to watch that scene is incredible. They do eventually get back to the ground the same way they got up - in the lift. Unfortunately the cop is standing in the wrong place in the wrong time!

Favourite bit
One of the most breathtaking and visually magnificent scenes in all of their work was the incredible bravery and stunt work of Stan Laurel as he is dangling in mid-air on the girder. 100% admiration.

Copyrighted January 28, 1929.
Released with a synchronized soundtrack.
This film came about after the editing of their previous film We Faw Down. There was so much left-over footage from it that Stan incorporated the cut scenes into Liberty as a new film.
Per the RCA Victor archives, the master disc (MVE-51725) for reel one of Unaccustomed As We Are has this noted in the ledger: "Record MVE-49037 'Liberty' used at beginning of reel no. 1." While watching both films (and presuming whoever mastered them used the original sound), it is clear that the intro music for Liberty has indeed been dubbed onto the soundtrack for Unaccustomed As We Are though it does seem to be either sped up for the latter or slowed down for the former.
The alleyway where the boys first try to change their trousers is located at 3896 Main Street, Culver City, Los Angeles, California. This location has been used several times in L&H films, including We Faw Down.
During filming Stan became afraid of the set so in an effort to reassure his pal of the safety, Ollie offered to jump onto the wooden platform which was just out of sight of the camera. Unfortunately he went straight through it and fell twenty feet before being saved by a safety net which had been erected as a back-up.
Although Leo McCarey is officially credited as the director, Lloyd French and James Horne also had a hand in the duty when they shot extensive re-takes.
The makeshift construction site was erected on the roof of the Western Costume building on South Broadway, Los Angeles, which was 150 feet high and raised by three stories to accommodate the shoot.
The entire first minute of the film is made up of credits and title cards. See here.
The name on the side of the fish crate reads "Palace Fish & Oyster Company Wholesale And Retail, Seattle, Washington."
When Stan starts to descend the ladder and then falls backwards watch the girder wobble.
Stan loses his hat whilst precariously pivoting on the ladder. Ollie loses his hat exactly fourteen seconds later as he offers it for Stan to grab to stop him from falling.
When Stan is balancing on the ladder Ollie quickly looks to the sky and says a prayer.
Ollie loses his left shoe and sock.
Ollie drops the crab off the side of the building at the same time Stan takes a swinging trip on the girder.
My opinion
The final reel of the film milks the boys bravery as they fumble around the dangerous setting, both trying to outdo one another with their stuntwork (Stan gets the award for clasping for dear life on a swinging piece of the structure.) Visually it is stunning and provides more than a few gasps for the viewer. It is otherwise an impeccable twenty minutes of solid entertaining comedy. Most fans would probably regard this as one the boys' top five silent films. I personally think it ranks up there even when compared with some of the best sound shorts! It's a great example of how to make a film that doesn't require any dialogue.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Record store proprietor
Harry Bernard
Sea food worker
Chet Brandenburg
Cab driver
Jean Harlow
Potential cab passenger
Sam Lufkin
Getaway car passenger
Jack Hill
Tom Kennedy
Prison officer
Jack Raymond
Getaway driver


CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book) (Jerry Murbach, 4 stills)
Steve Wright (information regarding sound discs)

This page was last updated on: 23 March 2023