Series: Charley Chase

Director: Charley Chase, Harold Law
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Art Lloyd
Editor: William H. Ziegler
Sound: Warren B. Delaplain

Stars: Charley Chase, Rosina Lawrence, Clarence Wilson, Bonita Weber
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 18 April 1936
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: C-40
Filming dates: mid-late April 1936
Rating: 6/10

On The Wrong Trek

Available on DVD:

A small group of office workers at the Salt Lake Investment Company are keen to learn of their boss Charley's recent vacation in Michigan when he arrives one morning. However, Charley tells them he didn't go to Michigan as planned because his mother-in-law wanted to go to California instead... and "mother knows best!" We are then treated to the back story of what happened. Charley, his wife (Rosina Lawrence) and her mother (Bonita Weber) are driving along the Californian countryside in a convertible when mother gets Charley to pull into a gas station for her to freshen up and for Charley to get some gas. After leaving the gas station they drive past several hitch-hikers along the road. Mother suggests that Charley pick somebody up but Charley refuses.
A little further up the road and a gang of crooks stage an accident. Charley pulls over to help, despite the caution offered by mother. He soon learns that she was right when they are all robbed of their clothes and car. Charley is allowed to continue his journey albeit in the crooks' beaten up car after switching into hobo clothes. A short time later they run out of gas, but as luck would have it they find an elderly couple (Clarence Wilson, May Wallace) by the side of the road enjoying a picnic. Charley asks to borrow some gas and the gentleman, Mr. Wilson, agrees. Charley attempts to extract some gas from under the car but a large rock is in his way. Mother, who always knows best, suggests Charley push the car forward but when he does the car goes over a small cliff and smashes. Charley doesn't even apologise, but rather quickly runs away with his wife and her mother.
On the California-Nevada state line a road block is set up by the police. Charley stops (after first running over Harry Bowen's feet) and is told he cannot proceed and has to turn around; this is after a comical loud shouting match on account of both men trying to talk over the running engine, which even when it is switched off they continue shouting. At night Charley drives into a clearing where a group of hobos are sitting around a campfire listening to a couple of negroes playing tunes. The hobo leader (Harry Bernard) offers to let the threesome stay for a while if they consent to entertain the men. Mother recalls Charley's singing talent and he is urged to perform for the men.
Charley and his wife sing and dance around the campfire to the amusement of the hobos sitting around. The next day Charley is driving along the highway when the car suddenly dies. His only hope of making it back to Salt Lake City is to do the one thing he detests the most: to hitch-hike. The first offer is a truck driver carrying fertilizer. Charley passes. Mother proposes they themselves fake an accident in the hope somebody will take pity on them and so they all lie down in the road pretending to be hurt. Unfortunately for him the police are alerted to a gang of people faking road accidents in the area and are quickly upon Charley and take him into custody. As the flashback ends, we arrive back in the present with the new district manager showing up at Charley's office. It's none other than Mr. Wilson - the guy whose car was wrecked by Charley. He doesn't seem to remember Charley and calls him into his office. Moments later Charley comes crashing out through the door. Apparently, he did remember Charley after all!

Favourite bit
This is funny... Charley asks some random guy if he can borrow some gas. The man obliges and tells Charley to help himself. Charley cannot reach the fuel line under the man's car so pushes it forward so that he can gain access to it. Then the car rolls forward and over a small cliff, smashing it to pieces. Charley doesn't even apologise, but instead just runs off and leaves the man standing there with his wife. It's the absolute cheek of his actions after being afforded such courtesy that I found hilarious!

This was the last two-reel short made in the Charley Chase series for Hal Roach. Chase's next film, Neighborhood House was filmed as a feature but later released as a 2-reel short.
Copyright June 11, 1936.
The version of the film contained on the RHI "Essential Collection" 10-disc set released in 2011 contains a re-issued "Film Classics" title card. The original title card is included in the "Lost Films" DVD print.
Two of the office workers are referred to by their real names: Gertrude (Sutton), and Jack (Egan).
At the gas station there is a sign in the distance which says "Cracked". Also, greasing costs 75 cents.
Charley's car registration is Utah 1936/61-526.
Charley's car has a sign in the windscreen which reads "No riders".
When Charley is talking to mother in the car whilst driving along near the hitch-hikers the acoustics in their voices have an unnatural echo for that kind of environment, meaning that the dialogue was recorded from a confined space (the studio). This proves that the roadside shots behind them was rear-projection.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appear as two road-side hitch-hikers. Their one continuous scene lasts 14 seconds. Also, the speed of the car is far too slow in comparison for the speed Charley is driving at the time. Later, mother remarks "another fine mess you've gotten us into". This is almost a direct reference to Oliver Hardy's often mis-quoted famous line, except for the "fine" part (his line is "another NICE mess"). Hardy appears as one of the hitch-hikers in a previous scene.
The gang consists of Bud Jamison, Harry Wilson, Leo Willis and Bob Kortman.
Charley sings "Let's Make It A Big Day".
The guy Charley swaps his hat with during the song sequence is Dick Gilbert.
Allegedly filmed mid-late April 1936, but the film was released in mid-April 1936 so I don't see how this would have been possible?
My opinion
The film has its great moments, including a surprise couple of cameos, but also has a slow segment (Chase singing with a bunch of hobos) which completely brings the film to a crashing halt.

Charley Chase
Rosina Lawrence
Mrs. Chase
Bonita Weber
Clarence Wilson
Mr. Wilson
Gertrude Sutton
Gertrude, office worker
Frances Morris
Office worker
Jack Egan
Jack, office worker
Pat Lane
Office worker
Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Russell Custer
Sammy Brooks
Short hitchhiker
Bud Jamison
Gang leader
Bob Kortman
Gang member
Harry Wilson
Gang member
Leo Willis
Gang member
May Wallace
Mrs. Wilson
Harry Bernard
Cap Somers
Harry Bowen
Harry, border patrol cop
Charles McAvoy
Highway patrol officer
Bob O'Connor
Highway patrol officer
Dick Gilbert
Charles Sullivan
Tony Campanaro
Complaining hobo at border checkpoint
Lester Dorr
Complaining hobo at border checkpoint
Joe Bordeaux
C.L. Sherwood
Eddie Parker
Highway patrolman
Earl 'Hap' Hogan
Fred Behrle
Hubert Diltz
Jack Hill
Bobby Burns


CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy - The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
The Charley Chase Talkies 1929-1940 by James L. Neibaur (book)
Laurel & Hardy by Leonard Maltin & Richard W. Bann (book)
Hal Roach And The Hal E. Roach Studios by Rob Stone (document)
A History Of The Hal Roach Studios by Richard Lewis Ward (book)
Ed Watz (poster)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Harry Wilson, C.L. Sherwood, Earl 'Hap' Hogan, Fred Behrle, Cap Somers, Joe Bordeaux, Hubert Diltz, Pat Lane, Russell Custer)
Brent Seguine (identification of Pat Lane, Eddie Parker)

This page was last updated on: 19 April 2024