Series: Laurel and Hardy

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

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, June Marlowe, Wilfred Lucas, James Finlayson, Walter Long, Tiny Sandford
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 15 August 1931
Length: 6 reels
Production No.: F-1
Filming dates: June 24 - November 17, 1930 [see below]
Rating: 6/10

Pardon Us

Available on DVD:

See also Los Presidiarios and Hinter Schloss Und Riegel and Sous Les Verrous and Muraglie

It's Prohibition. Stan and Ollie stop by at a store to buy ingredients for making liquor. Unfortunately for them they sell their product to the wrong customer - an off-duty policeman and end up in jail on account. At the booking desk they are asked to provide their names for the record. It has already been established that Stan has a loose tooth, which causes a buzzing sound when he speaks, so Ollie warns him to take caution when addressing the officer:
Desk sergeant: "What's your name?"
Stan: "Stanley Laurel"
Desk sergeant: "Say 'sir' when you're addressing me. Now what's your name?"
Stan: "Sir Stanley Laurel"
After prison guard Shields (TINY SANDFORD) frisks them Ollie surrenders a pocket watch (which he later tries to take back but is later caught because of its alarm) and Stan loses a handful of bottle tops and a can opener. After being booked in, they are taken for their mugshots and then for a bath, where they are observed by the guard. Ollie slips on a bar of soap and falls into the tub. Ollie angrily throws a wet towel at Stan, but he ducks and Shields gets it right in the face!
Next on the list of things to do is a formal introduction with the warden (WILFRED LUCAS). He lays out the procedures for the boys and promises them an easy life if they obey the rules. Stan's acknowledgement gets them both into trouble when his buzzing tooth plays up again. The angry warden orders the men to be thrown into a cell with the prison's most notorious criminal, The Tiger (WALTER LONG). The Tiger starts out by being friendly with Stan with a pleasant 'hello' (well, he does add 'squirt' afterwards, but still...). When Stan tries to return the compliment he lets out a raspberry from his tooth. His 'bravery' is applauded by the Tiger, so Ollie tries to cash in, but gets a smack for his troubles. Fortunately a passing guard (SILAS WILCOX) ends their misery when he orders the cellmates to go to sleep.
Ollie takes the bunk directly above The Tiger, and Stan has to share. Almost three minutes later they eventually end up collapsing the entire bed and come crashing down on the two cellmates beneath them.
The next morning and the boys are in the classroom with a host of other prisoners. The teacher is JAMES FINLAYSON and after the formalities (and brief song) are over he instructs his class to sit down by banging his stick twice. Everybody except Stan and Ollie sit down. Two more whacks on the stick and they finally sit down - but the others all stand up again. This goes on for awhile until an officer (FRANK HOLLIDAY) enters the room.
Fin restores order, with roll call and an intelligence test which includes the spelling of the word "needle" and to identify a comet with a tail on it. "Rin Tin Tin" quips Stan, referring to the famous dog. A classroom bully (LEO WILLIS) is caught using a catapult in class and as punishment Ollie loads a cotton ball with ink and fires it at him. But it misses and hits the teacher instead and results in the boys being sent to the hole. Whilst in the isolation of side-by-side cells, Ollie tells Stan that he can see a future where he plants watermelons and returns to the farm. Stan questions him by saying that he can't see anything on account of it being dark in his cell.
The next day out in the yard, the Tiger along with three of his pals are talking of escape when Stan and Ollie are let out of solitary confinement and are accosted with false friendship by the men. During a commotion Stan and Ollie escape from the jail and are hunted by the guards with bloodhounds. The boys have taken refuge among cotton pickers in a field, disguised in blackface in order to blend in with the negros. They even somehow manage to use the bloodhounds to their advantage by taking them and befriending them. Later that evening the negros provide backing harmony as Ollie breaks out in song with a rendition of "Lazy Moon". Stan is encouraged to dance to the song until he trips and falls into a water hole, exposing his natural white face.  Fortunately Ollie rescues him before any of the group notice.
The next day the boys are picking cotton in the fields (well, that is to say Ollie is picking cotton, whilst Stan is uprooting the whole plants and shoving them into his bag!) when as (bad) luck would have it the warden's car breaks down right outside the field. His daughter (JUNE MARLOWE) asks the boys for their assistance and they oblige. Ollie gets under the car to check the problem when one of the dogs comes and licks half the paint off his face, exposing him. Luckily Stan returns the favour and covers him up before the warden sees. The warden thanks them and is just about to be on his way when Stan's "goodbye" followed by his buzzing tooth give their identities away.
The boys are recaptured and taken back to jail, where they mingle among a crowd of singing cons. Stan opens his mouth again at the wrong moment and guard SAM LUFKIN sends him off to the prison dentist to get the tooth pulled out once and for all. Ollie sneaks into the waiting room to offer comfort and support to Stan, but Stan's fears are worsened when a couple of guys before him scream out in pain from the dentists' chair next door [see favourite bit].
It's Stan's turn and he asks for Ollie to accompany him. Ollie tries to comfort Stan by telling him to relax and that there is nothing to worry about. At that moment the dentist (OTTO FRIES) emerges from the back and without hesitation yanks out Ollie's tooth... before realising his error and removes Stan's.
The Tiger and his gang are still plotting an escape and have sent Stan and Ollie to listen in on the warden's instructions to his guards. When confronted by the guard, the boys tell him they are now on a hunger strike, though this is short-lived when a promise of a roast turkey and all the trimmings is made. Like gullible fools, the boys believe the guard and head off for the mess hall where a plot is underway to take the prison seige with the Tiger in charge of distributing firearms among the cons.
When Stan is handed a machine gun he panics and fires off some rounds, which starts a riot. Prisoners break free from the mess hall and launch an attack against the guards. All is going well until the Tiger pulls Stan and Ollie into the cell block and threatens to stab them for their betrayal. The boys hide in their cell and manage to knock the Tiger out when Stan opens the cell door into his face. Enraged, the Tiger comes after Stan with the knife but Stan accidentally pokes him in the eye and escapes him.
In the staff quarters a fire has broken out on the top floor, where the warden's daughter is screaming for help. Stan and Ollie rush to her rescue, using a firehose, a ladder and a safety net to catch her and among the commotion they also manage to difuse the riot! The warden thanks them for their bravery and gives them a full pardon for their bravery. But Stan has the last word....

Favourite bit
Stan is awaiting his turn to be called in to see the dentist but his fear gets the better of him. Ollie tries to comfort him by saying, "Don't think about it". This is followed by screaming, banging, tables rattling and just a general violence of rage, pain and thunderous noise coming from the other side of the wall. Then, the patient is wheeled out of the room upside-down on a trolley. Stan is next in....

Copyrighted September 10, 1931.
UK title: Jailbirds.
Also filmed in Spanish as Los Presidiarios (reissued as De bote en bote), in French as Sous les verrous, in Italian as Muraglie and in German as Hinter Schloss und Riegel.  The foreign versions were productions L-35-S-I-G, and filmed August 13 - September 12, 1930.
An extended version of the film is available on DVD.  Although it's always great to see the boys in previously unseen footage anywhere, the extra scenes in this film do not help the pace or plot much.  One such scene involves quitting time on a plantation site, followed by a brief song by the plantation workers.  Another scene absent from the theatrical version of the film is the rescuing of the warden's daughter (Marlowe) from a prison fire, which has been started deliberately.  This act of heroism ultimately leads to their pardons.
The predominantly all-male cast list is made up from a comparatively who's who.  A lot of supporting stars from the boys' solo careers as well as some of the more popular names are here.  It is in my opinion the greatest L&H castlist ensemble in any film they made.
Ever wondered just how many times Stan Laurel's tooth "buzzes" in the entire film?  Me too.
(the times noted on the DVD are according to the RHI Collection print "extended edition")
1. (to Ollie) Twelve cakes of yeast (pphhhtttt) [1:41]
2. (repeats to Ollie) Twelve cakes of yeast (pphhhtttt) [1:48]
3. (to Ollie) But we can't drink fifteen gallons (pphhhtttt) [2:29]
4. (to Ollie) What do you mean I got you into? (pphhhtttt) [3:41]
5. (to Ollie) I didn't know he was a policeman; I thought he was a streetcar conductor (pphhhtttt) [3:56]
6. (to the desk sergeant) Sir Stanley Laurel (pphhhtttt) [4:28]
7. (to the warden) Yes, sir (pphhhtttt) [10:07]
8. (to The Tiger) Hello (pphhhtttt) [11:40]
9. (to The Tiger after he says Hello a second time) Hello (pphhhtttt) [12:36]
10. (to The Tiger) Thankyou (pphhhtttt) [13:51]
11. (to the warden) Goodbye (pphhhtttt) [42:31]
12. (to guard Sam Lufkin) It sure was (pphhhtttt) [46:19]
13. (to the dentist's assistant) Yes sir (pphhhtttt) [50:00]
14. (to Ollie) Not a bit (pphhhtttt) [52:22]
15. (to the warden) Can we take your order for a couple of cases? (pphhhtttt) [70:12]

The store in the opening scene has a sign on the front (in reverse) which says "Malt And Hops".  Seems strange that the obvious ingredients needed for making liquor would be so blatantly advertised during Prohibition.  That's kind of like saying bullfighting is illegal yet my store sells red flags!
The ingredients for making the liquor on Ollie's list is: 12lbs of sugar, 3 cans of malt, 12 cakes of yeast, one dozen packages of hops and three crux.  For $8.06 they can make 15 gallons.
The pocket watch that Ollie gives up during the frisking reads 20 minutes after 2.
The prisoner numbers given to the boys are 44633 (Hardy) and 44634 (Laurel).
When Tiny Sandford escorts Stan and Ollie into the warden's office, watch him point to the floor to instruct Stan on where to stand.
The Tiger's cell (and later Stan and Ollie's) is cell #14.
Talking of 14, there are fourteen steps up from the ground floor to the first level on the cellblock.
Walter Long's prison number is 31752.  Now how about THIS for fate: Walter Long died on 4 July 1952, some twenty-one years after the film was released - BUT Look at the numbers in his ID - they spell out the date of his death: The first two numbers are 3 and 1.  Add these together and you get 4 (he died on the 4th day of the month), then we have 7 (July is the 7th month of the year), and the last two numbers are 52 - the year of his death.  Spooky!
The prison number issued to Stan Laurel (44634) is the same number given to James Finlayson in the Charley Chase film, "Dollar Dizzy" (1930).
When Stan and Ollie enter their new cell (with The Tiger) the man whose head Ollie accidentally sits on is Leo Willis.  I think Bob Kortman is one of the other cellmates.
The handshake between Stan and Walter Long lasts seven seconds before the camera cuts away.
There are twenty prisoners in the classroom scene, in five sets of two, separated by an aisle.
They line up as follows:
Back row: unknown & Charles Dorety / unknown / unknown
4th row: unknown & Bobby Burns / Baldwin Cooke & unknown
3rd row: Bob Kortman & Will Stanton / unknown / unknown
2nd row: unknown & Charley Rogers / Eddie Dunn & Jerry Mandy
Front row:  Leo Willis & Walter Long / Oliver Hardy & Stan Laurel
Desk: James Finlayson.
The writing on the blackboard at the start of class:
Have - haven't
Bread - dough
Much - more
Gone - done
Why - because
The intelligence test given by teacher Finlayson is as follows:
Who was Columbus?  (The Mayor of Ohio)
What did he do?  (He died)
Who killed him?  (Cock Robin)
When Fin begins the class the theme song from Our Gang can be heard.  This would have been a reference to Miss Marlowe and the schoolchildren from that series.
When the two delivery men enter the yard carrying boxes (just as the Tiger is talking of escape), one of the men is Charlie Hall carrying a crate of beans.  He is later seen in the dentists scene as an assistant.
According to the wanted poster, Stan and Ollie escaped from jail on January 14th (which was Hal Roach's birthday).  A reward of $500 is offered for their recapture.
Eddie Baker has a very brief appearance as the plantation boss who rides up on horseback, blows his whistle and says "call it a day".  In the long shot before his one line you can see he is smoking a pipe, with a puff of smoke coming from his mouth.
The dog seen on the farm is none other than Laughing Gravy.
The license plate on the warden's vehicle is 27-67-78.
When June Marlowe is sitting in the car on her own and tells her dad they are out of gas, there is a fly on the dress of her left shoulder.
Ollie's "negro" name is Sambo.
After the warden hands Ollie his card at the cotton field just after his car starts up watch Ollie throw it away onto the ground.
When the boys are recaptured and we see the prisoners marching out into the yard look out for producer Hal Roach and director James Parrott as two of the marching cons.  They are just in front of Stan and Ollie.
The guys in the dentist's waiting room are Frank Austin (left), Charlie Hall (centre) and Bobby Burns (right).
After Stan 'drops' Ollie onto his head from the cell block during the riot, Hardy's head makes a crack in the cement.  However, in the next shot there is a hole but no cracks around it.  You have to be very fast and use a freeze-frame technique to see this.
Filming dates
• June 24 - July 22, 1930, with added scenes August 6-11, and August 14, 1930.  Retakes September 2-8, 1930.  Randy Skretvedt adds September 2, with added scenes shot October 7-14, 16th, 30th and November 1st, 7th-9th and 17th.
DVD comparisons (by Steve Phillips)
A comparison to see if Kirch's reconstruction of the release version of "Pardon Us" is accurate.
I've compared a copy of the as-released version of "Pardon Us" (courtesy of the Film Classic's print on the Universal Netherlands set) against Kirch Group's reconstruction of same (as on one of the German set of disks from Kino).
The Film Classics copy (henceforth "FC") is rather battered and there are many missing frames and jumps. So I've tended to ignore differences of less than about one second in the notes below. Differences of this magnitude may be bona fide differences, or may just be a well-worn print, so I stick to differences bigger than this. I also am not going to bother with soundtrack-only differences relating to the inclusion of snippets of modern Beau Hunk's music in the Kirch reconstruction (henceforth "Kirch").
-FC has "modern" (C) CCA-Eastern Hemisphere MCMLXXI card, then full Film Classics titles. Kirch has the released titles.
-In Kirch, the cross-fade from governor's office to the guards coming out with dogs joins the second (outgoing) shot about 2 secs late compared to FC (we don't see the doors open in Kirch). (The office scene went on longer in the early version of "Pardon Us" found by Michael Agee - which Kirch mainly uses as its source - and so Kirch have reconstructed the cross-fade themselves.)
-During the early bits of the cotton-farm sequence, the relation between the two versions gets a bit looser than usual, with some cuts being about a second out either way, early or late. But no whole shots are different.
-(Note: Kirch contains the correct use of an alternative shot unique to the release version when the governor tries to start his car (a CU of him). So a tick for that!)
-When prisoners are marching out into the courtyard (after L&H are recaptured when fixing the governor's car), Kirch uses an alternate shot of the men marching in the courtyard (the second such shot, directly after the indoor shot). This is right after a reel change, so it may have something to do with damage at this point. The other various versions of the film (other than the two we are looking at here) also often differ in these shots.
-On Kirch, the soundtrack of "Down On The Farm" jumps early on and becomes out of sync with what's on screen. Later in the song, this version then loses 5 secs of *visual* material (of the group singing, not of L&H) to bring things back on course. The FC version is fine and includes the missing 5 secs.
-In the dentist scene, an initial shot of Ollie opening the door, and the subsequent CU of Stan, are missing in Kirch but included on FC. Time = about 5 secs.
-(Note: Kirch contains the correct use of an alternative shot unique to the release version of a CU of Jack Barty. So a tick for that!)
-Walter Long's line, "We got it all worked out," is present in FC but not Kirch (3 secs). Kirch has done their own fade to black (looks very "video") at this point.
-When we first see L&H listening outside the governor's office, Kirch has the wrong soundtrack (the line about "living lucifer"). The correct dialogue (as per FC) is, "Put your listeners on, watch every move."
-Kirch also has end of the Governor's rant ("They're going to get it,") on the soundtrack when it shouldn't be there (it's only part of the extended version). Kirch should also have a longer shot of Tiny Sandford and the guards leaving the office. Despite this mess, the whole sequence runs the same length in both versions.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Prison teacher
Wilfred Lucas
June Marlowe
Warden's daughter
Walter Long
The Tiger
Tiny Sandford
Prison guard Shields
[as Stanley J. Sanford]
Charley Rogers
Bob Kortman
Bobby Burns
Convict/Dental patient

Charlie Hall
Dental assiatant/Delivery man
Eddie Baker
Plantation boss
Frank Austin
Convict with toothache
Frank Holliday
Prison guard in classroom
Gordon Douglas
O'Reese Corporal
Negro singer
Harry Bernard
Desk sergeant
Leo Willis
Otto Fries
Sam Lufkin
Prison guard
Silas D. Wilcox
Prison guard
Baldwin Cooke
Eddie Dunn
Dick Gilbert
Charles Dorety
Jack Herrick
Jerry Mandy
Convict who can't add
William J. O'Brien
Prison guard
Joe Forte
Prison guard
James Parrott
Hal Roach
Will Stanton
Bob Minford
Prison cafeteria server
Jack Hill
Earl 'Hap' Hogan
Fred Behrle
Laughing Gravy
Chester Bachman
Gene Morgan
Harry Thomas
Blackie Whiteford
Sailor Vincent
Guido Trento
Amos & Andy


CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Jerry Murbach (hi resolution stills)
Rick Greee (lobby cards and posters)
John Field (restored poster)
Steve Phillips (DVD comparisons)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Bobby Dunn, Fred Behrle, Earl 'Hap' Hogan)
Richard W. Bann (identification of Joe Forte)

This page was last updated on: 18 August 2023