Air Raid Wardens
67 minutes

Series: Laurel and Hardy @ MGM
Released: 04 April 1943
Filmed: Dec 1, 1942 - Jan 1943
My rating: 3/10

Director: Edward Sedgwick    Producer: B.F. Zeidman    Story & Screenplay: Martin Rackin, Jack Jevne, Charley Rogers, Harry Crane    Photography: Walter Lundin    Editor: Colton Warburton, Frank Sullivan    Art director: Cedric Gibbons

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Edgar Kennedy, Jacqueline White, Horace McNally, Nella Walker, Donald Meek, Henry O'Neill, Howard Freeman

Plot summary:
The quiet town of Huxton is introduced through a selection of establishments which operate there. We first see the barbers and then some of the town folk before stopping by a bicycle shop, which is run by Laurel and Hardy with a sign on their door stating they are now closed due to them being off to fight the Japs (notice how Hardy crosses out the word "fight" and replaces it with the word "lick".) Unfortunately nobody wants them; the army, the navy and the marines all turn them down flat. Dejected, the boys return to their small town and immediately make themselves unpopular with the bank manager, J.P. Norton (Howard Freeman), who hasn't forgotten their financial burden on the town.
Luckily they are given a break by the editor of the local newspaper (Stephen MacNally) who asks them to put up posters all over town to advertise a town meeting. When the boys return to their cycle shop they find their stock being moved out and a familiar face (Edgar Kennedy) moving in. Ollie confronts him he but finds himself intimidated, which leads to the first exchange of knocks and bumps between them. This is soon interrupted by Mr. Middling (Donald Meek) who walks into the store and claims he has just signed the lease for the premises.
The boys are willing to accept Middling's offer to share the space so he can sell his radios whilst Stan and Ollie can continue to sell their bicycles. This mild-mannered gentleman is later revealed to have more sinister intentions. Out on the street the boys are pasting posters on windows and advertisement boards, getting themselves into mischief and making a proper mess of not only themselves but also managing to splash paste over Mrs. Norton's (wife of bank manager) dress as well.
That night a town meeting is held in the school gymnasium to discuss the war effort. Mr. Madison tells the audience that the recently-built magnesium plant will be of particular interest to the enemy as it is supplying a vital war product. Stan and Ollie arrive late at the meeting with a dog in tow after Stan feeds it popcorn in the street. Ollie tries to disuade the dog from entering the building by throwing a BRICK, expecting it to go fetch it!
Their entrance is far from quiet when Stan walks in squeaking. He is forced to remove his shoes as his disturbance causes considerable distraction for the speaker, Mrs. Norton who later relinquishes the floor to her husband. Stan's attempts to muffle the continued dog's barking by stuffing it head-first down his jacket. The end of the meeting doesn't go down well, unlike most of the audience, who are knocked over by the dog and Ollie.
Stan and Ollie later participate in an exercise to demonstrate the proficiency in air raid wardens skills when they are sent to a fake injury to assist with their 'victim' - none other than a none-too-pleased Mr. Norton. It doesn't take long for this situation to become worse when Stan swings a hanging metal hook and knocks Norton out cold with it by accident. They fix him up the best they can but their victim is jacked up on a dolly then rolled under a dump truck and buried in sand. In the aftermath of the incident Norton decides to give the boys a reprieve. Stan and Ollie collect their issue of uniform from the mess hall which includes supplying Stan with a much-loved whistle. That night he sleeps in bed with it in his mouth whilst wearing a gas mask when a telephone call instructs them to be on alert for a drill.
Soon afterwards the all clear is given by headquarters, but the boys miss this information and assume air raid warden duty and call upon a house with its lights on to ask the occupant to turn them out. The owner is Edgar Kennedy, who refuses to co-operate with the boys. This leads to their second exchange of mild assaults which quickly escalate. They are eventually cornered whilst hiding under bedsheets upstairs and hit over the head with a liquor bottle.
When discovered, it is determined they are drunk, and subsequently thrown out of the voluntary service. Sitting in an alleyway outside their shop looking and feeling dejected, Stan suggests they go to the park and feed the birds but Ollie doesn't feel in the mood. Instead Stan goes into the shop and finds two shady-looking characters before rushing out to inform Ollie.
When they return and hear the two men speaking in German, Ollie suspects they could be spies but he also knows that nobody will believe them in light of their recent misadventures with the townsfolk. When the men frequent a shop next door for cigarettes the boys seize the opportunity to hide in the back of their car in the hope it will lead them to their hideout.
The car is driven to an abandoned building in the country to await further instructions. When nobody is looking Stan and Ollie get out and venture around the back of the building where they find a long ladder (how convenient). They climb up through an open upstairs window whilst the spies are downstairs playing cards. Stan and Ollie spot them and overhear their sinister plans to sabotage the magnesium plant as their leader (Henry O'Neill) arrives with Mr. Middling - now exposed as a Nazi spy.
The boys try to escape via the upstairs window but this becomes impossible when Stan accidentally kicks away the ladder. Fortunately the room they have locked themselves into just happens to have a carrier pigeon so Ollie constructs a note intended for Dan Madison and instructs the pigeon to deliver his message. Unfortunately the bird flies out of the window and back into the house via a downstairs window, alerting the spies who then go upstairs to confront the boys.
Stan is told to shoot an apple from the top of Ollie's head by one of the Nazis (Don Costello) and in the mele they overpower the spy and escape in a scrap car before smashing into a tree as the car begins to disintegrate. Meanwhile the spies have penetrated the magnesium plant and overpower the two guards. The boys make their way on foot to a garage to telephone headquarters to alert them of the situation as all units rush to the scene.
The wardens, led by Madison, apprehend the crooks in the act as Mr. Middling breaks away in the panic. He is recaptured by the boys, who have arrived with Stan on a horse (ok does somebody want to explain where he got it from?) pulling the broken car on a towrope. Ollie is praised for their actions as Stan pulls the last of the Nazi spies tied-up in rope towards the plant.

My favourite bit:
A good solid old school-type Laurel and Hardy scene occurs when the boys confront Edgar Kennedy to put his lights out during a routine drill. He refuses to co-operate and what follows is an exchange of gags reminiscent of their slapstick era. Stan shoves a pipe down Ed's throat, Ollie pushes Ed's head into an electrical socket, flour is thrown, a window is broken, a jigsaw puzzle is wrecked. Good, classic Laurel and Hardy.

My opinion:

Available on DVD:

•This was Edgar Kennedy's first appearance with the boys in 13 years.
•This was the first film Laurel and Hardy made with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer since Block-Heads in 1938.
•Government officials were assigned to monitor the filming of the picture to ensure that the topic of air raid wardens was not taken lightly. They were very particular about a serious issue being used for comical effect during such a sensitive time (WWII).
The opening titles are displayed over an artists' sketch of a silhouetted New York City skyline.
•The town of Huxton has an elevation of 650 feet.
•In the Huxton barbers a shave will cost you 15 cents, a shine 10 cents and a haircut is 35 cents.
•The story begins "a few days ago on December 7th". This was the same date as the Pearl Harbor attack.
•In the opening sequence when we see the town of Huxton two young girls walk down the street past what used to be Laurel and Hardy's Fertilizer store. The girl on the left looks slightly towards the camera at her friend. I have a suspicion this may be Lois Laurel, Stan's daughter. She would have just turned 15 at the time of filming. However, Richard W. Bann claims this is NOT Lois.
•Before Laurel and Hardy got into the bicycle business, their previous attempts to make a living included selling fertilizer and running a pet shop.
•There are several signs in the shop window of the biycle shop:
Burglar alarms / Don't hike, ride a bike / Health is wealth / Locks & keys / Whoever you like, give them a bike / Have vim, keep slim.
•At the beginning when we read the sign on the shop door Ollie crosses out the word "fight" and replaces it with the word "lick". This would suggest the sign was posted on the outside of the door rather than on the inside. Odd?
•When Ollie is pasting the back of the poster on the ground, why does he then walk around to Stan's side of the board to stick his poster up? That doesn't make sense.
•The opening times at the bank are 9:30am - 3pm weekdays and 9:30am - noon on Saturday.
•When Stan and Ollie arrive late for the town meeting their entrance is reminiscent of that in Sons Of The Desert.
•When Mr. Norton is knocked out by the metal hook in the garage he falls to the ground and has his right arm tucked underneath his stomach. In the next shot as the boys walk over to him his right arm is outstretched.
•The scene where Stan empties the contents of a dump truck full of sand over Ollie is a re-working of the same gag from Block-Heads.
•Stan sleeps with the light on and whilst wearing his socks in bed. In this scene the alarm clock on the bedside cabinet says 9:30pm, but in the next scene (in the school gymnasium) the clock on the wall says 8:30pm - a continuity error.
•The door number to Edgar Kennedy's house is 3867.
•There is a weighing machine outside the boys' store on the sidewalk, to the left.
•The abandoned building where the spies are hiding out is called the Moonbeam Inn.
•The license plate of the spies' car is 8M 28 31. Ollie is the first to climb into its trunk and Stan is the first to climb out of it later on.
•How the boys managed to open the trunk of the getaway car from the inside is baffling?
•There are 19 rungs on the ladder which the boys use to climb into the window at the spies hideout.
•After Stan shoots the apple from Ollie's head you can see the string on the apple as it is mounted to the Hitler portrait.
•Stan and Ollie arrive at the hideout in the trunk of the spies' car. When they escape they just happen to find a car with the keys in the ignition which works?
•At 57:47 into the film, Ollie crashes the car into the tree. Does he say what I think he says?

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Edgar Kennedy
Joe Bledsoe
Jacqueline White
Peggy Parker
Stephen McNally
Dan Madison
Nella Walker
Millicent Norton
Don Costello
Donald Meek
Eustace Middling
Philip Van Zandt
Henry O'Neill
Howard Freeman
J.P. Norton
Russell Hicks
Major Scanlon
Frederick Worlock
William Tannen
Bobby Burns
Townsman in gymnasium
Paul Stanton
Captain Biddle, High School principal
Robert Emmett O'Connor
Charlie Beaugart, barber
Charles Coleman
Norton's butler
Jules Cowles
Barbershop patron
Bert Moorhouse
Air raid warden recruit
Joe Yule
Air raid warden recruit
Constance Purdy
Disturbed sleeper
Howard M. Mitchell
Policeman at 5th & Elm
Bess Flowers
Townswoman at town meeting
Chet Brandenburg
Townsman at meeting







Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Bess Flowers)
Jerry Murbach (stills)

This page was last updated on: 14 January 2021