Series: Laurel and Hardy
Director: Montague Banks
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel
Screenplay: Lou Breslow
Photography: Glen MacWilliams
Editor: Alfred DeGaetano
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sheila Ryan, Dick Nelson, Edmund MacDonald
Company: 20th Century Fox
Released: 10 October 1941
Length: 74 mins
Production No.: 530
Filming dates: July 11-early August 1941
Right from the get-go this film starts on an uncomfortably awkward scene: Stan is cutting the lawn with the smallest pair of scissors, whilst with a huge crow perched on his shoulders. The postman arrives at the mansion to deliver a letter from the draft board, summoning the young master of the house to attend a medical. Ollie is busy fixing their car when Stan calls him. Within the first minute we are subjected to old, embarrassing, worn-out gags such as "shhhh if you must make a noise make it quietly". But as Stan holds the letter in the air, the crow takes it out of his hands and flies off with it. Guilty at having lost such an important document, the boys sheepishly inform their master, but in the nick of time the bird flies in with the letter in its beak and delivers the news much to the delight of the supposedly-ill man.
Against the orders of his doctor and his fussing aunts, Dan Forrester (Dick Nelson) tries desperately to join the army, and after he passes the medical examination he, along with his two loyal servants, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, is on his way. The train carrying the new recruits arrives late at the army camp to what appears at first to be a sympathetic Sergeant Hippo (Edmund MacDonald). The new hopefuls dismount the train and with little time to spare are led away to the mess hall for breakfast. Impatient with not being able to find a place in the queue, Stan takes matters into his own hands and wanders off into the kitchen for a spot of self-service for himself and Ollie, despite the bemused look on the face of the chef!
After engaging in some small chat with their former master, the boys realise their breakfasts are now being consumed by two men who have rudely sat at their table. Again, another recycled gag pops up when Stan complains that he hasn't eaten for three whole days (yesterday, today and tomorrow). I guess if you hadn't heard it before it would be humourous, but even the way the line is delivered sounds very lazy, with no comical edge to it. Everybody is then called outside for a parade inspection in front of the Colonel. Not realising who he is, Stan and Ollie engage in small talk with the high-ranking officer and at one point Ollie even shoves a camera in his hand and requests he take their photograph. Soon afterwards Dan takes the camera to have its film developed at the camp photography shop, where he meets the lovely Ginger Hammond (the 20-year old Sheila Ryan), whom he ultimately falls in love with despite the strong disapproval of his commanding officer, Sergeant Hippo.
Out at a rodeo, Hippo tries to get his own back on the would-be soldier/love rival by saddling him up on a dangerous bronco, but is twice embarrassed when firstly Forrester wows the onlooking crowd of spectators and secondly when Hippo is thrown from the horse after trying to demonstrate the real technique. Laurel's horribly false laugh is rightfully punished by the sergeant as the boys are sent on a mission to exercise the horses. Ollie decides to try and take a nap but quickly changes his mind when he hears what sounds like gunfire. The boys make their way back to camp and hitch a ride on an unusual-looking wagon, which turns out to be a moving target for the firing range being used by the army recruits. Ollie desperately tries to convince the sergeant that they are at war whilst emptying the gunpowder from a dead dart they have found into a fellow soldier's tobacco stash, but again, Hippo finds out the hard way!
The parade inspection takes place in front of the General, which sees the unwelcome return of the crow. In what is probably the only comical routine in the film (see favourite bit below) Stan has to quickly conceal the bird from the eyes of the officials - right down Ollie's pants. This is followed by one of the most cringe-worthy scenes when Dan goes to collect his photographs from the unnecessarily rude Ginger Hammond, who remarks that Stan and Ollie look like "an observation balloon and a fire hydrant". Not funny at all. Back in their barracks, Stan is shaving but having trouble with the lighting, so after a few failed attempts he finally sticks the lightbulb in his mouth and resumes with his shaving when Dan enters, singing merrily and acting odd.
His sleeptalking that night reveals he is falling in love with the photo shop girl which prompts Stan and Ollie to take action and go to her house disguises as two wealthy investors to try and talk her out of any possibility of a relationship with their army pal. She sees through the ploy of course after she remembers they are friends of Dan's from the army camp, having identified them previously in such a rude fashion and orders them to leave. Back at camp Ollie offers to take Dan out to see a movie, but he has already planned a date with Ginger. In a desperate attempt to stop this from happening, the boys resort to pleading with Sergeant Hippo to intervene, which he is only too glad to do. The sergeant grills Dan over his plans and when his back is turned Ollie launches a wet towel at his head. Thinking it was Dan, the sergeant has no option than to escort him away for his insubordination.
All leave is cancelled as the army announces their Division Maneuvers. One team has to build a pontoon bridge in order to attack their ally rivals whilst the other team has to destroy the bridge before it can be completed. Stan and Ollie are placed with the 'white' army and off they drive like a bat out of hell towards their new camp, through bushes, trees and even a minefield. They are detected by an aircraft above, which launches bags of flour on them as they drive through the fields, into the river and right into the awaiting arms of the rival blue army, who take them as their prisoners and put them to work on the bridge. News of their capture reaches camp and Sergeant Hippo gloats to Dan of the situation, who accepts his wager that the boys cannot possibly win now. When the Sergeant lets down his guard, Dan escapes and heads towards the boys on horseback followed in hot pursuit by Hippo. Dan reaches the white army and instructs them to follow Stan's bird, which will lead them straight to its owner and thus exposing the opposing blue team. The plan works and Dan saves the day. During the ceremony Stan and Ollie have been 'promoted' to sanitation duties.
Probably the only stand out scene in the entire movie is when the boys are on an inspection parade. Penelope, the crow, has made it her business to attend the show but she cannot be seen by the General (Paul Harvey), so Ollie tells Stan to hide her somewhere and quick. Of all the places to hide a large bird, Stan chooses to stuff it right down Ollie's pants, resulting in some humourous moments when Hardy and the General come face-to-face!
• This was the first feature film made by Laurel and Hardy after signing with 20th Century Fox.
• According to Ollie, Daniel Forrester is allergic to 108 properties, including candles, cucumbers and quinces. Vinegar and feathers are added to the list soon after by Dr. Schickel, making the list 110.
• The crow's name is Penelope.
• There is a framed picture of a black bird in Stan & Ollie's quarters.
• The number on the side of the jeep Stan and Ollie ride towards their assignment is 23562. Before they drive off, Ollie chalks "V . . . -" on the side. This is the morse code for "victory".
• Given the size and weight of Oliver Hardy how on earth did he manage to pass the health and fitness test to qualify for the army?
• The sanitation truck that Ollie is driving in the last scene has the number 16293 on it.
• When Stan is building the bridge later on in the film, he carries a long plank of wood across the screen in a scene reminiscent of The Finishing Touch (1928).
• Watch when Ollie goes to pick up the oar on the bridge to whack Stan with as he carries the plank. He appears to fumble it twice before he grasps it. This looks like a genuine mistake on Hardy's part.
What the experts say
• "Great Guns hardly seems like a Laurel and Hardy movie at all. The boys don't much resemble their former selves, and their familiar traits have vanished. The boys are no longer charmingly naive; they're exasperatingly stupid." ~ Randy Skretvedt.
• "It is clear to see that this movie was written for the other principal characters and stuffed Stan and Ollie in there somewhere to pad out the running time. They are not the central characters of the storyline and their talents are severely restricted. As an entertaining film it gets by - just, but it simply isn't a good Laurel and Hardy film." ~ Lord Heath.
Dr. Hugo Schickel
Army post cook
Soldier in Photo shop
Recruit at Corral
New recruit in mess hall
New recruit in mess hall
New recruit in mess hall
Blue army soldier capturing Stan & Ollie
Blue army soldier on bridge
Recruit at target practice
|Fred Kohler Jr.
White army captain
War Games umpire
(click any image to enlarge)
|STILLS & PHOTOS
(click any image to enlarge)
www.doctormacro.com (Jerry Murbach - 5 stills, 2 lobby cards)
From The Forties Forward by Scott MacGillivray (book)
Laurel And Hardy - The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Jim Clewer (some screenshots)
Tom Schober (Blu-ray screenshots)
Jack Tillmany (identification of Edward Earle)
John Field (poster)
This page was last updated on: 18 May 2019