Series: Laurel and Hardy feature

Director: Hal Roach
Producer: Hal Roach
Adaptation: Jeanie MacPherson
Photography: Art Lloyd, Hap Depew
Editor: William Terhune, Bert Jordan
Musical Director: LeRoy Shield
Sound: James Greene

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Dennis King, Thelma Todd, James Finlayson, Lucile Browne
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 05 May 1933
Length: 9 reels
Production No.: F-3
Filming dates: February 4 - March 4, 1933
Rating: 8/10

The Devil's Brother

Available on DVD:

Fra Diavolo (Dennis King), a charming, singing rogue on horseback congregates with his loyal band of followers in the forest under the cover of darkness where he shares with them the story of his latest escapade.
Travelling under the alias of the Marquis de San Marco he rides in a stagecoach with a wealthy couple, Lord and Lady Rocburg (James Finlayson and Thelma Todd).  When his lordship falls asleep to the sound of the Marquis' operatic tones the villain-in-disguise makes his move to woo her ladyship.  After an exchange of flirting she reveals to him that her jewels are hidden inside a fake sponge cake she carries.  Armed with this knowledge, the Marquis conjures up his plan to steal them from her when she is unsuspecting.
In a small Italian town an elderly innkeeper (Henry Armetta) and his beautiful young daughter Zerlina (Lucille Browne) discuss her love for a soldier by the name of Lorenzo as she declares her intent to marry him.  The news does not meet with her father's approval who insists instead she marry the more wealthy Francesco (Matt McHugh) the next day.  When told of the news Lorenzo (Arthur Pierson) vows to capture Fra Diavolo and use the reward money to support her.
Back in the forest and against a breathtaking backdrop of mountains, Stan and Ollie (or Stanlio and Ollio as their characters are called here) travel on horseback before stopping at a clearing.  Ollie suggests that their life savings which Stan is carrying in his saddlebag would be safer in his hands.  Of course, no sooner does Stan hand over the money to his pal they are robbed by a couple of bandits who have seen the exchange take place.
Ollie is devastated until Stan shrugs it off as "oh well come easy, go easy" and then recommends to Ollie that they become bandits in an attempt to recover some money the easy way.  Their first victim is an elderly woodcutter (a well made-up James C. Morton in a wig).  They demand he hand over his money, but the victim plays deaf and dumb and pleads for the boys not to rob him of the precious little money he has.
The ploy works and the bandits take pity on him before the gentleman adds their charitable donations to his ever-growing stash of coins.  Ollie reprimands Stan for his foolishness as the sound of a man singing approaches.  Everyone flees for their lives except the bemused and confused Stanlio and Ollio. 
A burly woodcutter (Tiny Sandford) warns them to take care if they ever cross paths with the feared Fra Diavolo.  Unfazed by this, Ollie boldly pronounces he is Diavolo to the passing, singing stranger.  However, when the boys realise who their stranger really is panic sets in.  Diavolo is upset that he has been embarrassed in such a manner and orders their hanging.  Stan pleads for mercy and it is granted on one condition: that he execute Ollie.
Stan places the noose around Ollie's neck before a making a rather strange confession and asking Ollie; "after you're gone do you want to be buried or shall I have you stuffed?" (just typing that sentence made me crack up!!!)  They say their final farewells but the branch over which Ollie is tied snaps and the hanging fails.  Diavolo has a change of heart and grants them both a reprieve if they will join his gang.
The boys, now accompanying Diavolo, arrive in the village and see there is a handsome reward being offered for the capture of their new master so they conjure up a plan to expose him.  During which time Lord Rocburg has cottoned on to the fact there is a mutual flirtation going on between his wife and the new guest, the mysterious Marquis de San Marco and attempts to set her up.  Stan and Ollie creep into Diavolo's room and ambush him from behind with a sheet over his head (what they don't realise is that it is Rocburg).  Believing they have their man, they take him off to claim the reward before dropping him in the street and abusing him physically.  Stan sees the real Diavolo observing them from the balcony above and the two run off and hide down a well.
After Diavolo deals with the boys' act of betrayal he requests some sleeping powder from the innkeeper so he can render Lady Rocburg unconscious in another attempt to steal her money that night.  Elsewhere Stan entertains himself in a confusing game of kneesie-earsie-nosey.  Ollie, who initally dismisses the game as silly finds himself (along with everybody in the viewing audience) trying it - and failing miserably.  Even the innkeeper gets in on the act when he goes to inform them they are wanted by Diavolo, but he too fails to get it right!Stan and Ollie are ordered to deliver a glass of wine which has been heavily drugged to Lord Rocburg, but when the intended recipient refuses it Stan doesn't let it go to waste.  Diavolo, believing his plan is already in motion summons the boys to explain what to do next, but Stan is already half asleep by then.  As the three of them make their way into the tavern, the innkeeper's daughter Zerlina prepares to go to bed, undressing (what a lovely figure she has too!) as she sings a song before retiring.

Diavolo seizes an opportunity to make his move on the sleeping, unsuspecting Lady Rocburg but this is abandoned when the sound of the marching army returns to the village.
The next morning is the planned wedding and after the groom and reluctant bride are introduced we see Stan engaging in another one of his hilarious solo games: finger-wiggle.  This is interrupted by her ladyship's sudden announcement that she has been robbed.  The devious Diavolo has secretly planted a necklace of hers in Lorenzo's clothing to deliberately divert the suspicion away from himself; Lorenzo vows to clear his name.  After Diavolo entertains the tavern (full of spot-the-face extras) with a song, the boys are required to bottle some vintage wine from the cellar.  As Ollie fills jugs from the barrels he hands them to Stan and he bottles them.  When no bottles remain the only thing to do is to consume what is left.  Meanwhile Lady Rocburg reveals the secret location of her money to the prying Diavolo - in the lining of her many dresses she wears.
Then comes one of the film's highlights as Stan goes into a laughing fit during his drunken state.  Ollie eventually is drawn into it too until Stan begins singing a song he is not supposed to have heard.  This is the clue that gives away their involvement in the theft of the necklace and subsequently leads to their arrest.  Their punishment, along with Diavolo, is the firing squad.  But Stan inadevertantly saves their lives when his last request to blow his nose enrages the bull (seen earlier) as he waves a red handkerchief. Everybody flees and it's a lucky let-off for our boys.

Favourite bit
There are so many wonderful moments in the film that it's hard to pick just one. There's the finger-wiggle, the kneesie-earsie-nosey, and there's the laughing fit - all featuring Stan and all extremely hilarious. But my favourite scene is early on during the attempted hanging of Ollie. Stan's confession that he told Ollie's girlfriend that Ollie was his father is funny enough but then he tops if off with the funniest line in any Laurel and Hardy film. The enquiry into Ollie's prefered burial arrangement is absolutely knock-out.

Copyrighted May 4, 1933.
Both Stan and Ollie both declared this film to be one their favourites.
The film was shot as "Fra Diavolo" but MGM changed the name to "The Devil's Brother" for marketing purposes.
The Warner Home Video DVD includes a full length commentary track from Richard W. Bann and Leonard Maltin.
The part of Zerlina played by Lucile Browne was originally meant to be for Anita Louise.
The film was originally previewd at 127 minutes, which is staggering for a Laurel and Hardy film!
James Finlayson, Thelma Todd and Dennis King all visited London together in the summer of 1933 to promote the film. Rumours of a supposed affair between Todd and King surfaced soon after.
When we first see Rita (Nena Quartero), Diavolo calls her "Dark Eyes".
In the early scene where Dennis King, Thelma Todd and James Finlayson are riding in the carriage there is a clumsy movement with the camera as it pans from King to Finlayson.
The tavern is called "La Taverne del Cucu", an obvious reference to the Laurel and Hardy "cuckoo" song.
Stan and Ollie's first scene, as they ride horseback through the forest, comes after 8 mins 37 seconds.
When Tiny Sandford gives the boys some advice in the forest you can clearly see the decayed gap in the bottom of his mouth where his teeth should be. This was a real-life problem suffered by Sandford which affected his speech and ultimately ended his career as an actor.
In the scene where Thelma Todd is standing beside Finlayson's bed and holding a candle (around 49 mins) it is very obvious that she isn't wearing a bra. Also, the mole on her left breast is clearly visible throughout the film.
When Stan and Ollie collect wine from the cellar, there are barrels from 1645, 1658, 1690, 1693, 1696, 1705, 1728 among others.
The wine which Ollie draws from the barrel to give to Stan is Chateau Lafite 1728.
Harry Bernard has two roles in the film: he is both a bandit and a drunk.
My opinion
One of the funniest (and longest!) of all the Laurel and Hardy features. Sure, it has its slow spots too but ultimately this is Laurel and Hardy at their peak, with excellent gags and a wonderful script.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Dennis King
Marquis de San Marco
Thelma Todd
Lady Pamela Rocburg
James Finlayson
Lord Rocburg
Lucile Browne
Henry Armetta
Tiny Sandford
Big woodchopper
Arthur Pierson
Frank Terry
Wilfred Lucas
Dick Gilbert
Carl Harbaugh
Second woodchopper
James C. Morton
Lane Chandler
Matt McHugh
Nena Quartero
Leo White
Tavern patron
Kay Deslys
Tavern patron
Rolfe Sedan
Tavern patron
Scotty Mattraw
Tavern patron
Alice Belcher
Tavern patron
Grace Woods
Tavern patron
Betty Danko
Tavern patron
Edith Fellows
Francis Ford
Bearded man under table
Harry Bernard
Maiden #1
Maiden #2
Man with the bull

CREDITS (click image to enlarge) CREDITS (click image to enlarge) CREDITS (click image to enlarge) CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Max Lanzisera (Harry Bernard identification and screenshots)
Chris Seguin (Bogus Bandits credits from Aikman DVD)
John Field (restored still, help and assistance)
Irv Hyatt (still)
Richard W. Bann (identification of Scotty Mattraw)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Betty Danko, Grace Woods)

This page was last updated on: 09 May 2023