|LORD'S MOST IRRITATING "THINGS" FROM THE HAL ROACH FILMS
... in my opinion!
~Lord Heath, September 21, 2014 -- updated May 29, 2016
Everybody writes all the time about how "great" Laurel & Hardy are, and let's have it right...
Laurel & Hardy were great! No argument there. But you know what, sometimes a little bit of objectionable opinion makes for interesting reading; so long as it's done in good taste and without being downright nasty just for the sake of attention. The outspoken Lord Heath has never made any secret of his feelings with regards to some of the things on this list, and also realises that his opinions are in the minority... but even so... you may, or you may not agree with them!
I guess most of us don't mind the occassional pop-shot at Stan and Babe from authority figures, wives, judges, policemen, convicts or even auctioneers, but there are occasions when their treatment by inferior beings whose characters we despise (maybe a bit of a harsh description!) can anger us. Well, they anger ME at least....
It is important to stress that with the exception of No. 1, all references to actors or actresses are in relation to their on-screen character - and not meant to represent my personal feelings towards their real-life personalities!
|Entry suggested by Chris Seguin:
Laurel and Hardy with the fake food in Saps At Sea
- Well, at least one person would "rather watch them struggle in an upper berth than gagging through a "sympathetic" meal in Saps At Sea". The irony is that this is the only scene in the otherwise uninspiring final L&H/Roach collaboration that I thought was even remotely funny, and have nominated it as my favourite bit! Just goes to show you how different people see different things... and I'm not easily entertained! Strange choice for this list, but I am happy to include it for the sake of discussion among those who have their own opinions!
|Entry suggested by Douglas Berryhill:
Harry Langdon (the character he plays in The Head Guy)
- Poor Harry Langdon... this is his first of two unfortunate entries on this list! After being rejected by Nancy, he sits and blubbers in his chair, contemplating suicide and causing the rest of us to cringe with embarrassment. 3 minutes and 40 bloody seconds of it without any cuts.
"I'll die like I've never died before" he says. So get on with it then, I says. Do us all a favor.
|Entry suggested by Alessandro Simonetto:
Berth Marks (6 minutes that feels like 60)
- One of the most painfully slow, dull and tediously boring scenes ever shot by Laurel and Hardy is the berth scene in their second "sound" short, Berth Marks. Now, to give them the benefit of the doubt and cut them just a little bit of slack here, this was an experimental project with the advent of sound coming in, but six long minutes of two men trying to undress in a cramped enviornment may sound like a humorous gag, but trust me, it's as unfunny as a chocolate carrot.
|No. 14 'Lady Violet Ormsby' (the character played by Anne Grey in Bonnie Scotland)
- This control-freak has got to be one of the most unlikeable people ever to show its face in a Laurel & Hardy film. She manipulates, controls and obsesses over Lorna MacLaurel's love affair with Allan Douglas, so much so that she conceals, steals and hides all of his letters from her. What a bitch! Mind you, given that these three characters hog up half the movie with their pathetic, boring and long-winded rubbishness, it isn't too difficult to find fault with any of them! Oh, and seriously... how big is that bow-tie?
|No. 13 David Sharpe (actor/stuntman)
- It would be unfair of me to lay too much criticism at the feet of this man because he is so obviously talented. But for f*cks sake man, do you really need to bounce all over the screen EVERY SINGLE TIME you are in a film? Okay, we get it, you are athletic, you are fit, you are young and able (and your missus was quite a sort too) but it's like every time I see a film with David Sharpe in it, I am just waiting for him to start showing off. Stick to the circus and keep it out of the films.... please!
|No. 12 The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case... in The Midnight Patrol
- Quite a picky entry in this top ten, I admit, but I know a lot of fans of Laurel & Hardy do not approve of this film's final scene. It could be a simple case of taking things just a little bit too seriously - or, it could be they have a valid argument! It has been argued that the last scene of the film is in bad taste; an over-reaction; or just plain unnecessary.
It is supposedly the Boys' first day on the job, as policemen working a night shift when they are alerted to a break-in at a house. They do their job and investigate and later apprehend the culprit as instructed, and as per their duty.
Do they get a pat on the back, or do they receive a reprimand? No, they end up getting shot dead (off-screen) by the police chief, Frank Brownlee. Well, that's gratitude for ya! Totally over-the-top, an abuse of power and illegal response.. in short, it is murder. Plain and simple.
|No. 11 'Professor McCrackle' (the character played by Harry Langdon in Zenobia)
- This guy takes the absolute cake for the "ungrateful b*stard" award. He seeks the help of Oliver Hardy's 'Dr. Tibbett' when his elephant gets sick, and then has the audacity to take him to court afterwards for the alienation of the animal's affections? Now that is cheek!
I got news for you, pal: nobody likes you. We all know why you were in the film in the first place, but let's face it - you are NOT Stan Laurel. You're not funny, either!
|No. 10 The solo films of Stan Laurel
- Stan Laurel may have been an accomplished comedian by the time he was teamed with Oliver Hardy at Roach, but it took a whole lot of mediocrity to get there!
Starting in 1923, Stan made a series of 1 and 2 reel "comedies" for Hal Roach, and you would have thought that after churning out over 30 of them (not to mention the couple of dozen he made with Joe Rock) that at least ONE of them would be funny?!
|No. 9 County Hospital's rear-projection finale
- Oh dear, oh dear, oh DEAR... this is bad. Stan is doped up to the gills after visiting Ollie in hospital and then tries to drive them home along a busy street full of vehicles and streetcars. The budget restrictions imposed at the Hal Roach Studios in 1932 (thanks to Henry Ginsberg) meant the Boys had to be content with the worst rear-projected backdrop ever put on film. My dear, this is so unconvincing, embarrassing and just so bad!
The whole sequence lasts exactly 2 minutes and 3 seconds. It's a poor end to an otherwise brilliant film. Still, this is nothing compared to the next example on this list...
|No. 8 Be Big! and the never-ending "boot sequence"
- Well we all know that Stan and Ollie aren't the brightest chaps in the universe, but even so HOW LONG does it take for them to get this right?
13 minutes and 22 seconds. For god's sake! That is over a whole REEL of footage just to get one bloody boot on/off. It's absolutely ridiculous!
|No. 7 'Mr. Gilbert' (the character played by Billy Gilbert in Block-Heads)
- Billy Gilbert is one of those supporting actors who is either very enjoyable or very annoying to watch (or listen to!) His brief appearance in this film is uncomfortable to enjoy after his initial introduction. He is a hunter back from an African expedition and as he approaches his apartment, he sees his wife in the hallway with neighbour Ollie.
Mrs. Gilbert (the beautiful Patricia Ellis) greets her husband warmly and tries to introduce Hardy to him. Billy's reaction is unnecessarily rude and mute.
He refers to Ollie as a "snake" after jumping to the wrong conclusions, and whilst we are at it, he is some 21½ years older than his on-screen wife. What's with that?
|No. 6 Richard Cramer (the characters he plays on-screen)
- Richard Cramer is a big bully in most of the films he appears in opposite Laurel & Hardy: the unsympathetic judge in "Scram!", the domestical-abusive slob in "Pack Up Your Troubles", and the escaped convict who holds the Boys captive on their own boat in "Saps At Sea". His characters are always despised; there is no love for him whatsoever. Most of the time he is just plain nasty. It is practically impossible to feel anything but uncomfortable when he is on screen because you know his character will always be negative.
|No. 5 'Edward the butler' (the character played by Eric Blore in Swiss Miss)
- The first of two characters from "Swiss Miss" to make this list. 'Edward', the musician's gopher is a pain in the arse; gets in the way, and every time he opens his mouth I just want to put my shoe into it. That accent is so 'British', and a horrible stereotypical example of how annoying it is to hear how people used to talk. He tries so hard to lend some comedy to his role which actually makes it worse because he fails every time.
If fans ever needed an excuse to put their finger on why the film fails to impress, then this is a good place to start...
|No. 4 'The auctioneer' (the character played by Harry Bowen in Thicker Than Water)
- It's a genuine shame that Harry Bowen is on this list because I really like him in most films. But not this one! I have never seen such a two-faced character in all of the Laurel & Hardy films as Harry's auctioneer during the grandfather's clock scene in their final short film.
He welcomes Stan and Ollie into the room with great politeness and enthusiasm, but no sooner is the auction concluded, he snaps into an instantly unlikeable character, snitching like a schoolboy sucking up to a bully by telling the owner (James Finlayson) that the winners of the auction refuse to pay for the clock.
Okay, it's fair to say that he had every right to do so, but it is in the manner he does it which gets me agitated every time! Surely there was a more tactful way of dealing with the situation, but the two-faced attitude of the character is why he makes the short-list. Sorry, Harry!
|No. 3 'Mrs. Hardy' (the character played by Minna Gombell in Block-Heads)
- The second character from this film to make the list is Ollie's horrible, dominating wife. She talks to him as though he is a child. She is cold, unreasonable and treats Ollie like a dog. She is stingy with the money she allows her husband to spend, and to top it all off.. she has the cheek to give Ollie sh*t for blowing the apartment up! How selfish.
|No. 2 'Anna Albert' (the character played by Della Lind in Swiss Miss)
- Aaaarrrrggghhh... just the thought of this woman makes me scratch! Her annoying, self-importance and just downright attention-seeking horrible-ness is like an irritating fly that won't go away, or take the hint when you are trying to squat it with a newspaper and it keeps coming back for more!
Her character is so selfish that she just doesn't see the situation is NOT all about her, but rather, her composer husband (Walter Woolf King). With her nose put firmly out of joint and not being the centre of attention with everybody, she does everything in her power to make the spotlight being firmly on her all the time. She acts as though she is entitled to affection despite the fact her husband has work to do that doesn't include her. But no, she then manages to get the whole hotel feeling sorry for her. Their sympathy makes me sick.
|No. 1 Ben Blue (the actor)
- This guy is just not funny. Ever! Appearing as the co-lead star (with Billy Gilbert) in eight of the The Taxi Boys films, Ben never seemed to have the capacity to stand still for one single moment. He over-acts his way through every film, trying to steal the viewer's attention with his fidgitey antics which only manage to backfire in spectacular fashion. It was as though he was constantly off his tits or doped up on speed the whole time! How anyone could ever find him hilarious beats the shit out of me, Phil. JUST STOP TWITCHING, MAN! For God's sake!
You would think that just once he would do or say something funny, but I'm afraid it's a case of if you have seen one Ben Blue performance, you have seen them all.