..........   ..........

    ~ T h e   H a n d y   M a n ~    
    Director:  Robert P. Kerr
Producer:  Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson
Cinematography:  Irving G. Ries
    Quality Film Productions/Metro Pictures
12 March 1923
silent short/2-reels
    Film No.
....... The cook of Stillwell cottage (Mathilde Comont) is pruning the flowers outside her window, waiting for the certain special someone to fill her heart with sunshine (according to the title card), when the handy man (Laurel) passes by to draw water from the well.  After a couple of failed attempts to retrieve any water he realises the bucket has no bottom and discards it.  The overseer (Otto Fries) arrives at the cottage reading a newspaper as the cook comes outside, winking at the handy man, who returns the affectionate compliment.  This flirting continues for a period of time as she continues to slap her hands together across his cheeks, which starts to irritate him after a while.  The overseer, still reading his newspaper spots an advert for a missing person by the name of Fifi La Monte, who just happens to bear a striking resemblance to the cook.  Further reading of the article reveals that the woman is sought in connection of a fortune she has just inherited.  The overseer makes his move.  He breaks up the romantic exchanges between her with the handy man, who climbs down from the steps and gets his foot stuck in the bucket he was using earlier.  The overseer then warns the handy man to stay away from his love interest "or I'll run you until you find a new street".
The cook is not impressed with the sudden disruption to her flirting with the handy man but so obviously desperate for attention, she continues to flirt with him after the handy man leaves to prune her flowers nearby.  As the handy man stands to reach up to cut the flowers his foot manages to turn on an outside tap, sending water (conveniently) into the rear of the overseer.  None of this is seen by him or his new-found attraction whom he has started to woo on the balcony to the cottage.  Again, the handy man's foot swivels on the tap, turning it on and off repeatedly, but as he stretches to cut some flowers above his head, he accidentally snips the hanging basket which falls down on his head and sends him into a dream.
The picture fades out to reveal a mysterious man getting out of a car, highlighted by a large question mark on the screen, followed by another sequence with the cook being pushed hard on a tree swing by the overseer as the handy man repeatedly walks past, avoiding contact with her feet.  His next job is to pick some apples from the same tree the cook is swinging on, and as he uses a long pointed stick, it catches on the swinging rope, fraying the end of it with the inevitable conclusion.
Next, the handy man continues his rounds (of destruction) and makes contact with what appears to be an electrical cable linked to a bench with a dog sitting on it.  A speeded-up exaggerated shot shows Stan reacting to the electrical charge and the dog going nuts before the overseer escorts the cook over to sit down on the bench, unaware of the hazard.  Flaying arms and legs from the couple follow as they too receive the surge of electricity through their bodies.  Fade out to the mysterious man, watching from beyond as the cook now plays on a see-saw with him but whilst still making eyes at the handy man.  At this point it appears she is not quite all there as her facial expressions start to become strange and over-the-top.  The overseer sees her and makes his presence known to the mysterious man who ups and leaves.
In the cottage, festivities are taking place for a wedding with musical entertainment for the guests.  The handy man is instructed to take some vegetables into the kitchen where he finds the cook dancing gleefully to the music in the next room.  The two of them embrace in a dance around the kitchen whilst the handy man helps himself to some of the food on the counter, but after a while gets bored with the routine and dances his way out of the kitchen door and out onto the dance floor with all the other dancers and then back again.

....... After we see a few couples in close-up expressing their affections for one another, the overseer comes into the cottage through the kitchen back door to find the handy man and cook in an embrace.  He is upset, the handy man leaves and the cook begins to cry.  Back in the main ballroom, the dancing comes to an abrupt ending when some mice fall from the handy man's bag and everybody runs out.
The film then fades to another scene where an attempted elopement is in progress, with the handy man and cook on a motorcycle and the overseer in hot pursuit on foot.  Weaving all over the road, they drive away but as the bike climbs a steep hill the back carriage breaks off and rolls back down and crashes with its passenger into a tree.  When handy man stops outside a store further on down the road and realises his sweetheart is no longer attached to him, he rides back to get her - backwards!  The drive off again but her heavy weight causes her feet to collapse through the flooring of the back seat and she is forced to keep up by running along in a seated position as they arrive at the registry office.  The registrar turns over a board from "Divorces" to "Marriages" and then notices the bride is covered in oil, making her appear to be black, causing a bit of laughter in the room.  We are reminded that the overseer is still in pursuit on foot as the handy man makes his way outside to buy a ring from a jewelry store conveniently across the road.  During this time the registrar notices the advert in the paper seen earlier in the film for the wanted woman in connection with the fortune and begins to flirt with her.  When the overseer and the handy man both arrive at the same time to discover their love interest in the arms of the registrar they faint simultaneously.  The man bearing the question mark who has been seen lurking around throughout the film suddenly appears - much to the delight of the woman who cries out in joy that he is in fact her husband!  The joy on his face isn't shared by the other three men in the room as the handy man, who was seconds away from marriage, instead becomes responsible for the man's death, bashing him over the head with a mallet.  The cook, the registrar and the overseer also get a taste of it as well, before the handy man falls backwards through the door to close the film.... finally!
This is a very weak comedy, rather ruined by the poor quality print I had to work with, but the supporting cast don't lend much to the comedy, which is pretty mediocre at the best of times.  There's no doubt that Mathilde Comont steals every scene she appears in - which is not a compliment to her.

Favourite bit    
      After being pushed on the swing by the devious overseer (Otto Fries), the cook (Mathilde Comont) falls off in humourous fashion.  Instead of falling forwards as gravity would have dictated, she  instead falls straight down, seemingly straight out of the sky and lands on the ground with all limbs outstretched.  This is funny in itself, but the subsequent rescue of her overweight frame by the overseer is equally comical as he struggles to lift her off the ground.

•This was the second time Otto Fries appeared with Stan Laurel in a two-reel comedy.  He was also seen as the overseer in a previous film called A Weak-End Party the year before.
Did you notice?
•The name of the cottage is Stillwell.
•When Stan Laurel draws water from the well at the beginning of the film, a title card says "The handy man - caught in every downpour since 1890".  This was the year Stan was born.
•There seems to be some poor editing sections early in the film when the cook is winking at Stan.  These shots are re-inserted slightly later as Otto Fries intervenes with their conversation, but the inserts do not match the on-screen action.
•When Stan cuts the flowers near the door using the long shears, the hanging basket bashes him on the head, causing him to fall to the floor unconscious.  The acting is rather tame here don't you think?
•Given his later tough-guy roles in L&H films, Otto Fries appears to have a very charming smile in this film.
•When the cook falls from the swing, instead of falling at an angle (which would have been the case), she falls straight down from the sky - in a rather overexaggerated fashion it must be said!
•The name of the violinist is 'Signor Hubelik'.
•The main ballroom where the dancing takes place is a rather large room for a cottage, don't you think?
•The sign outside the registry office reads:
-Marriage licenses consolidated
-Notary public
-Real Estate
-Money Loaned
•When Stan smashes the clock in the final scene, the time is reading one minute past 3 o'clock.

Stan Laurel
The Handy man
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Mathilde Comont
Fifi La Monte
Otto Fries
The overseer
Harry Mann
Mysterious stranger
Babe London
House guest
Harry Todd

http://laurel.hardy.free.fr/stan_1923.html (lobby card)
Laurel OR Hardy by Rob Stone (book)
Steve Rydzewski (identification of Harry Todd)

This page was last updated on: 28 January 2021