Series: Stan Laurel

Director: Ralph Cedar
Producer: Hal Roach
Titles: H.M. Walker

Stars: Stan Laurel, James Finlayson, Helen Gilmore
Company: Pathé Exchange
Released: 04 November 1923
Length: 1 reel
Production No.: D-22
Filming dates: July 20-21, 1923
Rating: 5/10

The Whole Truth

Available on DVD:

A prosecutor instructs the audience of a courtroom to observe the tearful and slightly hysterical wife (Helen Gilmore) who is sitting in the witness box, and claims she is this way due to her husband, who shows up very infrequently. For the defence (James Finlayson), he never did anything to be proud of - and was proud of it. He sits there smirking and sipping a glass of water before being momentarily distracted. He goes to take another sip of his drink but instead picks up a different glass containing something very different. The downtrodden wife, still sobbing, tells the court that her husband had gone out for a cigar and had returned a month later. She then adds that he must have gone to Havana. The judge has heard enough and shares in the woman's annoyance when he rises from his chair and looks for the husband. Behind a shield of several nosey, intrigued women in the court, the husband (Stan Laurel) emerges, straightening his tie and smiling. The women love him. He removes his hat, dusts it off with his handkerchief then struts casually up to the judge as the women are seated at the sound of the judge's gavel. One of the women asks Stan to pose for a photograph along the way, to which he obliges.
Stan bows to the judge, and then extends his hand for his wife, who snubs it and walks off.  Stan sits in the vacant chair besides the judge and the numerous ladies in the courtroom give him a standing ovation.  Stan gets out of the chair and takes a bow to the all-female crowd.  The judge offers that there are two sides to every story and gives Stan the chance to tell his version.  As Stan talks the judge reminds him to remove his hat.  Stan keeps putting it back on his head until the judge bangs his gavel so hard that it causes Stan's hat to fall from his head.
Stan is consulted by his lawyer (Finlayson), who reminds him to stick to their pre-arranged story - and to not laugh.  Stan continues with his speech, about how he was advised to go squirrel hunting in New Jersey.  We cut away to a flashback of Stan standing in a small canoe on a lake.  He takes out a telescope and looks around, oblivious that his boat is being upended by a rhinoceros underneath it (yep, a rhinoceros in New Jersey).  Stan's native companion sees it and jumps off the boat and into the river, whilst Stan continues to look through his telescope.
A second boat on the river emerges through the overhanging tree branches and the three occupants fall out into the water when they see the creature, who has now taken to the land and thrown Stan and his boat onto the ground before disappearing into the undergrowth.  The snorting animal charges at Stan, who is armed with a rifle, but misses narrowly.  The native gets a second surprise when he sits on a hornet's nest and jumps around with stinging pain.  If that wasn't bad enough, the rhino makes another charge for Stan, misses, and knocks the native back into the undergrowth and into the hornet's nest again.
The lawyer (Finlayson) is one of the hunters who appears and crouches down on all fours to allow Stan to stand up on his back, and then on his shoulders.  The creature charges them from behind, spilling Finlayson to the floor, whilst Stan lands on the animal's back and goes for a brief ride.  Stan is then de-throned from the rhino's back and spins around on the floor.  He briefly attempts to get up but is knocked back down again.  The rhino gets a kick up the rear for doing so, hurting Stan's foot.
Back in the courtroom, Stan confesses to the judge that what he has just recollected is the entire truth.  The judge cannot decide what is true and what is fiction, but the wife makes her feelings on the matter known through a grimace and a clenched fist.
The female crowd cheers Stan's story and he gives them a bow, much to the judge's disapproving gavel.  The judge warns Stan that his court is going to hear the facts of the case and instructs the bailiff to administer a truth serum to Stan to make him tell the truth.  The wife approves of this idea as Stan seemingly takes the pill.
Stan begins to recite a new story about it being his anniversary and him taking flowers to his wife for the special occasion.  In another flashback, Stan is talking to a chemist with a bunch of flowers which accidentally become saturated in deadly chloroform by a clumsy clerk.  Stan picks up the flowers and leaves the shop, but not before the chemist gets a good whiff of them and passing out behind the counter.
This begins a chain reaction of members of the public surrendering to the smell of the flowers: firstly a policeman in a park, followed by a courting couple by a small lake, who also get the flowers-treatment before falling backwards into the water.  This is followed shortly by a woman on another bench and a man watering the grass who are inadvertently united by the poisonous flowers.
Stan continues down the street and stops at a florist's. He takes a bunch of flowers from a display mannequin outside the shop and smells them, and then compares the smell to the bunch he already has (with the added chloroform).  He quickly becomes dizzy and sleepy, knocking over the mannequin and adopting its pose identically.  The owner comes out and looks Stan over suspiciously and then removes his dummy.
Back in court Stan continues to tell the judge that the spell of the chloroform rendered him useless for a further month, by which time he had grown an Abraham Lincoln-like beard whilst standing outside the florist's and still holding the flowers.  Eventually Stan awakens from the spell and discards the advertising board which had been placed about his chest and resumes his journey to his wife.  He is in the door at least one second before he and the flowers are thrown back out into the road!  Stan sobs to the judge that the woman didn't even know who he was.
Upon hearing this evidence, Stan's wife takes pity on him in the courtroom and after she shoves aside her prosecutor, she unites with him once more and they leave the courtroom together.  When the wife is out of sight, Stan turns around and removes the truth pill from his mouth to reveal that he never really swallowed it and that all he told was a bunch of lies!

Favourite bit
It's a rather old gag to be fair, but my favourite part is when Stan is walking through the park and sticking his bunch of flowers under everybody's noses, oblivious to the fact they are saturated in chloroform. One particular couple sitting on a bench become intoxicated with the fumes and fall backwards off their bench and into a lake.

Copyrighted November 9, 1923.
It's likely that this film was originally prod. C-115 (or LC-115).
There would have been a 28 years age gap between Stan and Helen Gilmore, the husband and wife in the film.
Although it is quite obvious when you see it, much of the footage used in the rhinoceros sequence is leftover, unused film from a recent Stan Laurel comedy called Roughest Africa. This footage was inserted into this film as a way of bridging a gap in the storyline.
The wife tells the court that her husband had gone out for a cigar and come back a month later and then suggested he must have gone to Havana. Havana is a type of cigar.
After Stan takes a bow the judge bangs down his gavel. Stan acts as though it has hit him on his hand, but it clearly missed by at least 8 inches!
The rhinoceros is obviously operated by two men in a large costume, who use their own legs as the animal's. It is also seen that the costume is in three parts. The back part in particular is quite visible.
The board which Stan holds outside the florist's reads "Take a bouquet home to your wife today".
My opinion

Stan Laurel
Wallingford, the husband
James Finlayson
Defense lawyer
Helen Gilmore
Clara Guiol
Courtroom spectator
Wallace Howe
Jack O'Brien
Second chemist/
Bum in park
Jack Ackroyd
Bum in park
Charles Stevenson
Jewish tailor
Don Maines
Chris Lynton
Cop in park/
Cop in courtroom
Clyde E. Hopkins
Assistant prosecutor
Chet Brandenburg
Courtroom spectator


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

Laurel OR Hardy by Rob Stone (book)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Jack O'Brien, Clyde Hopkins and Chris Lynton)

This page was last updated on: 07 November 2021