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    Gas And Air    
    Director:  Scott Pembroke
Producer:  Hal Roach
Cinematography:  Frank Young
    Hal Roach Studios/Pathé Exchange
29 July 1923
silent short/1-reel

....... Stan is Phillip McCann, a gas station attendant who arrives at his job by chauffeur and donning a fur coat over his work clothes.  After being dropped off, he puts his sign on the doorframe and wanders off to a nearby cafe where waitress Katherine Grant serves him an egg, medium rare, and a cup of tea, well done.  He takes a knife to the egg but with no success, realising it is hard boiled before trying one last time to smash it on the counter whilst the waitress has her back turned.  She glances him a stare before he further attempts to crack the egg, by bouncing it on the stool next to him.  When this doesn't do the trick, he uses a mallet (of course there just happens to be one lying around) to open it, hitting his finger instead.  Observing from nearby is the foreman (Charles Stevenson) who angrily confronts Phillip to question why he is not at work.  With the foreman's flailing arms, Philip positions them to crack the egg he is having difficulty with.  It works; the egg is cracked and the foreman is left examining his mucky hand whilst Phillip wanders off to work; pushing a car up onto a see-saw ramp and down the other side, crashing into a stack of barrels (see Did You Notice? section).
The foreman investigates the disturbance, only to have a barrel crash down over his head from above.  He storms over to the ramp to reprimand poor Phillup before cranking up the motor to get the car running.  With Phillup in the drivers seat, he reverses the car back up and over the ramp with the foreman attached to the front (one of the best scenes in the film).  Still driving backwards and at speed, Phillup reverses straight into a tree, causing an explosion and the car to fall to bits.  The foreman, now detached, screams at his clumsy employee, who casualy asks if the car was insured against all risks?  The foreman suffers one more indignity as Phillup climbs out of the wreckage and slams the door on his leg before returning with a sign "for sale - retail or wholesale" and placing it on the front grille.  The pair return to the gas station where Phillup is put to work on retrieving the car he just wrecked by towing it back to the garage.  He cranks the motor on the tow truck but after three failed attempts decides to put on a fake beard so that the car doesn't recognise him (!)  The disguise works and the car starts and off he goes.  Back at the garage a customer (Eddie Baker) asks the foreman for some gas.  The gas can is filled but neither man realises the small hole in the side.  The customer leaves as the gas spills out all over the floor, leaving a trail behind him.  Meanwhile, Phillup thinks he has won the better of the car and thus removes his fake beard (whilst overplaying the scene somewhat).  No sooner as his beard is removed the car grinds to a stop before he replaces it to get moving again - straight into traffic which swerves violently to avoid collision.  We are informed that the Ford car is fixed as Phillup pushes it back up onto the ramp.  This time the ramp does not pivot and the car goes straight over the top and crash-lands upside down on its roof.  Not wanting to attract unwanted attention to his clumsy actions, he goes about cleaning the wheel rims as though nothing has happened.  The foreman comes over and throttles Phillup before dismisses him, throwing him into the tow car, which almost crushes him against a parked car as it rolls forward.  A good samaritan helps Phillup by pushing his tow truck back to a safe distance.  Phillup then ties a rope around his car and attaches the other end to a post before climbing in and attempting to drive off (see Favourite bit).  The shell of the car (minus the seats) drives unmanned down the street, through the cafe area where the foreman and the waitress are buried beneath the rubble, as Phillup gives chase.  A pedestrian (who resembles Oliver Hardy actually) bends down to pick something up in the road as the car hits him from behind and falls apart without even phasing him.  The foreman gives chase and goes to boot Phillup in the rear but just at that moment Pillup stands on the fender and he ends up kicking that instead.  Irate, he demands the pieces of the car be brought back to the garage.  The customer whom we saw earlier then goes to fill up his car using the leaky can only to realise it is almost empty.  Furious, he lights a match and throws it down on the ground, igniting the trail of leaked gas and sending the flames heading back towards the garage from where he came.  Phillup and the foreman are gassing up a customers car with the gas nozzle spraying it everywhere, as the blazing trail of leaked gas from the previous customer finally reaches its destination.  The screen fades to black and the viewer is left guessing what inevitably happened.

All in all, this short one-reeler is about average with a couple of half-decent gags but not much more.  Katherine Grant, always a pleasure to see, is glimpsed all too briefly and the editing is fast and a bit too disjointed at times.

Favourite bit    
      Phillup (Stan Laurel) has been fired for causing too much damage to the car he is supposed to be repairing.  He climbs aboard the tow truck which he has tied to a lamp-post for security.  As he starts the engine and puts his foot down the bottom half of the car speeds off whilst the top half remains stationary briefly, before he falls through it and onto the floor.  Quite an ingenious idea which must have been quite difficult to pull off.

•In a rather productive year, this was Stan's 10th (of 20) silent film to be released in 1923.
Did you notice?
•The large sign behind the counter reads "Menu and Bill or Fare".  The items listed are: "soup, sandwiches, red hot, extra red hot, cheese, fresh storage eggs & ham, beef, lamb or pork".
•The garage is called the Weak End Gas station.
•A large sign at the front of the garage reads "We recomend LA-flat tires".  Recommend is spelt incorrectly on the board.
•As Stan pushes the car down the ramp and into the stack of barrels, the barrels begin to fall before the car makes contact which would indicate a stuntman had pushed them onto the car from off-screen.
•The inscription on the side of the tow truck reads "You wreck em so do we"
•A large sign which reads "Service with a laugh" hangs on the garage wall.

Stan Laurel
Phillup McCann
Katherine Grant
Garage owner's daughter
Charles Stevenson
Bolt, the foreman
Eddie Baker
Jack Hill
  Noah Young
(unknown role)
  Roy Brooks
(unknown role)
Helpful samaritan
Pedestrian in road
Customer in car

Jesse Brisson (identification of Jack Hill)

This page was last updated on: 13 August 2017