Series: Laurel and Hardy

Director: George Marshall
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Art Lloyd
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Sound: James Greene

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 05 November 1932
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: L-10
Filming dates: September 21-28, 1932
Rating: 8/10

Their First Mistake

Available on BLU-RAY & DVD:

Mrs. Hardy (MAE BUSCH) is angry that Ollie is spending too much time away from home. After nagging him to death over his frequent disappearing acts with Stan, the telephone rings. It's Stan. He tells Ollie that he has tickets to the Cement Workers Bazaar and that he hopes to win their prize of a steam shovel. Ollie realises that if his wife knew it was Stan on the telephone that he would get another berating so Ollie pretends it is his boss, Mr. Jones and plays along by making up his own dialogue. Stan is totally confused (for once!) Mrs. Hardy is pleased to learn that Ollie has (apparently) been invited to a 'big business meeting' later that day. Of course, it's a subterfuge so that Ollie can sneak out to see Stan. Mrs. Hardy praises her husband for finally getting somewhere with his life. Ollie plays along, even to the point of massaging his ego when the telephone rings again. Ollie answers it and upon realising it is Stan again he adopts the Mr. Jones story so that Mrs. Hardy doesn't become suspicious. Stan is so confused by this point he has to look at himself in the mirror to make sure he is not Mr. Jones!
The Hardy's are for a brief moment very happy and content with one another - and then comes the knock at the door. Stan has come to tell Ollie that it was him on the phone. All hell breaks loose!
Mrs. Hardy chases Ollie around the apartment with a broom until he flees with Stan across the landing and into the safe refuge of Stan's apartment, which is opposite. Through the closed door Mrs. Hardy is heard threatening to leave Ollie for good. Ollie has no alternative other than to accept defeat. Delflated, he sits on Stan's bed and explains that part of the problem is Mrs. Hardy is jealous because she suspects he thinks more of Stan than he does of her. When Stan asks if this is true, Ollie simply replies, "well we won't go into that!"
Stan suggests that what Ollie needs is a baby in his house so that Mrs. Hardy will constantly be occupied, thus allowing Ollie to go out more often. Ollie is taken in by the idea and thanks Stan for his consideration.
Stan: "I'm not as dumb as you look"
Ollie: "You bet your life you're not"
Of course, it takes Ollie a moment to understand that he has just been insulted. Ollie then informs Stan that they are going out to adopt a baby.
Later that day, the boys return with the baby in their arms and are congratulated by a tenant (GEORGE MARSHALL) on the landing before the boys enter Ollie's apartment. An excited Ollie calls out for his wife (he calls her Arabella) to share in the good news, but there is no reply.
A knock at the door reveals the answer. A process server (BILLY GILBERT) brings forth double bad news for the boys: Ollie is being divorced by his wife, and Stan is being sued for the alienation of Hardy's affections; "and she'll take you hook, line and sinker!", he adds confidently.
That's it then, Ollie is lumbered with the baby and Stan wants to take off as well. Ollie refuses to let Stan walk out and insists Stan is just as much responsible for the baby as himself.  Stan confesses that he knows nothing about babies but Ollie tells him he should have thought of that before they got the baby. Stan makes a bolt for the door but is trapped by Ollie who tells him that he will not be leaving anytime soon!
That evening the baby is crying and the complaints from fellow resident begin. Stan thinks that to keep the baby quiet he has to make as much noise as possible with rattles and bells. Ollie is clearly stressed by all of this commotion and asks for Stan to hold the baby for awhile.  Stan sits down and offers to feed the crying baby.

An exhausted Ollie looks on as Stan reaches inside his pyjama top.  Of course, Ollie, along with the rest of us are all expecting Stan to start breast-feeding - until eventually (and fortunately for everybody) he pulls out a bottle of milk.  Ollie's relieved face is a treasured moment!  After testing the milk's temperature both on his hand and in his own mouth, Stan starts to feed the baby.  It doesn't take long before it stops crying and Stan looks pleased with himself.  Stan gets up and hands the baby to Ollie but in doing so becomes entangled in his nightshirt.  Ollie hands the baby back to Stan, but they remain entangled.  The baby is then used as a pass-the-parcel between them until Stan frees himself by snapping off Ollie's buttons!
Stan turns off the light switch but then strikes a match to make sure (see favourite bit).  Ollie tells Stan to get the floor lamp because he doesn't want him striking matches all night.  As Stan fetches the lamp Ollie trips on the chord and flies head-first into the kitchen, waking the baby.  When Ollie removes his head from the cupboard he has a mouse-trap on his nose yet miraculously still has the baby bottle in his hand!  Stan makes sure that Ollie knows his flying trip through the air has awoken the baby!  Ollie (and his right slipper) chase Stan out of the kitchen with so much velocity that Ollie ends up flying over the lamp chord and through the front door.  In his rage, Ollie then pulls the chord completely out of the socket and off the wall, prompting further telephone complaints from the neighbours!
Finally the baby settles and to prevent any further disruptions, Stan puts some cotton wool in his ears so that if he makes a noise then he won't be able to hear it!   After Ollie has fixed some milk bottles in the kitchen, the boys retire to their bed, but not before Stan secures the lamp to the only remaining electrical socket - the sign outside their window, which has a tendency to flash on and off.  Of course when the lights go out Ollie goes flying again, this time whilst carrying a tray of milk bottles and waking the baby up again.
Stan, Ollie and the baby are all in bed together but the crying continues.  In his sleepy state, Ollie reaches over to feed a bottle of milk to the baby - not realising that it is in fact Stan who is drinking the milk from him!  Co-incidentally, the baby stops crying when Stan starts drinking.  This continues into a second bottle before Ollie realises what is going on and snatches the bottle away from Stan, spilling its contents all over the bed.

Favourite bit
Stan is asked to fix the bed, so he goes over to the wall and turns off the light. Moments later he feels around on the wall and then strikes a match before blowing it out again.
Ollie: "What did you strike that match for?"
Stan: "I wanted to see if the switch was off"

Ollie's reaction is priceless.

Copyrighted November 22, 1932.
The man who congratulates the boys on the landing is George Marshall, the director of the film, in a small cameo.
The DVD prints issued on both "The Essential Collection" and the Universal release from the UK use a re-issued Film Classics "The End" card. The credits roll listed at the foot of this page incorporates cards from two different prints in order to construct the correct listing. The colorized version of the film on the UK set from Universal uses the opening card from "Pack Up Your Troubles", followed by a Film Classics re-issue card for the title card.
In the opening shot, Ollie is reading a newspaper. One of the banner ads reads "Annual Summer Sale", with "Parker Bros." at the bottom of the page.
In the very first shot of the film you can see a door behind Ollie's head, and it is open. Cut the close-up of his face and all of a sudden the door is closed. The next shot (the original wide shot) reveals the door to be open again.
On the breakfast table there are hard boiled eggs, toast and a grapefruit.
After Ollie puts the telephone down on Stan for the second time Stan reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out an envelope. The UK DVD print cuts to him then looking into the mirror. The RHI print restores this scene to reveal the close-up on the envelope.
When Stan is trying to peer through the window at the top of Hardy's door he uses a rocking chair which is on the landing next to the door. Later, when Stan and Ollie come home with the baby, a completely different chair is there.
It's funny how in 1932 anyone could just go out one day and come home with a baby in their arms?! Imagine that scenario today!
According to Ollie, the baby is a boy. After he crashes through the front door, he says "of course he's crying".
If you look closely, you can see the tenant (George Marshall) on the landing outside the bathroom seemingly waiting for it to become vacant as Ollie enters his apartment. However, in the previous scene he is clearly seen entering the bathroom.
When Ollie goes into the apartment after getting the baby, he calls out for his wife, who is played by Mae Busch. He calls for her attention with an affectionate "you-hoooo". He does the same thing in Unaccustomed As We Are, where again his wife is Mae Busch.
When Billy Gilbert knocks on Hardy's door he bangs six times.
Blimey, Mrs. Hardy didn't waste much time filing for divorce and getting the papers served to Ollie did she! All in the same day!
There is a door at the back of Ollie's apartment (which is presumably the kitchen) which is open, closed and half-open throughout the film despite the fact nobody is seen going into that room.
Ollie has six safety pins fastened to his pyjamas.
Look very carefully when Ollie starts to chase Stan out of the kitchen. Ollie's right slipper flies off by mistake, yet in the next shot when we see his feet running towards the lamp chord, the slipper is back on again.
When Ollie tells Stan "if you must make a noise, make it quietly", he is repeating the identical line spoken by Stan in Brats. A phrase that he himself frowned upon back then!
When Stan plugs the lamp into the "ROOMS" sign he plugs it into the "S".
The film concludes on a rather abrupt moment, which was due to them improvising on set and subsequently making the running time tick over for too long.
My opinion
It's up there with the best of Laurel and Hardy's short films. This was a particularly good period for their work.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Mae Busch
Arabella Hardy
Billy Gilbert
Process server
George Marshall
Tenant on landing
Marjorie Campbell

CREDITS (click image to enlarge) (LATIN-AMERICAN CREDITS) (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Ron Lavelle (help)
Jorge Finkielman (Latin-American credits)

This page was last updated on: 05 November 2023