Series: Laurel and Hardy
Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Producer: Boris Morros
Screenplay: Ralph Spence, Charley Rogers, Fred Schiller, Harry Langdon
Photography: Art Lloyd
Editor: Jack Dennis
Art director: Boris Leven
Music: John Liepold, Leo Shuklen
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Jean Parker, Reginald Gardinder, Charles Middleton, James Finlayson
Company: RKO Radio Pictures
Released: 20 October 1939
Length: 69 mins
Filming dates: July 22-mid August 1939;
retakes late August 1939
The Flying Deuces
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The boy are in Paris on a short break from their jobs as fishmongers in Des Moines, where Ollie has fallen hopelessly in love with the innkeeper's daughter, Georgette (Jean Parker). Upstairs in their room Ollie confesses to Stan of his love for Georgette and produces a sparkling diamond engagement ring which he plans to give to her. After a painful sequence with Stan continually bumping his head on the sloping ceiling in their room, the boys get ready to go back downstairs so that Ollie can pop the question Out in the restaurant kitchen, Georgette's father (Michael Visaroff) reminds her that she is a married woman and should not get Ollie's hopes up, but she plays it down by telling him it's only a bit of fun as far as she is concerned.
Shortly afterwards, Georgette's husband, Francois (Reginald Gardiner) arrives to surprise her with the news that he has some brief army leave to spend with her. An opportunity arises for Ollie to reveal his feelings to Georgette, but she lets him down gently and tells him she is in love with another man. Ollie doesn't take the news well and despite Stan's best efforts to comfort him, he contemplates suicide as his only option. Under the cover of darkness, the boys go to the river with Ollie's intention of them both jumping in. Several aborted attempts and a discussion about reincarnation later, they are ready to jump in when they are stopped by a Foreign Legion officer (they don't realise this is Georgette's husband) who talks them out of suicide and into joining the Foreign Legion.
The story moves forward to the boys' first day in the camp as legionnaires. Dressed in their new uniforms, Stan and Ollie take to the parade ground and participate (badly) in a drill exercise. When they spot the officer who recommended them to the Legion, the boys get a bit over-friendly and are sent to the Commandant (Charles Middleton), who then goes over their duties with them. When the boys refuse to work for pittance they are given a dreaded laundry duty for their insubordination. Ollie irons the clothing as Stan looks for a spot on the miles of washing lines erected to place them. Exhausted from the slaving they have been forced to endure, the boys decide to sit down for two seconds before they are ordered back to work. Stan soaks Ollie with the clothes and is repaid when Ollie assults his rear with the hot iron.
When Ollie tells Stan off for adding to his woes, Stan blames Ollie for them being in the predicament they're in because of his love for Georgette. Stan tries to offer some advice to Ollie and tells him to try and think of nothing - this way he can forget about the woman he loves. It works briefly until Ollie throws some wet clothing into the sergeant's face. A truck driver (Richard Cramer) adds to their misery when he arrives with more work: to peel a mountain of vegetables. It's enough to crack Ollie's resistance and the pair pack up shop and head for headquarters to hand in their resignation, but not before Ollie accidentally sets fire the huge pile of laundry. They are reported and a warrant is issued for their arrest and a search party begins.
A group of soldiers are out in the yard playing the theme tune to Shine On Harvest Moon, which catches Ollie's ears. He is delighted at the prospect of being able to participate in the singing of the song (to great effect) as Stan does a dance for the crowd of onlookers. After the performance the boys walk right out through the open gates and Stan thumbs a lift to a passing camel. Outside the hangar, Ollie inadvertently finds himself reunited momentarily with Georgette when he asks her for directions to the railroad depot. He cannot contain his joy but it is quickly cut short when Francois intervenes. It gets worse... the commandant also catches up to them and places them under arrest for desertion and has them thrown into jail (courtsey of James Finalyson.) A meeting is held to determine Stan and Ollie's fate: they are sentenced to death, and will be shot at sunrise.
Back in the darkened cell Stan relieves the boredom by upturning his spring bed frame and playing it as a harp. This session is abruptly ended by the jail guard who tells them to get to sleep. Just then, a note is thrown into the cell through the open bars notifying them of an escape tunnel under the floor. The boys crawl through the cramped tunnel but the escape route is blocked by falling rubble, which hampers their progress. They dig a little further and pop up in the cellar and then make their way (somehow) into Georgette's bedroom at the fort. They hide in a wardrobe, but one sneeze from Stan brings it crashing down to the floor, causing Georgette to faint.
As they try to revive her they are once again accosted by Francois, who then alerts the legionnaires of their escape and offers a reward for their capture. Officers are scattered around the fort and eventually crawl through the abandoned cell and into the tunnel to find them. They are systematically pummelled with popping corks from the bottles in the cellar by Stan and Ollie as they pop their heads up through the hole. The boys cover the open hole in the floor with a barrel, which spills its load of liquor and intoxicates the officers below. Desperate to get out, Stan and Ollie use a simple yet effective trick to get the main gates opened before they flee out onto a runway and into an empty aircraft. Stan accidentally pulls a lever to start the engine and away they go... followed down the runway by the pursuing officers.
Before long the boys are airborne and steering out of control. The inevitable happens and they crash. Stan escapes unharmed but Ollie doesn't survive. He is seen floating up to heaven with angel wings as he bids a farewell to his friend. The last scene has Stan walking down a dusty track as a vagabond when he hears Ollie calling him. Ollie has returned, reincarnated as a horse.
It has to be the bed-strings scene when Stan takes to playing his upturned bed as a harp in front of a perplexed Ollie in their cell. What makes the scene so funny is the dilemma the boys are in: confined to a prison cell and knowing their fate will be decided at sunrise, yet Stan loses himself completely in the unusual activity. The look on Ollie's face sums it all up. Magnificent. Just try and imagine yourself in his place and witnessing what Stan is doing and try not to smile!
• Copyrighted November 3, 1939.
• Filming began one month after Laurel and Hardy had wrapped shooting on A Chump At Oxford (which ended up being released after The Flying Deuces, in 1940. A contract dispute between Stan Laurel and Hal Roach meant that Stan and Ollie were loaned out by Roach to Boris Morros, an independent producer, to make this film.
• The sketch of Laurel and Hardy seen in the opening scene was drawn by Harry Langdon. Some DVD prints (Legend's supposedly 2012 restored release, for example) are missing these brief few seconds. Langdon worked on the film as a screenwriter and would also appear alongside Hardy in the Roach-produced feature Zenobia earlier the same year.
• When Stan is seen using the bed as a harp, the song is called "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" and was actually played by Harpo Marx.
• Laurel and Hardy joined the Foreign legion previously in Beau Hunks. Charles Middleton played the Commandant in that film too.
• The post-credits opening sequence of French landmarks includes The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame.
• In the first scene in the restaurant, the sketch artist has a glass of wine on his table, whereas Stan and Ollie have a glass of milk with two straws on theirs.
• The boys were due to sail back to the States at midnight when Ollie declares his intention to remain in France.
• Stan bumps his head on the sloping ceiling a total of 6 times, and Ollie once.
• The name of the shark in the river Seine is Gaston. It likes to eat boat oars!
• When Ollie is told that he has too much to live for, Stan reveals that Ollie owns a dog.
• The water level in the Seine seems to be about 3 feet deep, though it doesn't appear to be Ollie who jumps in but rather, a stuntman.
• This is what is expected of Stan and Ollie as Legionnaires: -Reveille at 5am, dress quickly, make bunks and get ready for inspection. Inspection until 7am, ten minutes for breakfast. Drill until 1pm, then march until 4pm. Lunch to be eaten whilst marching. Then inspection until 6pm. 15 minutes for mess, kitchen duties until 10pm, inspection until 11pm, and then taps. For this, they will receive 100 sunteems a day (roughly translated to approximately 3 cents a day, depending on the rate of exchange.)
• A large map of Africa is on the wall in the commandant's office.
• The huge pile of laundry seen in the film is very deceiving. Underneath it is a large rock which was scattered with clothes to make the pile look much bigger than it actually was.
• There are two moments during the laundry scene where Stan squirts water over Ollie. Although seen at separate times and are portrayed as two different incidents, they are in fact the same one shot. The clue is the exact same water marks on Ollie's clothes after each incident.
• One of the stickers on the boys' suitcases says "3rd class".
• Ollie cannot spell the word 'raspberry'.
• Ollie performs the song "Shine On Harvest Moon" directly outside the building where they are first seen as legionnaires in uniform. Notice the steps in the background.
• The numbers on the three aircraft in formation as the boys look into the sky after leaving the camp are: K5265, K7809, K5272. -Georgette arrives to greet Francois in the aircraft E-124.
• The note that is thrown into the cell by an unseen assistant tells them how to escape. One of the sentences reads "use your own judgement". This could have indicated the note was not written by an American colleague due to the spelling of 'judgement'. In the American language, there is no 'e' after the 'g' in the spelling of the word.
• This wasn't the first time Stan and Ollie has escaped from a prison cell. They did so previously in The Second 100 Years.
• Stan is the first to get into the tunnel via the prison cell.
• The scene where the boys appear in Georgette's bedroom near the end of the film is briefly seen in Ron Howard's sci-fi film Cocoon (1985) (as the elderly patients of the retirement home are all leaving for the boat).
• When the legionnaires stagger drunkenly out of the cell block (back past James Finlayson), the first two are Arthur Housman and Eddie Borden.
• Stan and Ollie flee across the runway and hide in an aircraft which is docked in Hangar #6. The aircraft they hide in is the same one which brings Georgette to the fort, E-124.
What the experts say
• "After a pretty mediocre 1938, this was nearly a return to good form for Laurel and Hardy, but there is still something lacking. Still, an underrated movie." ~ Lord Heath.
|Jean Del Val
Georgette's girl friend
Georgette's girl friend
Georgette's girl friend
|Mary Jane Carey
Georgette's girl friend
Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
This page was last updated on: 20 October 2019