Series: Laurel and Hardy feature

Director: John G. Blystone
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Charley Rogers, Felix Adler, James Parrott, Harry Langdon, Arnold Belgard
Photography: Art Lloyd
Editor: Bert Jordan
Sound: Hal Bumbaugh

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Patricia Ellis, Minna Gombell, Billy Gilbert, James Finlayson
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 19 August 1938
Length: 5 reels
Production No.: F-22
Filming dates: June 1 - July 1, 1938;
added scenes July 27-28, 1938

Rating: 6/10


Available on BLU-RAY & DVD:

It's 1917 and the war is on. Private Laurel is left to guard his post on the self-named 'Cootie Ave' trench as best friend Private Hardy goes over the top and off into action. A year later and the Armistice brings an end to the conflict, but of course nobody has told Stan, who is still guarding the post. Twenty years pass and it's 1938 and Stan is still there alone, not looking any older and with a painted-on beard (!) During a short lunch break, where beans seem to be the only food on the menu, he spots a low-flying aircraft and shoots it down from the sky. The French aviation pilot seeks Stan out in the trench and informs him the war has been over for twenty years. Stan is confused (no more than usual) and initially refuses to accept the truth of the matter but the helpful pilot takes Stan with him to prove his story.
Ollie is now married and living in a quiet little town with his wife in an apartment building. Over breakfast he senses she is miserable and tries desperately to cheer her up. Mrs. Hardy is upset that Ollie has forgotten their first wedding anniversary, which is today. He acts as though he was kidding her when in actual fact we all know otherwise! Mrs Hardy tells Ollie that she has a special meal planned that evening just for the two of them. An excited (and very loved-up) Ollie asks for some extra money so that he can go out; he promises to be gone one hour and come back with a 'surprise'!
In the hallway he meets Mrs. Gilbert (Patricia Ellis), the neighbour opposite and the two begin chatting when Mr. (Billy) Gilbert comes home unexpectedly from a hunting trip in Africa.  There is an awkward embarrassment between them before Ollie leaves.  Further down the hall Ollie meets the janitor (James C. Morton), who informs him of a man in the news who has just been discovered in the trenches twenty years after the war had ended.  At first Ollie laughs at the very thought and then suddenly realises who the man is - his old pal Stan!
Stan is now considered a war hero and is now a resident at the National Soldiers Home.  Ollie finds his friend in a wheelchair and seemingly with only one leg.  They are both very happy to see one another as Ollie brings Stan up to date with having got married and how great a cook his wife is.  The call for mess sounds and Stan is about to get up when Ollie offers to take him home for a top class dinner.  Stan accepts the invitation and Ollie starts to push Stan in the chair.  A little while later another veteran (Sam Lufkin) calls for the chair to be returned to its rightful owner.  Ollie lifts Stan from the chair and carries him all the way to his car, dropping him off onto the grass to pick up his fallen hat along the way.  When they reach the car Ollie falls through the door and they both end up back on the ground.  It's at this point when - finally - Ollie discovers Stan has two legs.
A large truck obstructs Ollie from driving off and so Stan is asked to move it himself.  After fiddling around with random controls, Stan releases the tip-up and engulfs Ollie's entire car in sand.
At the apartment building Mr. Gilbert is giving an interview to members of the press about his recent hunting expedition and exaggerating his stories to impress, whilst Ollie arrives home with Stan in the car.  Stan is intrigued as to how the garage door seemed to open by itself.  Ollie makes an awful mistake of telling him the door was activated by the metal plate on the ground when the car passes over it.  Stan wants to try.  End of car.
They enter the building and find the elevator is out of order so instead take to the stairs.  When Stan reaches the 5th floor he notices a shadow cast on the wall of an open blind.
  He walks up to it and pulls the tab on it down and the shadow 'closes'.  He repeats the trick on the next floor up, as Ollie stands and looks baffled.  When Stan attempts to pull the same trick three floor in a row, Ollie steps in and tries for himself and of course fails.
Eventually they rest for a while on the stairs when an impatient tenant (James Finlayson) tries to pass them.  Ollie takes offence to being called "an overstuffed polliwog" and the two men agree to fight outside.  Word quickly spreads thanks to Stan telling everybody he passes as they walk back down the stairs and a crowd gathers outside to witness it.

Outside Ollie offers Finn one more chance to apologise in order to avert the duel.  Finn backs down and apologises but Ollie antagonises him further by calling him 'yellow', which sparks the fight into life.  It ends when Hardy receives a whack around the head with Finn's briefcase and the crowd disperses.
Ollie steps back inside the lobby with Stan and meets up with his old flame Lulu (Patsy Moran), who tries her luck at reminiscing with him.  When she reveals that she has sent a love note up to his room there becomes an urgency about him in retrieving it before Mrs. Hardy finds it.
The boys reach their floor when Ollie is greeted by a boy kicking a football directly into his face.  This leads to an altercation between Ollie and the boys' father.  Stan uses a wonderful trick to knock the guy out cold!
Ollie opens the door to his apartment but the key gets jammed in the lock, forcing him to remove his trousers.  Mrs. Gilbert brings the note to him, which had been left in her apartment.  The boys get settled and Stan pulls out his thumb, stuffs tobacco into it, folds it up and lights it with match before smoking it.  Shortly afterwards Mrs. Hardy returns home with some groceries and she is not happy, and after an argument with Ollie she packs her suitcases and leaves.  Stan is about to follow her when Ollie reiterates his intention to cook Stan a meal.  Stan ignites the gas oven and then searches for a match.  A minute later Ollie takes over and is blown out of the kitchen by the explosion.  Stan runs for his life as Mrs. Gilbert investigates the commotion.  She offers to help clean up the mess but then herself gets messed up when Ollie spills a punchbowl over her.  She realises she has locked herself out of her apartment and so Ollie politely offers for her to change into some dry clothes in his bedroom.
Ollie is on his way down to the lobby to fetch a spare key for his stranded neighbour when he sees his wife returning.  In a panic he hides Mrs. Gilbert in the bedroom in the shape of a chair with a blanket thrown over her and then later, inside a trunk.  The arguing between the Hardy's arouses the interest of Mr. Gilbert, who has returned home.  He comes over to see the predicament and after Mrs. Hardy storms off, he jokingly suggests the boys should go out with him some time to find some blondes.  His wife pops up from the trunk, the boys flee and Gilbert gives chase with shotgun in hand.  Outside, a couple of blasts from the gun brings a whole neighbourhood of up-to-no-gooders fleeing from their balconies!

Favourite bit
Who could deny this scene as one of the absolute best moments between Stan and Ollie?  Hardy is overjoyed to be reunited with his best friend after so many years apart and pays him a visit at the soldier's home.  The comedy of the situaion aside (Stan oblivious to his leg being concealed and giving Babe the impression he lost it in the war), you can view this scene as a real-life warmth between the two men both on and off screen.  It's a beautiful, well-shot moment, which ranks up there as probably the best scene they ever made together.

Copyrighted August 17, 1938.
This film was reissued in the early '50s as a two-reeler entitled "Better Now".
Oscar nominee for Best Original Score.
Hal Roach fired Stan Laurel almost immediately after this film was made.
The caricatures of Stan and Ollie seen in the opening credits were sketched by Harry Langdon.
The opening credits in the film with "Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy" was used on several public domain DVD prints of "Utopia".
The huge pile of empty tins of beans reminds me of the huge pile of washing which we would later see in The Flying Deuces. Talking of the beans, how was it that Stan just happened to have a 20+ years supply of beans, and how was it possible they would still be edible after all that time?
It is hard to believe that Stan's appearance hadn't altered in the twenty years timeframe as depicted at the start of the film.
It may be argued that Stan's acceptance of the French pilot's claim that the war is over is gulible? If it was a trick, then Stan would have been killed by the enemy for abandoning his post?
Mr. & Mrs. Hardy live in an apartment building named "Elite Arms". Their room number is 1313 - the same number of Max Davidson's new home in Call Of The Cuckoo (1927).
When we first see her, Mrs. Hardy is reading the Los Angeles Times over the breakfast table.
Ollie refers to himself as "Baby Oliver" to Mrs. Hardy. "Babe" was Hardy's nickname in real life.
At the breakfast table, Mrs. Hardy is the one being rude to Ollie.  After being too ignorant to even answer his questions, she considers herself so important that she expects her husband to make a fuss of her on their anniversary. Well excuse me, but isn't that supposed to be a two-way thing so as not to appear to be more important than your partner? Her attitude really stinks.
Ollie's car has a license plate of California 1939 8T 52 30 and is in garage number 2.
When Ollie goes to the soldier's home and meets up with Stan again, you cannot help but love their conversation about having missed one another and their genuine friendship which was mirrored in real life.
The Gilberts live in apartment 1314.
Early on when Ollie meets Mrs. Gilbert in the hallway, she tells him her husband has just come back from a hunting trip in Africa. Later when Mr. Gilbert gives a press conference in his apartment he tells them he has just got back from India.
The Hardy's live on the 13th floor, according to Ollie, but when a view of the building is seen earlier there are only half that amount of floors.
A 'jiffy' is about equal to 'three shakes of a dead lamb's tail'.
The boys rest between floors 9 and 10 when they encounter Finlayson.
Isn't it quite amazing that during the walk up the stairs in the apartment building Stan and Ollie do not pass any other tenants in the building, yet when they walk back down for the fight they pass people on practically every floor?
It would appear that Ollie lives on the top floor of the building because when he runs up the stairs to retrieve the love note, the stairs seem to end. Also, later on when Mrs. Hardy is seen getting out of the elevator you can see the needle is right over to the last number.
In the scene where the boys have the altercation with the father and his brat son on the 13th floor, the needle indicator for the elevator in the background can be seen as being on the ground floor.
The whole routine of Ollie bringing home Stan and expecting the wife to cook a meal for them both is almost an exact copy of an earlier film Unaccustomed As We Are (1929).
I think it is obvious to see that in the scene where the Hardys are arguing at the same time in the bedroom it is Ollie who leads the other actors with the timing.  If you watch closely you can see that both Minna Gombell and Stan Laurel both stop talking (and pause for breath) at the exact moment Ollie removes his hat.  This was a clever piece of directing.
When Mr. Gilbert returns to his apartment at the end he is carrying a box which says "Special Elephant Cartridges".
Ollie claims that as he is about to leave with the trunk, he is bound for Honolulu, following the advice of Stan, who said the trip would do him good.  Shades of Sons Of The Desert there I think!
The final scene with the boys running away from Mr. Gilbert and him firing his rifle at them is a re-enactment of an earlier film, We Faw Down (1928). The scene is performed by stunt doubles, evident by 'Stan' appearing to be taller than Ollie and both performing athletic rolls after they are shot at. This would have been difficult to do with such agility given their age at the time.
My opinion
Massively over-rated mediocrity with horrible, unlikable characters and an almost pedestrian-paced plot. One outstanding scene does not compensate for 50 minutes of slow, boring, re-hashed scenes which are neither stimulating nor funny. In November 2015, I wrote an essay detailing my strong negative opinion on the film. It can be read on this site here.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Patricia Ellis
Mrs. Gilbert
Minna Gombell
Mrs. Hardy
Billy Gilbert
Mr. Gilbert
James Finlayson
Finn (man on stairs)
James C. Morton
James, the porter
Sam Lufkin
War veteran
Tex Driscoll
Bearded war veteran
Harry Strang
Desk clerk
Patsy Moran
Harry Woods
Belligerent neighbor
Tommy Bond
Neighbor's son
Olin Francis
Apartment house tenant in 910
Harry Myers
Drunk in apartment building
Henry Hall
Soldier's home superintendant
Karl Kosiczky
Midget in elevator
Tom Seidel
Elevator boy
William Royle
Lieutenant in trench
Jack Hill
Soldier in trench
George Sorel
French aviator
Max Hoffman Jr.
Pat Gleason
Billy Bletcher
Voice of midget in elevator
Harry Anderson
Walter Bacon
Mike Behegan
William A. Boardway
Chet Brandenburg
Ed Brandenburg
Russell Custer
Bud Geary
John Mack
Cyril Ring
Elevator passenger
Harry Tenbrook
Al Thompson
Joe Whitehead
Allen Wood
Chill Wills
Voice of midget in elevator
[according to IMDb, disputed by me]
Zeffie Tilbury

CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Jerry Murbach (selected stills)
Jorge Finkielman (lobby cards)
Jim Clewer (some screenshots)
Rick Greene (poster)
Tony Bensley (Hallmark DVD comparison shots)

This page was last updated on: 23 October 2023