Thursday, November 20, 2014


In terms of sheer durability and longevity, the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy was hard to beat. Both men had made numerous films separately in their careers before they teamed up as a duo on screen officially for the first time in PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP in 1927. 107 films and twenty-three years later, they made their last movie, ATOLL K in 1950.

For the record, these guys aren't my favorite comedy team from the Golden Age of Hollywood. That honor goes to the Marx Brothers, closely followed by, yes, the Three Stooges. Hey, I was exposed to the Stooges shorts at a very young age and their brand of roughhouse, slapstick (literally) humor stuck. They still make me laugh. I've only seen a handful of Laurel and Hardy films over the years and while I've enjoyed each and every one of them, I can't honestly say that I'm a huge fan.

I watched AIR RAID WARDENS last night. I recorded it off of TCM and no sooner had the film began than I remembered seeing  it not long ago when I had previously recorded if off of TCM. But I was in the mood for something light and funny and this one fit the bill. AIR RAID WARDENS (1943) is one of two films the duo made at MGM in the 1940s. In the film, they play failed businessmen in a small American town. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, they decide to enlist only to discover that none of the services will have them. They return home and split their failing bicycle shop with a meek, mild mannered man who sells radios. They also sign up for the local Civil Defense battalion. They proceed to make a mess of that and are finally forced to resign as air raid wardens. Dejected and despondent, the boys eventually turn into heroes when they discover that their mild mannered business partner is actually the head of a Nazi spy ring that plans to blow up the magnesium plant outside of town. Thanks to the intervention of Laurel and Hardy the plot is foiled.

There's nothing new, fresh or original to be found here. You can see every joke, set-up and situation coming from miles away but the pleasure is in the anticipation and the pay off. There's a nice sequence where the boys terrorize Edgar Kennedy who was the master of the "slow burn" comic take. Kennedy's signature mannerism of slowly wiping his face with one hand in frustration was later appropriated by Brian Keith who used the gesture in almost every episode of the 1960s television series FAMILY AFFAIR.

One thing that struck me as odd is how everyone in the film constantly refers to Laurel and Hardy as "the boys" even though they're both grown, middle aged men. AIR RAID WARDENS is light and breezy and fun. No belly laughs to be had here but I did get a couple of chuckles out of it and that's exactly what I wanted.

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