Sog.: Leo McCarey. Scen.: H.M. Walker. F.: George Stevens. M.: Richard C. Currier. Int.: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Thelma Hill (Thelma), Ruby Blaine (Ruby), Harry Bernard (camionista), Edgar Kennedy, Chet Brandenburg, Baldwin Cooke (automobilisti). Prod.: Hal Roach. DCP.
In this hymn to motorised anarchy, sailors-on-leave Stan and Ollie rent a car and pick up the sassy team of Ruby and Thelma. One of the duo’s best two-reelers and a precursor to Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend, it gives an epic scale to the ‘collective destruction ritual’ routine when in the climactic scene the agitated drivers caught in a traffic jam abandon civility and, in the absence of cakes, throw whatever is within reach, eventually leading to yanking off car parts. After the wreckage comes a parade of surrealistically shaped cars, which chase Laurel and Hardy’s vehicle, or what’s left of it, into a tunnel for one last climax. Closer in spirit to Keaton’s mechano-comic antics than the duo’s more domesticated comedies, its outstanding qualities are owed to the supervising director Leo McCarey and cinematographer George Stevens, who was responsible for shooting 35 Laurel and Hardy shorts. Stevens, previously not so keen on comedy, observed: “Laurel and Hardy were marvellous clowns, but also humanists. Although the story was not always immediately present in their films, their humanism gave them validity.” He was surprised to find out how much truth and “considerable art” could be found in their acts. It stayed with Stevens for ever and he even directed their segment in Hollywood Party (1934). From the duo, and working as a cameraman in comedy in general, Stevens learned how to adapt the formula of ‘delayed encounter, delayed reaction, explosion’ – in other words, the timing of comedy. He also realised that script, camera setup and direction should go hand-in-hand and remain flexible. Finally, he looked at Laurel and Hardy and learned how to direct husband-and-wife scenes.