Title: Another Fine Mess
Release Date: 1930
Director: James Parrott
Writer: H.M. Walker
Stan Laurel: Stan
Oliver Hardy: Ollie
Thelma Todd: Lady Plumtree
James Finlayson: Colonel Wilburforce Buckshot
Charles K. Gerrard: Lord Leopold Ambrose Plumtree
Run-Time: 30 mins.
Studio:Hal Roach Studio
And here’s how an immortal American catch-phrase was born.
The chances are pretty good you’ve caught yourself, when something goes wrong, putting on a vaguely twittish English accent, turning to your companion and saying, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”
And if you thought about it, the chances are equally good that, somewhere in the depths of your subconscious, you know that snippet of dialogue was uttered by one half of American cinema’s most enduring comedy teams: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
But do you know which member of this classic slapstick team really uttered those words? If you’re putting on the vaguely twittish English accent, then you’re channeling the spirit of the late Oliver Hardy (the heavy one).
The only problem is, you’re wrong. Hardy never said it.
He did often say, however, “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into,” and the phrase traces its origins to the “Laurel & Hardy Murder Case” also released in 1930.
Hardy uttered it again in “Another Fine Mess,” and it’s thought that the misquote owes its origin to the title of the 30-minute short, one of several, the duo made for Hal Roach’s studio.
But don’t let that get in the way of your enjoyment of this masterful work of film-making in miniature.
Almost all the signposts of what we’ve come to associate with slapstick comedy are here: two lovable losers trying to pass themselves off as someone they’re not; cross-dressing; upper-class twits and a more than healthy amount of cartoonish violence that would be utterly unsurvivable were it to happen in the real world.
This one opens with Stan and Ollie, here portraying a couple of vagabonds, on the run from the police. They stumble into the mansion of Col. Buckshot, who’s on safari in Africa. Things quickly go from bad to utterly surreal.
Once again, I won’t give away the ending here. Suffice to say, the resolution is about as absurd as you’ve come to expect from a Laurel & Hardy short.
After a couple of nights in a row of features, this one was a nice palate cleanser — kind of like listening to a Clash song after a steady diet of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Watching this short — which I first saw years ago and never really appreciated for its place in the comedic firmament — was a reminder of how little (even after eight decades) the conventions of movie comedy have changed.
Sure, the jokes may have gotten a little more blue, or a little more focused on bodily functions, but, in the final analysis, everyone from Judd Apatow to Adam Sandler and Steve Martin owes a clear debt to the buffoonish trail blazed by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
Martin’s “Navin Johnson” of “The Jerk” wouldn’t have existed without them. Ditto for any of the kind-hearted morons that Sandler portrayed in his early films.
And despite their predilection for drag, the fellas in Monty Python weren’t the first guys to put on a dress to get a laugh.
If you’re looking for the DNA of film comedy, you find it, in its purest form, in the shorts of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
And they’re as funny as ever.