While growing up, no one was a bigger fan of Laurel & Hardy than my grandfather and he introduced me to the comedy team by leaving a VHS at our house of “The Music Box” and “Helpmates” which I watched dozens of times. Even when you knew which gag was coming, it was too much to not laugh out loud.
What helped Americans endure the Great Depression in movie theaters, became introduced to millions of new fans when television became ubiquitous in the home.
The two were first paired up in 1921, but by accident, in a film named “The Lucky Dog.” But, the first time they were billed as a pair by Hal Roach Studios was “The Second Hundred Years,” released on October 8, 1927. As we are fast approaching the 90th anniversary of the comedy duo, it’s only appropriate to look back at their best films. Here’s our list, starting with number ten.
10. Our Relations (1936, 73 minutes)
Based upon the short story “The Money Box” by W.W. Jacobs, Our Relations draws upon the age-old comedic value of mistaken identity. Stan and Ollie’s twins, Bert and Alf, are the embarrassing pair in this film.
The film is notable for the work of cinematographer Rudolph Mate, who was also the cinematographer for the French film The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of the most beautifully shot films ever.
9. Habeas Corpus (1928, 20 minutes)
From the silent days, Laurel and Hardy are hired by a crazy scientist to be grave robbers so that they can continue supplying him with bodies for experimentation.
8. Helpmates (1932, 21 minutes)
Ollie throws a party leaving the house in disarray just as he receives a telegram from his wife saying that she’ll be returning home early. So, he takes his only option: asking Stan for help.
Stan: “If I had any sense, I’d walk out on you!”.
Ollie: “Well, it’s a good thing you haven’t any sense!”
Stan: “It certainly is!”
7. Berth Marks (1929, 19 minutes)
Stan and Ollie are musicians taking a train to their next show in Pennsylvania, but there plans to rest during the night don’t go smoothly.
Paulette Goddard, Charlie Chaplin’s eventual wife, has a bit part as a train passenger.
6. Scram! (1932, 21 minutes)
A Judge orders Stan and Ollie to leave town for vagrancy. But when they meet a drunk man who invites them to his home, they follow him instead. The only problem is that the house does not belong to the drunk, but to someone else the boys have recently encountered.
Judge: Are you guilty or not guilty?
Oliver : Not guilty, your highness.
Judge: On what grounds?
Stanley: We weren’t on the ground – we were sleeping on a park bench.
5. Big Business (1929, 19 min.)
As Christmas Tree salesmen, the boys get into an escalating tit for tat battle with a customer that rejects them. This was one of only three Laurel and Hardy films to be included in the National Film Registry.
4. The Music Box (1932, 29 minutes)
This probably Laurel and Hardy’s most famous short film, about a series of mishaps encountered in delivering a piano.
The famous steps still exist in Los Angeles.
3. Way Out West (1937, 65 minutes)
When a prospector dies, Stan and Ollie need to get the deed to a gold mine to his orphaned daughter. Before they can, though, they have to defeat her evil guardians.
Oliver: Well, fan my brow! I’m from the South!
Mary Roberts: You are?
Stan: Well, shut my mouth! I’m from the South too!
Oliver: The South of what, sir?
Stan: The South of London.
2. Them Thar Hills / Tit for Tat (1934 / 1935)
Most would not rank these films so highly, but there is something charming about this rehash of the Laurel and Hardy “Tit for Tat” routine. In fact “Them Thar Hills” was so popular when released that the sequel “Tit for Tat” was made.
In “Them Thar Hills,” the boys travel to the country to help Ollie’s gout heal where they encounter a trailer that had recently been used by moonshiners. A couple with car problems eventually comes and asks for help, ultimately leading to a hilarious battle.
The Doctor: Remember, you can’t burn the candle at both ends.
Stan: We don’t burn candles, we’ve got an electric light.
- Sons of the Desert (1933, 64 minutes)
Could the best Laurel and Hardy movie be anything other than Sons of the Desert? This story, of Stan and Ollie trying to lie their way to attend a Sons of the Desert convention in Chicago, has been copied numerous times and has given the international Laurel and Hardy fan club its name.
Ollie: You’d better take my temperature….. get that thermometer.
Stan: The what?
Ollie: Thermometer! You’ll find it on the shelf.
(Stan places the thermometer into Ollie’s mouth and starts to take his pulse)
Ollie: What does it say?
Stan: Wet and windy.