The Lucky Dog (1921)
Director: Jess Robins
Cast: Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Florence Gilbert
Synopsis: In their first screen appearance together, Stan plays a penniless dog lover and Oliver plays a crook who tries to rob him and his new paramour.
The Lucky Dog was Laurel & Hardy’s first on-screen pairing — although not as a partnership: that was still nearly 10 years away. Stan Laurel is the star, while Ollie — thinner than in his heyday, but still a hefty chap — plays a supporting role as a heavy. It’s strange to see them working together as jobbing actors, neither of them aware, as we are, of what an important role each would eventually play in the other’s life.
Stan plays a young man down on his luck. Evicted from his digs he’s literally thrown into the street where he sees angelic women dancing around him. Mistakenly believing one of these ladies is kissing him he discovers it is actually a stray mongrel that has taken a liking to him. Stan takes a liking to a young lady, a passenger in a car who runs Stan over, and the dog proves useful in winning her over. Stan looks very young and gawky here, and there’s very little sign of the mannerisms that would later become so familiar to his legions of fans. Hardy, a shy gentle man in real life, plays a ruffian with guns, always on the outlook for a fast buck. The lady’s jilted beau hires him to put a bullet in Stan’s head, but of course things don’t turn out that way.
The film isn’t great, it has to be said, but it’s enlivened immeasurably by Stan and Ollie in the early years of their movie careers, and it stands up well to many of the two-reel comedies being churned out by Hollywood back then.
(Reviewed 30th June 2012)