White Wings (1923)
Director: George Jeske
Cast: Stan Laurel, James Finlayson, Marvin Loback
Synopsis: Pursued by the law, a street cleaner finds refuge by impersonating a dentist.
Apparently, street cleaners were known as White Wing’s in America back in the 1920s, and that’s what a pre-Hardy Stan Laurel plays in this fast-moving short which illustrates just how badly Laurel struggled to establish his own unique screen persona before accidentally becoming a comic superstar alongside Oliver Hardy. There’s no plot to speak of in White Wings, just a series of misadventures in which Laurel tries to shake off a pursuing cop (Marvin Loback) after inadvertently snatching a baby’s carriage he mistook for his cart. Not only are the situations in which Laurel finds himself not particularly funny, at least a couple of them are cribbed from other — far better — movies. The scene in which Laurel uses sliding doors to evade the cop is a direct steal from Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurers (1917), and his pretending to be a statue is a copy of Keaton’s routine in The Goat (1921). At one point, Laurel has the head of a baby popping out from a long gown under which he is hidden as he tries to escape from the cop and a worried nursemaid, and it’s clear in some shots that the baby is far from happy about the treatment it’s receiving.
Reviewed 30th November 2013)