Movie Review: Another Fine Mess (1930)
“Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy have many ups and downs — Mr. Hardy takes charge of the upping, and Mr. Laurel does most of the downing.”
Another Fine Mess (1930)
Director: James Parrott
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Harry Bernard
Synopsis: Two bums pose as the owner and servant of a large mansion while trying to evade arrest by the police.
This early Laurel & Hardy talkie is undoubtedly the movie responsible for the incorrect use of the phrase ‘another fine mess’ by generations of comedians when impersonating Oliver Hardy. Of course, as all Laurel & Hardy aficionados know, the famous line with which Ollie would berate the tearful Stan was actually ‘that’s another NICE mess you’ve gotten me into,’ so quite why the film wasn’t entitled ‘Another Nice Mess’ is something of a mystery.
Another Fine Mess doesn’t rank as one of Laurel & Hardy’s classic movies, but the comedy duo’s irreplaceable chemistry and flawless sense of comic timing makes it watchable. They play a pair of bums who stumble into the unoccupied mansion of a millionaire (James Finlayson – Foreign Correspondent, Royal Wedding) while endeavouring to escape the wrath of a cop who has taken exception to Stan addressing him as ‘Ma’am.’ Prospective tenants of the property come calling while the cops are still searching for Stan and Ollie outside the house, so they feel obliged to assume the roles of butler/maid and owner.
The comedy in Another Fine Mess grows a little one-note once upper-class twit Lord Plumtree (Charles K. Gerrard) and his foxy young wife (Thelma Todd – The Maltese Falcon, Horse Feathers) arrive to look the place over, focusing mostly on Stan switching disguises to become either Hives the butler or Agnes the maid (Agnes, incidentally, would resurface in A Chump in Oxford). The comic highlight occurs when the boys become entangled with a quartet of rattling window blinds in their efforts to evade capture by the police, and there’s a surreal finale which sees them inexplicably disguised as a water buffalo riding a tandem bicycle to freedom.
Another Fine Mess is based on a 1908 sketch written by Stan Laurel’s father, music hall comedian Arthur Jefferson, and had already been filmed as a silent called Duck Soup by the duo in 1927. It’s one of a handful of Hal Roach movies to feature credits spoken by cute identical twin sisters Betty Mae and Beverly Crane. The mansion used for the shoot would later belong to choreographer and director Busby Berkeley, and had been used by Stan as a location for his 1923 solo movie, White Wings.
(Reviewed 7th December 2016)