Sons of the Desert

Released:  1933

Cast:  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charley Chase, Mae Busch, Dorothy Christy

SUMMARY:  Pals Stan Laurel (Stan Laurel) and Oliver Hardy (Oliver Hardy) are both members of the Sons of the Desert, a fraternal organization with regular meetings.  Each year, the Sons of the Desert hold a convention:  this year, it will be in Chicago.  The  leader of Stan and Oliver’s chapter makes all members take a vow to attend, which both men do (though somewhat reluctantly).  Later, Stan explains that he didn’t want to take the oath because he doesn’t know if his wife will allow him to go:  Oliver scoffs at Stan’s fear of and compliance to his wife, and tells him that since he took an oath, his wife will have to let him go.  However, when they return home (they live next door to each other), Stan’s wife is out; when Stan accidentally mentions the convention, it is Oliver’s wife who hits the roof.  She has already planned a weekend trip to the mountains for herself and Oliver, and is irate about his other plans.  She demonstrates this anger by throwing numerous dishes at Oliver.  Despite this, Oliver is still determined to go to the convention, so he begins looking for excuses.  He pretends to be gravely sick, and has Stan call a “doctor” (really a vet), who has been alerted to the plan:  the doctor informs Mrs. Hardy that Oliver needs to take an ocean cruise to Hawaii for his health.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Hardy is terrified of ships, so Stan goes with Oliver.  Both men then head to Chicago for the convention, and have a wonderful time.  One evening, they meet another member named Charley (Charley Chase), who loves practical jokes.  After enjoying several of these, many of them played on Stan and Oliver, Charley comes up with a new one:  he will call his sister, whom he has not seen for many years, and pretend to be someone else.  Stan and Oliver think this is a great idea, and Oliver even talks to the sister on the phone as well — only to realize that Charley’s sister is his own wife.  Fortunately, he manages to get off the phone before his wife realizes what is going on.

However, more trouble quickly arises:  the ship that the men are supposed to be on encounters a typhoon, and sinks.  The two wives go out and learn that the survivors have been rescued, but that they will not be home for a few more days.  While they are out, Stan and Oliver arrive home.  Just before their wives return, they see the news of the sinking in the newspaper, and hide in the attic of Oliver’s house.  The women return, but quickly leave for the movies, in an attempt to calm down.  Before the movie starts, a newsreel about the Sons of the Desert convention is shown . . . and both Stan and Oliver are prominently featured.  Both women are furious at their husbands, but they then get into a fight about which husband is at fault.  They then challenge each other to see whose husband is more truthful.  That night, the men are settling in in the attic when they make enough noise to rouse suspicion:  when the women investigate, the men go onto the roof, then shinny down the drainpipe, planning to go to a hotel.  Stan wants to simply go home and confess, but Oliver threatens to tell Mrs. Laurel that he caught Stan smoking.  The resulting argument is interrupted by a patrolling policeman, who marches the two men back home.  When they confront their wives, the men make up a fantastic story:  they survived the sinking, and beat the rescue ship home by “ship-hiking”.  Oliver sticks firmly to this story, but when Stan’s wife presses him, he confesses the whole thing.  His wife then marches his home, but instead of having a fight, she pampers him for telling the truth (and therefore winning the bet for her).  Oliver is not so lucky:  his wife throws every one of their dishes at him.  Stan comes over to check on Oliver, smoking a cigarette in a smug manner, but as he leaves, Oliver throws a pot at him and knocks him over.

MY TAKE:  I’ve seen some Laurel and Hardy skits before, but this is the first whole movie of theirs that I’ve watched.  I know they’re a pioneering comedy duo, but it’s some pretty old-hat stuff by now.  They’re both kind of bumbling oafs, but Hardy is the “smart” one, and Laurel is the “dumb” one who usually comes out on top.  Although it may have been funny at the time, repeated years and iterations of the “idiot husband” gag have turned me against it.  While I can admire strong women, I don’t like it when they completely dominate their husbands, like they do in this movie.  Yes, it’s kind of funny that they have to ask their wives for permission to leave, but at the same time it’s ridiculous:  they’re grown men.  I also didn’t like that Mrs. Hardy often throws things at Oliver.  I think it’s really immature, and borderline abusive.  If she threw only one, it would be funny, but throwing all of them is just dumb, since she’ll have to buy more.  I will admit that I chuckled at seeing Oliver wearing a pot on his head as a helmet, though.  Basically, there were some funny moments, but overall I thought it was dated and pushed the gender thing too far.

RATING:  Skip it.


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