>> Tuesday, January 1, 2008
USA/B&W-20m./Dir: Charles Rogers/Wr: Stan Laurel & H.M. Walker/Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Mae Busch (Mrs. Hall), Charlie Hall (Mr. Hall), Billy Gilbert (Doctor)
Stan and Ollie get accidentally shellacked in Them Thar Hills, one of their better short comedies. Their unintentional bender occurs because Ollie is stricken with gout, and his doctor recommends lots of fresh air and water. Stanley, ever helpful, suggests that they rent a trailer and go camping in the mountains. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the boys choose a camping spot that was previously the site of a shootout between bootleggers and revenue agents; and the nearby well has been spiked with moonshine by bootleggers trying to dispose of incriminating evidence. Following doctor’s orders, Ollie drinks plenty of water, getting gloriously drunk. Stan happily joins in, finding the mountain water tickles his throat.
The boys are joined in their bacchanalia by Mrs. Hall (Mae Busch), a married woman who the boys invite to join them while her husband is away filling their stranded vehicle with gas. When Mr. Hall (Charlie Hall) returns, he is none too happy that the boys have gotten his wife drunk. The hot-headed husband provokes a fight with the soused campers, leading to the kind of escalating tit-for-tat battle for which Laurel and Hardy were famous.
Stan and Ollie’s gentle slapstick and subtle character comedy generally elicit more smiles than guffaws from today’s audiences, but Them Thar Hills contains many laugh-out-loud gags. Surprisingly, some of the biggest laughs spring from the quietest moments in the film, such as the boys’ subtle physical comedy as they prepare a fabulous meal of beans and hot coffee. Of course, the drunken shenanigans and physical violence that ensue at the end of the short are quite funny. However, the boys had performed similar retaliatory fights in their silent two-reelers Two Tars (1928) and Big Business (1929), in which the slapstick played faster and funnier.
While not Laurel and Hardy’s best, Them Thar Hills will put a smile on your face and a song on your lips--the song being “The Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor,” which Ollie hums throughout the second half of the short (frequently interrupted by Stan’s “pum-pum”s). For better or worse, you’ll find yourself pum-pumming the tune for days.
Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, staggering, harmonizing, hiccups, the giggles, brawling, and physical violence
Potent Quotables--MRS. HALL: Oh, could I have a drink of water? I’m so thirsty.
OLLIE: Why certainly.
MRS. HALL: Thanks… Say, this is delicious.
OLLIE: It’s the iron in it.
MRS. HALL (to husband): Ya want some?
MR. HALL: No.
MRS. HALL: Okay, baby. You don’t know what you’re missin’. (She winks at Ollie)
Video Availability--You can find the short on DVD in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Holland, but it has not been officially released in the in the U.S. However, Hollywood's Attic provides a collector's copy in Laurel and Hardy Classic Shorts (Volume 6).
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Tit For Tat (1935) was a direct sequel to this short (the only sequel the team made), but there was no alcohol in the follow-up. The boys also got schnokkered in Blotto (1930), The Devil’s Brother (1933), The Bohemian Girl (1936), Our Relations (1936), and Swiss Miss (1938).
Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies