Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love 'Em and Weep - 1927

Country: United States
Language: English (intertitles)
Directors: Fred Guiol, F. Richard Jones
Writers: Hal Roach, H.M. Walker (titles), Fred Guiol (uncredited), Stan Laurel (uncredited)
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Mae Busch
Release Date: 12 June 1927 (USA)
Also known as: Amale e piangi (Italy), Better Husbands Week (USA - working title)
Filming Locations: Hal Roach Studios - 8822 Washington Blvd., Culver City, California, USA
Production Co: Hal Roach Studios
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Automobile | Golf Club | Gun | Husband Wife Relationship | Telephone  | Cigarette Smoking | Bathroom | Pub | Two Reeler | Picture | Glass
Genres: Comedy | Short
Old flame (Busch) shows up to blackmail married businessman (Finlayson). He enlists a friend (Laurel) to keep her away from his home and wife. Confusion prevails when she crashes a house party.
This is one of Laurel & Hardy's "pre-team" comedies, one of several films both men appeared in more or less coincidentally before they came to develop their familiar childlike characters with the derby hats. In this outing Jimmy Finlayson is basically the lead player (although Mae Busch originally received top billing) while Stan Laurel steals the show in a prominent supporting role. Oliver Hardy is relegated to a minor part, dutifully reacting to the antics of the other players but without any real comic business of his own to perform. Four years later, however, after Laurel & Hardy had become the top comics on the Hal Roach lot, LOVE 'EM AND WEEP would be remade as a talkie retitled CHICKENS COME HOME with Hardy in the lead, Stan and Mae Busch repeating their earlier roles and Finlayson reduced to playing Hardy's butler, although he certainly played the part to a fare-thee-well.
At any rate, LOVE 'EM AND WEEP is quite enjoyable in its own right, that is if you enjoy a good old fashioned marital farce. All the elements are in place: Finlayson is a respectable bourgeois businessman (whose profession is not specified) who is thrown for a loop when an old girlfriend pops up and attempts to blackmail him. His wife, of course, enters at an inopportune moment and the girlfriend is forced to hide in the bathroom while Finlayson must explain the presence of her cigarette, fur stole, etc., to his gimlet-eyed wife. The angry girlfriend later shows up uninvited at Finlayson's home while he's entertaining guests and creates even more havoc.
This sort of thing can be pretty tiresome-- Leon Errol cranked out dozens of interchangeable short comedies along these lines --but in this case the first-rate cast manages to squeeze a lot of laughs out of the situation. Mae Busch is every inch the foxy, smirking troublemaker in the opening scene, and Finlayson's pop-eyed double-takes are as strenuous as ever. Okay, so maybe he was a one-note performer, but he sure did perfect that note! Stan is quite funny as Finlayson's assistant, a man who (we are told) has great control over women, although we see no evidence of this. Au contraire! Stan's hair was still slicked down at this point but he'd already polished that familiar look of blank vacancy, and when the plot reaches a crisis we get a quick sample of the Laurel Cry.
All in all, LOVE 'EM AND WEEP is by no means the best silent comedy ever made but it's also far from the worst, and it amounts to a very pleasant diversion for the undemanding viewer. For me, this movie also served to demonstrate the difference an audience can make when viewing a comedy of this vintage. I first saw the film at home on TV with a friend and found it moderately amusing, but later, when I was fortunate enough to see it again at a public screening with live music and an appreciative audience, it was as if an old dinosaur had suddenly come to life. Gags and pratfalls that seemed mildly funny at home rocked the house when seen with a crowd. I can only urge silent comedy buffs to try to see these movies with an audience whenever possible, and if there's no place in your community where this is taking place, then start a Film Society!  
Since both Laurel and Hardy appear in the film it is considered an early Laurel and Hardy film despite the fact that Hardy's role is just a bit part, and they barely share any scenes in the film at all.
'Love 'Em And Weep' was remade by the same studio (Hal Roach) in 1931 as 'Chickens Come Home', a 'three-reel' talkie. Oliver Hardy (who had a bit part as a judge in this silent) took the featured part, which was originally played by James Finlayson in this silent version. Finlayson is relegated to the small part of the butler in the remake. Stan Laurel and Mae Busch play the same parts in both films.
Character error
In several instances, Mrs. Tillsbury, refers to her husband, Titus, by the wrong name. After Titus has collapsed in his office, you don't have to be much of a lip-reader to see her exclaim "Jimmy!" referring to actor James Finlayson by his real name, instead of his character name.  
Memorable quotes
Romaine Ricketts: [intertitle] Mind if I smoke?
Old flame: I don't care if you burn!
Remade as Over the Radio (1930)
Chickens Come Home- (1931)
Referenced in Sugar Daddies (1927)
 -  in both movies there's the gag where someone is sitting on Jimmy Finlayson and they wear a big jacket, so it's look like one tall woman.

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