Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bacon Grabbers - 1929

Country: United States
Language: English (intertitles)
Director: Lewis R. Foster
Writer: H.M. Walker (titles), Leo McCarey (uncredited)
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Edgar Kennedy
Release Date: 19 October 1929 (USA)
Also known as: Gli acchiappamosche (Italy); Príncipe Sem Sorte (Brazil); Schnorrer (Germany); Squadra sequestri (Italy); Une saisie mouvementée (France)
Filming Locations: 10341 Bannockburn Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
Production Co: Hal Roach Studios
Runtime: 20 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Beautiful Woman
Genres: Comedy | Short
Stan & Ollie find work as debt collectors. Their first assignment is to collect a late payment on a radio set. The owner refuses to pay the debt, so Stan & Ollie decide to reclaim the set. The owner will not let the duo in to reclaim the radio, and a fight breaks out as Stan & Ollie try to break in while the owner tries his hardest to keep them out.
While it isn't among the best-known Laurel & Hardy films, and isn't as readily available as some, Bacon Grabbers is well worth seeking out for anyone who enjoys slapstick comedy crafted by experts. This movie marked the boys' penultimate appearance in silent films before the switch to talkies, and, like many late silents, it presents the medium in its purest form: the story is told with a minimum of title cards, the wording is witty, and the cinematography (allowing for brief tattered portions in surviving prints) is a joy to behold. Most of this film takes place outdoors in the Culver City sunshine, giving us interesting glimpses of a bygone suburban lifestyle: the cars, the clothes, the houses, etc., of 1929. But best of all we have a great comedy team in peak form, surrounded by familiar faces from the Hal Roach stock company.
Stan and Ollie work best when they aren't overly hampered with plot, so it's nice to report that the premise here is simple: because Edgar "Collis P." Kennedy has stopped making payments on his radio, the sheriff sends two men over to serve a summons and repossess it. The boys have a number of difficulties delivering the document to the uncooperative Kennedy, but, once they succeed in this, they find that seizing the radio itself is no easy matter. And by the way, this is no dinky table-top radio we're talking about here, it's a massive wooden console, about the size of a 3-drawer file cabinet.
This is the ideal structure for a Laurel & Hardy comedy: they are given an assignment, conflict arises instantly, and then complications-- many of which are self-generated --set in. And then the complications develop complications. When we view a Keystone comedy of the 1910s we often sense that the actors were improvising their knockabout while the cameras rolled, come what may. The Roach comedians of the '20s and '30s were more methodical, and yet they kept the structure loose enough to allow room for spontaneity. The first big laugh sequence in Bacon Grabbers comes at the sheriff's office, when Stan and Ollie encounter great difficulty simply leaving the room with their hats and the summons they're supposed to deliver. The scene rolls along quite smoothly, and may well have been improvised on the spot, but without the mugging and hokey shtick we get from the Keystone comics. Has anyone noticed what good actors Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were? They do their stuff so naturally, we don't even think of them as actors.
One additional treat is offered in the final scene: when the young actress playing Edgar Kennedy's wife arrives with important information, we are given a peek at Jean Harlow, still a teenager and strikingly pretty. Her brief appearance serves as icing on the cake, for even without her Bacon Grabbers stands as a fast-paced and funny example of silent comedy at its apex.
Featured in The Crazy World of Laurel and Hardy (1967)  

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