Thursday, February 16, 2017
Two Tars (USA,1928)
This film is arguably among the most known silent shorts by Laurel and Hardy. This is a delicious mix of situational comedy and slapstick, of standard material of late 1920s with some subtle influence of slapstick of previous decade. Everything adapted to the so-called Jazz Era.
Laurel and Hardy play the roles of two Navy men on their day off. They decide to rent a car, get involved in an accident and it does not take long until they meet two beautiful girls and get interested in them. An awkward conversation takes place, where the guys try to act though to impress the girls -without much success.
The girls were having some problems with the candy machine, Laurel and Hardy tried to help them, but ended up worsening the situation by inadvertently breaking the machine and making all candies fall on the sidewalk. A furious employee of the store shows up. At first, Laurel and Hardy tried to comfront them, but after it was clear that they were not as though as they seemed, the girls took the problem into their own hands and one of them even beat up the store employee. This was a very interesting scene, as it was reversed the standard of “damsels in distress”, so popular in the 1910s, in favor of a new sort of woman that blossomed in the 1920s: The flappers, strong-willed young girls, who attended parties, smoked, and were much more liberated.
Although the Laurel and Hardy were not exactly brave or skilled, the girls ended up going out with them in their car. The day was beautiful and everyone was happy, but then there was a traffic jam, and it is where it started the most famous part of the film. Actually, the idea of making a film in a traffic jam was pretty ingenious for 1928, as cars have not been around for too long yet. The drivers involved in the jam were understandably stressed and angry there and what started as a minor argument ended up having greater proportions, involving all drivers -including the girls themselves.
Chaos happened and a fight started, with typical knockabout gags we could easily have seen in a slapstick comedy. This even included things being thrown, people falling down and getting dirty. This is not a very common type of a gag in Laurel and Hardy’s films, considering they have always been situational-oriented since the beginning of their duo. However, despite the clearly physical scenes of the fights during the traffic jam, we can also observe that the mechanical gags of the broken cars were well-elaborate and quite expensive for its era, especially because it was employed lots of damaged cars. Even the type of destruction each car endured were funny by themselves.
Another noteworthy detail is how the policeman’s attempts to restore order ended up failing terribly and his authority was mercilessly ridiculed. We can see it clearly when his motorcycle was smashed in the middle of all confusion and how the policeman’s vehicle was so powerless in comparison with all those cards around him. This idea of making fun of authorities was very common in films by Keystone studios back to the 1910s, especially in films by the Keystone Cops. Although a full decade had passed and this film was produced by another studio we can see that cinema audiences still liked to laugh at the same things.