Monday, February 13, 2017
Unaccustomed As We Are (USA, 1929)
Although this film was Laurel and Hardy’s first talkie, some silent versions of this film with intertitles were also released. So, both silent and talkie versions of Unaccustomed As We Are can still be seen nowadays, even in DVD. And it was the silent version that was watched before writing this review.
The acting of Laurel and Hardy did not change very much compared with their previous silent films. Both actors had a more situational-oriented acting, not resorting too much on physical gags, even in the silent era, therefore sound films were actually quite favorable to those comedians. They also had pleasant voices, Stan Laurel even had an extensive experience on stage back to his native England (where he even worked with Charles Chaplin) and was pretty much used to dialogue in his career.
The themes of battle of sexes, henpecked husbands and rebelling wives have already been widely explored throughout the 1920s domestic situational comedies. Thus, the plot of this film was not really innovative, but it stands out due to the reliable acting of experienced comedians.
Oliver Hardy brings his good friend, Stan, to have dinner at his home to taste the delicious food of Mrs. Hardy. But unfortunately Oliver forgot to let his wife know about the visit in advance, so she could have proper time to make the arrangements. Mrs. Hardy got furious with that and says she will not cook for another crazy friend of Oliver and she leaves home rather angry, claiming she would spend some time in her mother’s house.
Oliver decides to cook for Stan, although he does not seem to be a skilled or experienced cook. Stan tries to help him, but he did not seem to be skilled with the housework either. Oliver’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Kennedy, realized both men were having problems and offered help for them to cook. However, there was an accident with Mrs. Kennedy while she was at Oliver’s house and her dress caught fire. When she was on her way back home to put on another dress, Mrs. Kennedy’s husband (Officer Kennedy) returned home.
Her husband was a though cop and Mrs. Kennedy was afraid that he would think she was actually cheating on him and would not believe she was half naked only because her dress was accidentally on fire. At first, Oliver volunteered to tell the truth to Officer Kennedy, but then he was also afraid of his neighbor’s reaction and the only solution was Mrs. Kennedy hiding herself in a trunk at Oliver’s house.
Since the silent era comedies could often revolve around misunderstandings it was not different in this film. Regretting her rant, Mrs. Hardy returned home very sad, determined to be in good terms with Oliver. She even said she would cook for Stan, but Mrs. Kennedy was locked in a trunk and had to leave the house. To disguise the delicate situation, Oliver claimed he was leaving Mrs. Hardy to go to South America and tried to go away from home taking the trunk with him.
Mrs. Hardy was furious, blaming Stan for Oliver’s decision and she got very angry again. In the middle of this chaos, Officer Kennedy arrived at Oliver’s house. Officer Kennedy volunteered to talk to Oliver, so Oliver would not abandon his wife.
He immediately realized Oliver was hiding a woman in the trunk and took it to his house, so Mrs. Hardy would not find it out what was truly happening with Oliver. What Officer Kennedy could not really imagine was it was his own wife who was in the trunk and he inadvertently started to talk to Oliver about his extramarital affairs, claiming he met some cute girls while out of home and that Mrs. Kennedy had never a clue about it.
Mrs. Kennedy heard everything while inside the trunk and was obviously furious. As soon as Officer Kennedy returned home she started arguing with her husband and even broke things on him. On the other hand, Officer Kennedy was furious with Oliver and Hardy, blaming them both for his marital problems.
Actress Telma Todd (Mrs. Kennedy) managed to show her good comedic time, funny facial expressions and a beauty that was very much within the 1930s standards. Although she was already acting back to the silent era, it was only in talkies where she could show off her comedic skills. Although she was mysteriously murdered in the 1930s, Todd made a name to herself.
Australian actress Mae Bush (Mrs. Hardy) was already an experienced comedienne when this film was made and had been in films since the 1910s. The same applies to Edgar Kennedy (Officer Kennedy), who worked with some of the best film comedians of Hollywood and had the distinction of being one of original Keystone Cops back to the 1910s. During silent era he also worked for both Mack Sennett and Hal Roach, who were among the most famous producers of comedies at the time.