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Sunday, December 15, 2013

JITTERBUGS (1943)

A truly terrible script by the prolific Scott Darling keeps this late Stan Laurel/Oliver Hardy feature from making good on its promise. The boys run out of gas (just like the film!), but get help from con man Robert Bailey who’s scamming rolls of ‘gas pills’ that turn water into fuel. Once in town, the three work together on a new scam, helping singer Vivian Blaine recover 10 grand lost to a couple of mobbed-up wise guys. There’s little rhyme, reason or motivation here, and don’t hold your breath for the sort of Dadaist illogic W. C. Fields was creating over @ Universal. Instead, we get three generic tunes for Blaine, and complete narrative inconsistency. Yet, the film is reasonably good fun thanks to vet comedy helmer Malcolm St Clair who knows how to sit back and let Stan & Ollie banter to no particular purpose. With a couple decent set pieces, plus a non-sequitur ending John Huston swiped for THE AFRICAN QUEEN/’51, this might even pass as entertainment. And if they’d added a signature L&H bit of pointless, escalating slo-mo, tit-for-tat violence, the film might be of interest to a non-completest.

DOUBLE-BILL: The Laurel & Hardy gold standard remains the early 2-reelers, especially the silents from 1928 and the 1932 Talkies. No surprise that their features were directed by comedy hacks, while the silent shorts had the likes of Gregory La Cava, Leo McCarey & George Stevens barking in the megaphone.

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