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Short Film Wednesday - Laurel and Hardy - Laughing Gravy

Inspired by having seen Stan & Ollie, I will be trying to fill in a blind spot with the films of Laurel and Hardy, artists I had absolutely no familiarity with before seeing the movie.

This is yet another film in which Laurel and Hardy are a pseudo-married couple, decidedly pre-Code. The two share a bed with each other and their dog, Laughing Gravy (fantastic name for a dog by the way), is their adopted child. The landlord is not tolerant to dogs, and maybe he is opposed to the idea of these two resembling a married couple so strongly. Perhaps the best gag in Laughing Gravy is when Hardy is stuck outside and the landlord throws a pot in Hardy’s general direction. His yowl turns into a dog’s howl because he doesn’t want the landlord to know that Laurel has taken the dog back inside. It’s this strange sort of absurd logic that makes these shorts special; even when there is no logical reason for this pair’s decisions, it at least makes sense with their absurd behavior.

The climax of the film comes with an arrival of a check from Laurel’s uncle for $1000, which he is only allowed to cash if he severs all ties from Hardy. There is some real tenderness and understanding from Hardy as he realizes how much of a drag he has been on his friend’s life, and it goes all “The Gift of the Magi” for a second when Laurel gives up the money. Of course, he says the only reason he does was to hold on to Laughing Gravy, whom Hardy had claimed, saying that it was the least Laurel could do if he was going to take the money. After all, they could only get away with so much in the 30’s, and Laurel declaring his love for Hardy wasn’t going to cut it.

This short wouldn’t really have been possible in the silent era, since sound is such an integral part of the film, especially that dog’s barking, much louder than you would expect from its tiny frame. Also, more than 70 years before Homer Simpson’s spider-pig, we saw Laughing Gravy as spider-dog, which is almost surreal in context. It’s not exactly the best short, but there is a hint of the melancholy that makes it slightly more touching than their other shorts.

 

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