Laurel and Hardy Ride The Rails
Deeper Into Talkies With Berth Marks (1929)
Laurel-Hardy's second talker, and one I increasingly like despite Bill Everson once placing it among their weakest shorts. Most of action is confined to an upper train berth in which the boys try to get out of clothes and to sleep, an exercise in frustration shared by some viewers not so crazy about L&H, but manna for those who figure this team can do no wrong. The added and orchestral (for a reissue) Cuckoo theme in opener scenes takes me aback still as prints our local TV ran in the 60/70's were mute after titles, which I frankly prefer for train station ambience and more natural sounds. The platform attendant's fast recite of stops must have been a big laff-getter in '29 when gags based on novelty of sound were fresher than fresh. I've read of location onlookers disrupting work with giggle noise, a bane for comedians who'd had luxury of silent-era shoots where crowd chatter didn't matter. Is this part of why Stan later said he preferred doing those earlier shorts? Trains are such leviathans in this and same-period shot Railroadin' with Our Gang, Roach crews clocking days among choo-choos that fascinate us for sheer brute. An on-board and clothes-ripping Battle Of The Century is drug in by heels, L&H still guided by tropes reliable from a start of teaming. Paulette Goddard is said to be among train extras; has anyone made positive identification? I haven't so far. Mournful sounds of rail travel drone over Stan/Babe caught in their garment tangle, an effect maybe not intended, but a plus for those who like vibe of starter talkies. There's a silent version of Berth Marks out there that would make interesting comparison. Blackhawk used to sell it. I wonder how many collectors still have prints in 8 and 16mm.