For many years Now I’ll Tell One was a long-lost Charley Chase two-reeler, notable to Laurel and Hardy buffs as also starring Stan Laurel. As such, Laurel and Hardy’s historians didn’t pay too much attention to it. Until one fateful day in 1989, the second reel of the film was discovered by film expert and researcher Dave Wyatt.
To everyone’s surprise, this significant discovery became even more important, as not only did it enable fans to view a previously missing piece of the Stan Laurel catalogue, but it also brought to light a fact that had alluded film historians for decades. Not only did the footage confirm Stan’s role as Charley Chase’s lawyer, but more importantly it revealed a previously unknown fact that Babe Hardy also made an appearance in the picture. This small but significant Hardy role took the previously acknowledged tally of films featuring both Stan and Babe from 105 to 106.
For Laurel and Hardy’s legions of fans, this was a historically important and truly momentous find – and proof, of course, that lost films can still be discovered.
Stan’s performance as Chase’s lawyer is very much the same character, in both appearance and actions, that he would go on to portray in Sugar Daddies. In fact, both pictures were filmed almost back-to-back, being shot just one month apart.
This is very much the Stan Laurel recognisable from his solo series, with the little rounded glasses, as used in several of his earlier movies, such as Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (1925) and The Sleuth (1925). There are very few iconic ‘Stanley’ mannerisms on display here, traits and trademarks that would very shortly be recognised and imitated by fans all over the world. It is, however, a solid supporting performance, with Stan doing just enough to get laughs, without overshadowing the main star of the picture.
Movie critics certainly saw something positive in the performance, as this review in The Yonkers Herald, November 2nd, 1927 illustrates:
“…The added screen special is the Hal Roach offering, “Now I’ll Tell One”. Stan Laurel and Charley Chase are together in the cast, so one can judge the quality of the comedy. For good measure they are aided by Lincoln Plummer and Edna Marian, the Wampas baby star who Hal Roach recently signed to a long term contract. The fun is all about a musical couple whose Pekingese can’t settle an argument about which hit the wrong note. The picture ends in a divorce court, but the match doesn’t, thanks to several comic episodes.
The scale of the importance of Babe’s role in this picture, as mentioned above, is not matched by the size of his role, as it’s a pretty minor one. He appears as part of a flashback sequence, as Chase and his wife describe to the court their own versions of events. Babe plays a cop investigating a disturbance at Charley Chase’s house, where arguing and gunshots have been heard. Whilst his screen time is short, Babe’s genteel manner and finesse come through as always. One can only imagine what a thrill it was to have been in Mr. Wyatt’s shoes when he discovered this long-forgotten performance by a very familiar Babe Hardy.
Following its general release by Pathé on 5th October 1927, the film seems to have been reasonably well-received, although the reviewer for Motion Picture News, October 14th, 1927 couldn’t quite seem to make up their minds:
“Charley Chase has been putting out such uniformly good comedies it should be expected that he would fall down slightly on occasions. This is one of those occasions. It is not a total bust by any means. In fact it is fairly good, but not just up to the standard set by Charley. The story gives promise of developing into a lively one until they inject the character portrayed by Stan Laurel, that of a correspondence school lawyer. It is not humorous as it was undoubtedly intended it should be, and all it does is slow up the action. This is no fault of Laurel’s. The character does not fit. Chase injects considerable humor, within the comparatively small opportunity given him, but he is capable of much better things. The story revolves around the divorce suit of his wife, whose unscrupulous lawyers weave a network of lies for her. A foreigner among the courtroom becomes riled at Charles and takes a punch at him. Charley’s wife joins up with him and they give the foreigner a good beating, as a result of which the divorce complaint is dismissed”.
Moving Picture World, October 29th, 1927 was a little more positive:
“Charlie Chase has had some crackerjack comedies that rank away above the average two-reeler, but this one can hold its own with the best of them. It is bright, clever, fast-moving with a good comedy idea well handled and is a laugh from start to finish. Charlie and Edna (Edna Marian) are happily married. One quarrel leads to a divorce [court], where, egged on by a vamping judge, Edna makes up a wild series of yarns as to how he was cruel, got drunk, abused her, etc. Each of these is pictured and cleverly travestied and in addition there are some additional comedy bits introduced in the courtroom procedure and the absurd antics of Charlie’s lawyer, portrayed by Stan Laurel. There is not a dull moment here and this comedy should go well with any type of audience. It is a Hal Roach offering.”
The picture must have been in circulation for quite some time as twelve months later, Exhibitor’s Herald and Moving Picture World, October 13th, 1928 described it as, “A very funny comedy“, and even three years later on January 4th, 1930, Exhibitor’s Herald-World were still advertising it as showing at the Fairfax Theatre, Kilmarnock, VA, with the proprietor commenting, “Very Good. Yes it’s old, but that makes no difference with good comedy”.
The re-discovered second reel of Now I’ll Tell One was screened publicly for the first time as part of the Stan Laurel Centenary Celebrations in London in 1990.
To watch a montage of stills and the second reel of Now I’ll Tell One CLICK HERE