Strangely, I want to write two very different reviews for ‘You’re Darn Tootin’ and as I consider why this is, I’m struck by quite an interesting thought (to me anyway!).
For my first viewing, I chose to watch the DVD copy contained within the Universal 21 disc boxed set and although I had many laughs, I have to admit to being a little disappointed. Before I go into why, allow me to set the scene...
As the film opens we find ‘musicians’ Stan and Ollie in an orchestra playing in a concert at a bandstand. The boys, despite their best efforts, wreck the performance much to the annoyance of the conductor, who duly fires them. There are some great moments in this scene, but a lot of comedy is lost for two reasons. Firstly, this is a silent comedy, making gags about musicians playing music that we can’t hear.
This would have been a far better comedy scene had it been in one of the later talkies. However, more frustratingly, I felt that the scene was ruined by the musical score/soundtrack chosen for the DVD. It’s very poorly chosen as it fails to emphasize important gags and continues to play away, even when the band is silent.
The whole scene is spoiled and put me at odds with the film from there on – first impressions and all that. I watched to the end of the film and good as it was, I was left feeling let down by the careless choice of soundtrack. But, then I remembered watching a BBC Four TV series back in 2006 entitled ‘Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns‘. In the programme dedicated to Laurel & Hardy, composer Neil Brand was tasked with writing a brand new synchronized score for ‘You’re Darn Tootin’.
So, I reached for my recording of the programme and re-watched the film, this time with a carefully composed score and my goodness – what a difference! The whole film, especially the bandstand scene, was much more enjoyable, without the previous frustration experienced earlier. The film itself, directed by Edgar Kennedy, is basically three scenes.
- The bandstand – filmed on location at Exposition Park, Los Angeles
- The boys’ boarding house, filmed at the Roach studios
- The street scenes filmed on the Roach studio backlot
The scene in the boarding house is classic Stan & Ollie, with Ollie insisting he takes the first seat at the dinner table, forcing Stan to move along. Then, after Stan fails to screw the lids on correctly, and whilst trying to be genteel in his table manners in front of his fellow lodgers, Ollie tips the entire contents of the salt cellar and then the pepper into his bowl of soup. As usual, the biggest laughs are all in the reactions.
Our unemployed musicians then find themselves cast out onto the streets, as they are unable to pay their rent and so they take to busking. Typically, this doesn’t go well and many more laughs are to be had here and in the accompanying street gags, as the boys take it in turns to fall down open manholes and engage in some tit for tat, destroying each other’s musical instruments. I particularly liked the gag where Ollie gets his posterior scorched by a huge welding torch and proceeds to drag his burning bottom along the pavement, very reminiscent of a dog with worms! These scenes are once again greatly enhanced with Neil Brand’s new musical score.
The grand finale is probably the scene that the picture is most known for and is arguably the best example of its kind – mass street carnage. As always, it starts small enough, with Ollie punching Stan in the stomach and Stan retaliates by kicking Ollie in the shins. This is repeated a number of times until an innocent passer-by approaches Stan, who duly kicks him in the shins. And so it continues with more and more people being sucked into the frenzy, kicking each others’ shins, whilst Stan stands unaffected on the sidelines, witness to it all. Unaffected that is, until Ollie returns to kick him in the shins!
Stan’s retaliation this time is to tear off Ollie’s trousers. Ollie turns around to return the insult, only to tear off the wrong person’s trousers – and off we go again, in a hilarious riot of trouser ripping, with a huge mob of half-dressed guys all leaping on the next unsuspecting passer-by. It finishes with Ollie finally removing Stan’s trousers and Stan turns and rips off the trousers of a street cop, played by Freddie Mercury…oops my mistake, played by Christian J. Frank. The boys quickly make a getaway and to preserve their modesty are seen walking out of shot, both wearing the same pair of trousers, stolen from an unfortunate and rather over-sized gentleman.
All in all, a great comedy – providing you get the soundtrack right.
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